The care that is put into the early morning haze on a field, the glare of the sun, and the leaves barely rustling in the wind is truly breathtaking.
The new Blue Sky Studios release Epic is based on the children’s book The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs by William Joyce, the author also responsible for the source material for Rise of the Guardians, another fantastic animated adventure. Joyce, who wrote and directed the Oscar-winning animated short “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore,” is without question one of the most imaginative writers working today. Director Chris Wedge is able to harness that creativity and, with the help of co-writers Tom Astle, Matt Ember, and Daniel Shere, produce a magical cinematic experience.
Mary Katherine (Amanda Seyfried)—“M.K.” for short—is sent to live with her eccentric and mostly absent father (Jason Sudeikis) after her mother dies. Her father tries his best to connect with his teenage daughter, but his life’s work (read: obsession) demands the vast majority of his time and attention. That work? Proving there is a civilization of advanced, miniature creatures living in the woods that surround his dilapidated house. M.K., of course, thinks her father is crazy…until she is somehow shrunk and witnesses the world for herself.
In this nearly microscopic world an entire race of tiny beings live, protected by Queen Tara (Beyonce Knowles). The evil creature Mandrake (Christoph Waltz) wants to destroy the entire forest, killing every tree, plant, and blade of grass until it is nothing more than a desolate wasteland. Just as M.K. is running through the woods looking for her dog, the queen is mortally wounded. She falls right in front of M.K., who is then shrunken so that she may protect the small pod which is carrying the life force which will become the next queen and protector of the forest. With the help of two Leaf Men, Ronin (Colin Farrell) and Nod (Josh Hutcherson), M.K. tries to keep the pod away from Mandrake, who has other plans for it.
Despite a weak plot and uninspired characters, Epic is a highly entertaining movie due to its incredible animation and terrific cast. While most films’ use of 3D is sketchy at best and distracting at worst, Epic manages to find a good balance between showing off and using the technology to better draw the audience into the story. Every frame is so perfectly composed and full of detail that it’s shocking this film didn’t take years to create. If you want to be blown away, pay close attention to the background animation and the care that is put into the early morning haze on a field, the glare of the sun, and the leaves barely rustling in the wind. It’s truly breathtaking.
Animated films very much rely on a cast whose talent can be transmitted through a purely vocal performance; the cast of Epic is up to the challenge. Seyfried is hilarious as M.K., both funny and mature. Farrell and Hutcherson develop a very believable chemistry that helps their banter become more real. Waltz is, again, wonderful and clearly relishes playing the bad guy.
With dazzling animation and a cast that makes every scene dynamic, Epic is the type of movie you’ll want to see more than once before it leaves the theaters. | Matthew Newlin