Epic (2013)


Untitled-1Epic would have been a much better movie if it had been made by Pixar, or by a non-American company. It has the elements of a good movie: Promising story, fun-loving characters, conflict, villains, a message of environmental harmony. But it isn’t executed particularly well. It falls back on cliche and celebrity voices, and most of the time, that isn’t a good thing.

But let’s start with the positives. The animation is top notch. We are somewhere in America, some rural part of a rural town where there seems to be no civilisation whatsoever. It’s all just grass and trees. In the middle of a clearing there is a house, and in the house lives Bomba (Jason Sudeikis), a mad biologist who has convinced himself that the surrounding forest is inhabited by a race of small people with supernatural strength. He stumbles around the roots and bushes with all his techno gear, trying desperately to catch them in the act. But it’s only when the story zooms in to the world of the small people does the animation come to life.

As the people get smaller, the forest becomes bigger. Leaves and twigs and stumps become giant, and their size requires a lot of detail. Just observe the way Tara, the queen of the forest, voiced by Beyonce Knowles, is cradled and pampered by the nature around her. She has to select an heir to the throne, and she does this by picking a pod from some sort of sacred pond. The pond is guarded by a snail and a slug, which raises the question of efficiency should there be an attack. But never mind. The pod she picks will either bloom in darkness or in light. You can guess what that means. Anyway, I’m talking about the animation, and the way nature works to facilitate Tara’s choice is remarkable. She is given the gravitas of Mother Nature; she is flown in a vessel made out of leaves. When the vessel lands on the water surface, it unfolds and separates into individual lily pads. She steps off and walks on the water, while smaller lily pads merge to create a pathway beneath her feet. It’s wonderful stuff.

But then the animation gets overshadowed by the movie’s negatives. The premise, while fresh and delightful, is betrayed by five scriptwriters who can’t seem to do it justice. We have the obligatory villain (Christoph Waltz) who wants to destroy the forest by rotting it to mulch. Why does he want to do this? I certainly can’t tell you. I don’t even think the scriptwriters can tell you. He is the villain. Let’s just leave it at that. It’s up to the queen’s Leafmen (an army of Cirque Du Soleil performers with weapons) and Mary Katherine (Amanda Seyfried) — Bomba’s daughter — to stop this from happening. The forest, after all, has to remain lush and green. Oh yes, and there’s also the obligatory romance between two young heartthrobs — Mary Katherine is one, a Leafman named Nod (Josh Hutcherson) is the other. Mary Katherine is actually human — or a “stomper” in Leafman talk — but she shrinks down to the size of an insect after Tara chooses her to protect the newly chosen pod. To find her way back to regular human size, she must ensure the growth of the pod. Nod is your typical cute, good-looking rebel. The kind of guy who always attracts the chicks. I honestly don’t think movie women are that shallow anymore. But hey, I’m not one of the five scriptwriters.

Do you remember Fantastic Mr. Fox and George Clooney’s inescapably distinguishable voice as Mr. Fox? Well, imagine that here, but with every single character. I even managed to guess Jason Sudeikis as Bomba. How ridiculous is that? I’m not even familiar with his voice when I see his live roles. I recognised Beyonce, Colin Farrell, Steven Tyler, and Christoph Waltz. I didn’t recognise Josh Hutcherson, because why would I? Epic is a movie that crams as many celebrities as it can into roles that don’t need them. Maybe its producers weren’t sure if five scriptwriters could pull in the greens, and so thought it best to hire famous people. But when Pitbull voices a gambling frog, you’ve gone one celeb too far. He shouldn’t even be voicing his own songs.

And yet Epic is an enjoyable movie. I’m not really sure why, but it is. I guess I really enjoyed the idea of little people doing battle amidst big leaves and trees, riding on the backs of hummingbirds, protecting the fate of the forest. I’m a sucker for saving the environment, and Epic tells us to save it without demanding that we save it. It uses animation to show us the beauty of nature, not to create a sermon. By witnessing the Leafmen, we are compelled to marvel at how the natural machine works, and that hopefully, we will learn to love it. Next time though, just hire one good scriptwriter instead of five bad ones, and you’ll see what a difference that makes.

Best Moment | There are some good moments. I don’t think I can pick a best one though.

Worst Moment | Nope.


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