THIS MOVIE OUGHT TO BE COMMITTED
Review by Steve “WhiskeySour” Brown
I have a soft spot in my squishy whiskey-pickled chest cavity for animated films, after all, they were the first movies I ever watched. The reason for my love of all film animated is they need to try much harder to be of any value to anyone over the age of nine. The characters have to be creative, the plot must be tight, the antagonist must be relevant. The entire film must have an underlying message, while soaring magnificently over the heads of anyone under the age of nine, one that can keep it’s more adult viewer’s interested. Bringing together these different factors into one solid movie is not an easy job, but with animated films its crucial because anything less and the movie is quickly forgotten about by anyone who actually has a wallet.
Perhaps this is why I left director Chris Wedge’s “Epic” with a bit of a charitable attitude. I really wanted to like “Epic”, I wanted to be entertained, and I wanted to give this film a good rating. I wanted to right up until I actually sat down and started thinking about “Epic” critically. Much to my chagrin, I realized I have condemned other movies to the bottom of grocery store clearance bins for having a lot less problems.
My first issue with “Epic” was the missing development arc for nearly all of its main characters. Characters need to grow, develop, or at least change slightly within the course of their stories, otherwise they run the risk of being un-relateable and two-dimensional. The only character that seemed even remotely affected by the events that transpired within the movie was Mary Katherine, and only in the slight way it improved her relationship with her father. Any other lessons this story might have taught about relationships, the tendency to dismiss what you can’t see, or even the complexities of the natural world seemed immediately dismissed once there was no longer a plot to maintain.
Still, this was better then the two other “humanish” characters of Nod and Ronin, who ended the film exactly as they began it. Nod didn’t seem to learn anything about responsibility, Ronin didn’t seem to pick up any lessons on taking time to laugh once in a while, despite the film constantly beating these character flaws into my head the entire time. The writers took the time to set up the potential path for it’s main characters to develop, but by the end, only M.K. seemed to make any headway into actually developing down one of them.
Another chance the film missed was it’s treatment of it’s antagonist, Mandrake. Ruler of the powers of rot and decay, Mandrake naturally wishes to rot the entire forest because when your only real talent is to turn things to compost, you play the cards your dealt. The lack of any real motivation for the antagonist not withstanding, “Epic” failed to bring together the forces of regeneration and decay, to provide closure for that “balance of the natural world” theme they based their entire story’s universe upon.
In fact, this is pretty much the trend the entire movie works under. The writers set up some sort of theme, plot device, or character development arc, and then promptly forget to follow through with it. At one point, a character breaks into song out of nowhere, as if to satisfy some unspoken rule that all animated film must have song. If your going to have characters singing, commit to the fact your movie just became a musical, otherwise let it go, your just embarrassing yourselves.
Now that I have said it, commitment is exactly what “Epic” needed most. The characters were creative and the universe that formed around them was charming, but nothing was committed to. Character development, theming, even plot devices were only half-formed, leaving the ghost of a good movie somewhere within, instead of bringing it out for everyone to see. In fact, even its title, “Epic”, is an example of the non-commitment this movie is dragged down by. “Epic” has nothing to do with anything within the movie, the word epic is not once said by any character. Its simply a random word. If they’re going to use random words as titles, perhaps lazy would have been better choice.
Directed by: Chris Wedge
Release Date: May 24, 2013
Run Time: 102 Minutes
Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox Animation