“From the makers of Ice Age” blazoned the poster for Blue Sky’s new animated film Epic and much like their previous global box office success, this is a mixed bag in terms of quality. Following the success of Brave, it is to no surprise that lesser quality incarnations would follow. What Epic does have going for it are its visuals. Lush, rich and mesmerising to look at, if there’s a better looking animated film in 2013 I’ll be surprised. Sadly as anyone who has grown up watching animated films will tell you, looks fade. It won’t be long before this level of technology seems ordinary and the legacy of films like Epic relies on the depth of character and strength of story-telling. This is where it all falls apart.
Melancholy teenager MK (Amanda Seyfried) moves in with her father (Jason Sudeikis) following the untimely death of her mother, only to discover that he has become obsessed with finding a race of small, forest-dwelling peoples. Initially sceptical of the existence of such people, she finds herself face-to-face with the dying Queen who shrinks her and charges her with the mission to take a magical plant bud and allow the forces of nature to survive against the forces of decay, lead by the evil Mandrake (Christoph Waltz). Joined by Leafmen soldiers Nod (Josh Hutcherson) and Ronin (Colin Farrell) MK must help the pint-sized folk while trying to find her way home.
It’s not that the story is uninteresting, far from it, a war among forest legions who ride hummingbirds and moles is a great basis for an exciting story. It’s that the moment any of the two-dimensional characters speak, usually to tell the audience how their feeling any engagement is lost. The voice cast, filled with fine actors and a couple of token singers (Beyonce and Pitbull, who are both dire) are as disappointing as the basic dialogue they’re forced to spew. Then, when the less-than-thrilling script lets the film down, they seem unwilling or unable to keep interest levels high. The comic relief duo of Chris O’Dowd and Aziz Ansari provide a couple of laughs, but prove annoying as time goes on, contributing to the overall feeling of boredom.
As cynical a kids movie as your likely to get, the film-makers obviously think that because their target audience is children that they can get aware with sub-standard story-telling. What they fail to take into consideration is that children’s animated films have matured since the advent of Pixar, while Epic, despite the title feels small and underwhelming. The art direction is beautiful, but there’s two films here. The artistic forest realm and the comedy snail and slug side-characters. Epic feels more like someone trying to create a Disney film from a childish memory.
Miscast voice actors, cliched plot, tiresome action scenes and characters as deep as a puddle and Epic might be one of the weakest big studio animated releases for some time. On paper its a hit, and there’s no doubt that the marketing campaign will guarantee box office success, but remove the stunning visuals and really solid art design and you’re left with a film that’s as dense as a tree and twice as wooden.