When you entitle your film Epic, be prepared to suffer the ultimate consequences if what is shown on screen does not live up to the expectations of the name. In choosing to rename the film from its original source material, a book written by William Joyce, “The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs,” the movie set itself up for disappointment before it had a chance to blossom. And although Epic is not a complete waste of time or energy, it is far from what the movie’s title implies. As the first animated picture of the summer, Epic can be commended for its effort to entertain, but fails in creating an emotionally compelling story on an epic scale.
Our adventure begins with Bomba (voiced by Jason Sudeikis), an aloof, hermit professor obsessed with discovering the secret world of little people he believes are in his backyard; as the viewer we of course know this to be true. Unbeknownst to him, he is about to be visited by his estranged daughter, Mary Katherine (voiced by Amanda Seyfried) – or M.K. as she prefers – who made a promise with her mother to reconnect with her father after she passes away. The most sentimental part of her visit comes from the highly energetic Ozzie, a three-legged pet pug who has issues with his sense of direction.
While M.K. attempts to bring her father back to reality, deep within the woods, the mystical Queen Tara (voiced by Beyoncé Knowles), guardian of the forest, prepares to choose an heir, which will blossom from a pod during the full moon at the summer solstice. But it is never that easy. In the decrepit part of the forest awaits Mandrake (voiced by Christoph Waltz), ruler of the evil creatures known as Boggans, who, with reasons unknown, is overly eager to stop this ceremony from happening. But Mandrake will not claim victory so easily as the war-seasoned hero Ronin (voiced by Colin Farrell), leader of the Leaf Men – protectors of the forest, must do his utmost to guard Queen Tara and rid the forest of the Boggans.
After failing to reach any emotional bond, M.K. chooses to abandon her father after only spending a day or two – what a wonderful daughter. But before she can return home, Ozzie runs out of house. Chasing Ozzie to return him back to Bomba’s, M.K. finds herself right in the middle of a Boggan attack against the Queen, and for more unspecified reason is shrunk down to their level in a very FernGully: The Last Rainforest fashion.
Without asking questions, Ronin decides that M.K. must join him to bring the pod to its destination. M.K. is thrust into their world where they seek the help of Nod (voiced by Josh Hutcherson), a former Leaf Man also suffering from daddy issues. They also partner with Mub and Grub (viced by Aziz Ansari and Chris O’Dowd respectively), a slug and snail who are the keepers of the pod. This rag-tag group of heroes must do what they can to see the pod blossoms in time.
When you have a story called Epic, you expect everything you see to be at a much larger scope. Nope. The premise is there, but once we are thrown into this small new world, all elements of the movie shrink too. There is nothing that goes above and beyond in the story telling other than a good versus evil tale. And anyone looking to find justifiable closure in M.K.’s daddy issues is a stretch. All of the action is mostly a bore and hardly compelling enough to keep you on the edge of your seat. The battle at Helm’s Deep in LOTR: The Two Towers, the first fight in 300, Omaha Beach in Saving Private Ryan, these are immensely epic battles, and yet nothing in Epic ever reaches that level unfortunately.
Everything is beautifully designed, yet lacks any sort of life. The 3D doesn’t add to the spectacle either, but doesn’t hurt the film. Like any fish out of water story, the audience needs to be shown exactly what’s at stake and why we should care whether or not this new world has any lasting impact on the main character’s life. We are never given a moment of clarity as to how a Boggan victory could be a bad thing. Sure the forest would die, but what about the creatures living there, how would this affect them or the real world? FernGully makes good on taking us through its world in a way that we can relate and understand those living in the rain forest who will be devastated if it comes to an end. In Epic, the sense of danger is rarely apparent and urgency is only limited to getting the pod to its destination on time.
The voice acting is adequate, nothing overly expressive or enthusiastic. There are a decent amount of characters to meet, but Mub and Grub truly shine with the only personalities memorable enough to enjoy. What is most interesting about Epic are the rules established. All of the little people could move faster than the humans aka “stompers” could see, have the ability to be strong and leap far distances – much like John Carter – and view animals and humans in slow motion. I suppose they choose to ride hummingbirds because they move quickly enough to adhere to their range of mobility.
Surprisingly enough, there is a decent amount of humor for adults to enjoy, but do not expect a fast-paced, roaring adventure through the woods to keep your kids’ attention. Epic is not entirely original, but can at least use plot points from other movies to piece together a coherent story. If director Chris Wedge would have raised the intensity, brought more energy to the characters, and gave some more color and life to the forest, Epic could have lived up to its name.
What did you think of Epic? Let us know in the comments section below.
Epic was directed by Chris Wedge, with a run time of 102 minutes and can be seen in 2D and 3D everywhere. This film is rated PG for mild action, some scary images and brief rude language.