Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Epic (2013)

Loosely based on William Joyce's The Leafmen picture book, Epic tells the story of what happens on the one day in a a hundred when a new Queen of the Forest is to be picked. The forces of darkness & decay (the Boggins) know its coming and they take steps to steal the pod containing the new Queen so she can be made to be under their control. Into this mess comes human MK, a girl mourning the loss of her mother who has been sent to live her dad. Her dad lives in the woods and is a crazy scientist who believes that there are tiny beings living in the forest. MK doesn't believe him, until of course she is shrunk and ends up joining the fight to keep the pod with the new queen safe.

As an action adventure the film isn't bad. Its the well worn place of having to leave your place in order to find it. The good guys are good. The bad guys are bad and there is plenty of action to keep even most crazed action fan happy.

I am disappointed that a film with a young lady in the lead gives her almost nothing to do in the way of fighting. She does move the plot along and solve problems, but at the same time she leaves the heavy lifting to the guys, which really isn't fair. Girls can kick ass too.

Its a good film. I liked it. you should see it. As a film I don't have that much more to say about it.

On the other hand as a representation as to the state of animation in America today it's both everything that is good and bad.

First off the film is shows what most big animation studios do when they get a script based on a children's book, they take a small story and make it into something blander. While I know the film does have William Joyce involved (MK is named for Joyce's daughter) it also has been so exploded that the heart that beats in all Joyce's work is gone. Yes I know that the source is episodic, but at the same time the story they have replaced it with is rote and cliche.

For me the only thing that has survived from the book is the Leaf men and the Joyce designs. Yes I'm happy to see any Joyce on the big screen but at the same time I wish they could have kept his story telling.

What kills me concerning most feature animation these days is that the filmmakers seem more and more are relying on a check list of things you must have to make a successful animated film. Its a check list that becomes more apparent when you watch this film with another recent Joyce animated film, RISE OF THE GUARDIANS which I reviewed yesterday. GUARDIANS avoids most of the checklist where EPIC bangs it down the line.

The first thing on the check list is you need smart ass remarks. EPIC is full of characters cracking wise with each other. Its as if you need to have quotable dialog more than dialog that drives the plot forward. (GUARDIANS has pithy lines but not at a rapid fire rate or at the expense of the plot)

I hate that these days there is a thought that you need goofy characters. You can't just have heroes and villains and other people you need to have crazy characters to keep things lively. In EPIC you have the slugs. While there is nothing wrong with the inclusion of slugs their wild behavior is often out of place. In a film like EPIC the craziness under cuts the danger.

You also have passing, meaningless references to adult things in EPIC we have MK talking about her dealing with the death of her mom. From the indication in the film it was only a short time before, but yet she is perky and upbeat. MK references the five stages of grief but outside of that there is never another real reference to the death of her mom, except by her dad (and what is up with that the way he behaves belies the fact that his ex-wife has died. One would almost think that he didn't know- actually the whole death thing is odd since MK arrives with no stuff)

And if you look at the animation you see it's on odd mix of beautiful detailed backgrounds and weak character animation. The characters almost seem like a bit more detailed TV animation. It would be fin except that in GUARDIANS you have sense that they really spent time animating all of the characters to make them look special on the big screen, here they could have come from almost any other animated film.

I probably shouldn't pick on EPIC. Its not a bad film by any means, its a good film, it's just not as great as its trying to be...on the other hand we should be grateful its reaching to be something more.

Definitely worth seeing.

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