First off, although I liked ‘Horton Hears a Who’ a lot more than this film, ‘Epic’ is WAY better than Blue Sky Studio’s other animated films, such as the silly ‘Ice Age’ series, and ‘Robots’.
Secondly, this is yet another film inspired by a William Joyce book, ‘Epic’ being inspired by ‘The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs’ book. His other books made into films are: ‘Meet the Robinsons’ and ‘Rise of the Guardians’ and he also worked on the ‘Ice Age’ series and ‘Robots’. How the hell do I get my books as well marketed as Joyce’s?
Anyway, ‘Epic’ is a decent children’s movie, but it suffers from A LOT of weird choices in the filmmaking. I don’t think it nears the greatness of a Pixar film (which works for both children AND adults) or even a Disney picture. It’s about as good as a Dreamworks film.
Oddly enough, even though many characters are introduced in the film, the first time we hear anyone’s name is 7 minutes in. And some characters are NEVER named, such as MK’s father or the evil Boggan king’s son. They have names, they’re just expressed in the film, which I think is bad filmmaking.
The main character is Mary Katherine (MK)played by Amanda Seyfried and named after William Joyce’s deceased daughter. MK’s Dad (Professor Bomba)is played by SNL’s Jason Sudeikis. Queen Tara is played by Beyonce Knowles, who seems out of place in this film, like a hip-talking queen. It’s weird. The tough LeafMan Ronin is played by Collin Ferrell for some reason, as no other character has an Irish accent. The obvious mate for MK is Nod, played by ‘The Huger Games’s Josh Hutcherson, but I think his character is sort of unlikable. The evil king of the Boggans is finally named about 50 minutes into the movie as Mandrake and played by Cristoph Waltz, the evil Hans Landa from Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Inglourious Basterds’. The silly slug characters, Mub and Grub, are played by Aziz Ansari, from TV series ‘Parks and Recreation’, and Chris O’Dowd (whoever the hell he is). A frog character named Mr. Bufo is played by a Latin rapper for unknown reasons, named Armando Perez, with the silly stage name Pitbull. The character that sort of looks like a giant Waterbear, Nim Galuu, is played by Aerosmith’s Seven Tyler in yet another weird voice choice. I liked him, though, because he reminded me of Mel Brooks.
All the characters are very antagonistic towards each other... all the time. Even down to the slug Mub trying to parse words with Nod because he likes MK. All the character faces look good, but the animation is stilted or something. I don’t know what it is. They’re jerky, like the animators are over-animating. That being said, the character design in this film is very good. The Leafmen remind me of the Elves from ‘Lord of the Rings’. And the bad Boggans wear skulls on their heads, which is cool.
There’s a beautiful scene where Queen Tara walks across the water. And I liked the way phalanxes of Leafmen archers hopped over each other when fighting with the Boggans. And I liked the scene where MK and Nod fight the mouse.
Some things don’t make sense. The small people are said to move at a faster rate than humans can easily see, and indeed when MK sees the Queen, she flickers even while laying still, as if she’s still going fast. Even bugs fly slowly compared the small people. But then animals like slugs and frogs don’t seem to move slowly compared to them. Hmm.
When the characters go to see Nim Galuu, there’s all of a sudden a dance number... when there hadn’t been one in the previous 45 minutes of the film... and there wasn’t another one in the film. Weird.
I really liked the scrolls inside the Rings of Knowledge (inside a tree).
A lot has been written about how this film is like ‘FernGully’, but aside from little people in the forest, it’s nothing like it. This film has no ecological message like ‘Fern Gully’ does, There are no bad corporate goons destroying the forest for its lumber in this film. There ARE beings trying to ruin the forest—the Boggans—but they’re from the forest, too.
Because the production of a film is always interesting to me, I have to quote wikipedia here: “In 2006, it was reported that Chris Wedge would be directing an animated feature film based on William Joyce’s book, The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs for Fox Animation. Joyce, who had already collaborated with Wedge as a designer and producer on the 2005 film ‘Robots’, was set to produce the film. At one point, Wedge got permission to find a new home for the film and turned to Pixar, led by John Lasseter, whom Wedge knew from working on ‘Tron’. When Pixar tried to close the rights for the film and start development, Fox changed their mind, and the film returned to Fox. The film was officially greenlit in 2009, under the title Leaf Men. In May 2012, Fox announced the final title for the film (Epic), its first cast details, and a plot. According to Wedge, he was not satisfied with the renaming, which was decided by the marketing department. He also expressed dissatisfaction with subtitles given to the film in some non-English countries, including the French subtitle, The Battle of the Secret Kingdom. Although the film is based on and borrow's many characters from Joyce's book, its plot has been significantly changed. Wedge explained: "But while Bill wrote a wonderful book, it is a quaint story. We wanted to make a gigantic action-adventure movie." To address online speculations about whether the film is similar to other films, like ‘FernGully: The Last Rainforest’ or ‘Avatar’, Wedge said: "I hate to associate it with other movies. It is adventure on the scale of ‘Star Wars’. And it does immerse the audience completely in a world like Avatar. But it has its own personality.”