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Epic. Is that what this film is? That word I feel, is now commonly used as a kind of synonym to words like, ‘awesome’ or ‘fantastic’. When something is supremely cool, it is considered ‘epic’. Does that fit this picture? I’ll be the first to admit that I was intrigued by the fact that this film has so bold a title. That alone got me wondering just what this film would be about and made me curious to see it. Having said that, I feel like a different title would have sufficed. The Leaf Men, for instance would have been just fine. When I later discovered that Leaf Men was the films original title, I found myself questioning the change. Issues with the title aside, the film does provide solid entertainment value for the whole family.
Based on the book The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs, from the creative and fertile mind of Academy-Award winner and successful children’s book author William Joyce, Epic is a light-hearted film that tells the story of a young teen, M.K. (voiced by Amanda Seyfried) who is preparing to live with her estranged and eccentric father, Professor Bomba (voiced by Jason Sudeikis), and soon is unwittingly thrust into a battle much bigger than herself both figuratively and quite literally, and one in which she plays a vital role. At its core, this is the classic story of good vs. evil.
Our heroes are called the Leafmen, soldiers sworn to protect all that is green and full of life in the forest. Leader of those is Ronin (Colin Farrell), the hardened commander and chief protector of Queen Tara (Beyonce Knowles). His apprentice is Nod, (Josh Hutcherson) the headstrong Anakin Skywalker of the group. On the dark side, our villains are Mandrake (Christopher Waltz) and his minions, called the Boggans who only want to destroy and rule the forrest. We’ve got the opposing sides and the savior in the form of our heroine M.K. upon whom the fate of the forest ultimately rests. Sounds like the makings of an epic tale to me.
Some highlights of the film are first and foremost, the visual design of the film. From its characters to the set pieces, they are quite unique and very well executed. I was particularly impressed with the design of the Leafmen. Different from their appearance in the book, in which they all looked very similar, the film clearly distinguishes each Leafman from one another. Their look seemed a bit like a cross between a ninja and a knight and the resulting look is quite cool, if you happen to be a detail-head and pay attention to things like that. That said, I will admit that I did have the fleeting thought that the Leafmen reminded me of the elves from Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit films.
The world is fully realized and looks amazing. Many aspects of the forest in particular, which possesses a realism to it that is nearly as good as that of an HD camera are quite impressive. Sure, that seems to be a prerequisite to any fully computer generated film, but it never ceases to amaze how these movies can create fully detailed landscapes right down to the nuance of a certain crack on a tree and have them not look wonky or half-baked. I think that this film can stand toe-to-toe in that department among the giants of Pixar and Dreamworks.
Another highlight of the film is the action-sequences. Not only are they well choreographed and sharply animated, but Renato Falcao, the film’s cinematographer, does a particularly fine job of capturing shots in such a way that almost literally place you inside the action, which feels exhilarating. They are definitely scenes I see myself re-watching on home video.
Those looking for the depth and gravitas brought by some of the best CG films from Pixar or maybe a handful of those from Dreamworks, will be disappointed for this film, which touches on potentially weighty themes such as loss and grief, essentially does not hit the emotional spots as effectively as it could have. Though you do feel when things get emotional, there simply isn’t enough time given to deal with those themes so that you feel their effect throughout the story. Also, a musical section of the film feels a bit out of place for what the film establishes up to that point, however it isn’t totally detrimental to the enjoyment of the film. My last issue has to do with what I feel is a forced romantic subplot for our heroine, which does not seem necessary in the film. It got me wondering if the outcome would be similar if the films protagonist was a male, which is probably a different discussion.
However unoriginal you may feel the story is, (there are those comparing it to Ferngully: The Last Rainforest and Avatar, which I’m not sure I agree with), the film definitely executes on a scale that is quite epic, for lack of a better term. It’s a tale of little people operating in a big world fighting for the preservation and/or control of the natural world. Is this film as epic as the title suggest? Not quite, but it is a fun ride. If you’ve got little ones with you, they will enjoy it as will some adults. It has a lot of humor (Aziz Ansari and Chris O’Dowd provide strong comic relief) and great action. It’s a good, light summer film to check out should you be interested enough to explore the land of the little people yourself.