Rating: 3 stars
Riding on the success of the ‘Ice Age’ franchise, Blue Sky Studios steers the company in a different direction with ‘Epic’, their latest animation offering.
Loosely based on William Joyce's book 'The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs', the vaguely named ‘Epic’ is directed by Chris Wedge, who helmed the long forgotten ‘Robots’ in 2005. However, it never quite dares to offer anything new, relying on copies of similar characters from both Blue Sky's own films or other animation films.
Teenager MK (voiced by Amanda Seyfried) visits her father, Professor Bomba (Jason Sudeikis), who resembles a pointy-nosed version of Conan O'Brien. Bomba resides in his old house near a forest, where he lives with his three-legged dog, Ozzie. Bomba has long studied the artefacts of what he believes to be a group of tiny forest beings.
He often goes into the woods to look for them and has cameras everywhere, in hopes of capturing them in action. He is so involved with his work that he neglects MK, and dejected, she leaves him to his work.
As she is leaving, Ozzie knocks past her and runs into the woods. MK sets out to look for him but stumbles into a battle between the forest beings that her father has been looking for. She is shrunken after getting showered by some magical leaves.
In her minuscule state, she discovers the group of warriors Bomba has studied, who are known as the Leafmen, led by their queen Tara (Beyonce Knowles).She is forced to assist them, and their leader Ronin (Colin Farrell), in a war against forces of rot known as the Boggans and their leader Mandrake, while trying to find out how to grow back to her original size and return home.
‘Epic’ doesn't quite live up to the promise of its name, stuffing together a bunch of ideas culled from ‘Alice in Wonderland’, ‘Lord of the Rings’, ‘Star Wars’, Studio Ghibli movies and previous Blue Sky Studio films. One can play spot the references throughout the film, and Blue Sky Studios goes for the usual tropes of animation films rather than braving new waters.
There are few too many plot strands around, including at least three characters with parental issues.
The only occasion where the film has a living soul of its own is when it takes a bit slower, and not succumbing to frantic action, such as the parade of the Queen. Certain sequences focusing on the woods recall BBC's nature documentaries, as leaves and flowers are manipulated and move according to Tara's whims.
There is also some stellar character design, though the evil Boggans, with their makeshift armour, actually look far more interesting than the uniform Leaf Men.
Action wise, you get a wild assortment of flythrough, as the Leaf Men use humming birds and other avians as mounts. After the third fly around I was getting a little tired of it. The action is rarely original, and there's a too much going on and it's hard for the eye to follow the chaos on screen.
As one would expect, there's comic relief in the form of a snail and a slug (voiced by Aziz Ansari and Josh Hutcherson), who protect the pod that holds the key to the preservation of the forest. There's also a love interest for MK. Wedge tries to squeeze a lot into this 90 minute movie, but too many of the plot threads never fulfil their potential.
Despite some great visuals, ‘Epic’ does not live up to its title, but is watchable. It tries to stand on the shoulders of other films, and never quite stands on its own.