By Ed Sum
The main problem with Blue Sky Studio’s Epic is that it tries too hard to be just that. This film forgets where its inspirations should be coming from. It could have borrowed from Peer Gynt—which would have been fine—but it didn’t. While the CGI is very impressive with its photo-realism, that isn’t enough to carry this film. This movie deserves a Oscar nomination for artistic direction. As for any other category, it may need a Razzie for its story development.
Its fairy tale aspirations gets forgotten in favor for an action story in the same vein as Avatar. Instead of an invasion of an evasive human species, the antagonist here is with the forces lurking under the earth. All the nastiness of mosquitoes, mole-men and rodents (including bats) gets personified as agents of pestilence.
In contrast, all the pleasantness from many land and air-based species gets presented in a glory that some may consider to be Miyazaki-esque. His veneration for harmony in nature can easily be seen in Nausicaa and Mononoke Hime. There is even a moment in this film where a simple stag is given an ethereal quality so that the heroes of this tale can understand that life moves slowly for them.
That’s ironic when considering the human species tends to rush through life. This theory includes how Mary Katherine (M.K.) (voiced by Amanda Seyfried) misjudges her mad scientist of a father, and how her father neglects his obligations. Professor Bomba (Jason Sudeikis) forgotten how important family is. When M.K. thinks he does not understand her, she is ready to leave. But when her pet dog runs rampant, she enters deep into the woods to find him only to get catapulted into another plot. In a traditional fairy tale, to walk through the woods uninvited may draw in the curiosity of more than just woodland creatures. Here, the forces of disease and rebirth are in a war over who will run life within the woods. She is in the world that her father is trying to discover.
This tale is not even set in the same style as a tale from Celtic tradition, where sometimes sacrifices are required. Most Irish tales about leprechauns and wee folk had a bit of a dark spin, and had this movie of been a Brothers Grimm tale, the ending might have been even bloodier. At least for Aesop’s fables, a lesson would have been learned about how father and daughter could have reunited. Had any of these elements have been integrated into the story, then just maybe this movie would be more appealing for both young ones and adults alike.
Instead, this product favors no particular demographic. The movie inserts far too many prerequisite story telling elements in the vein of Disney to make this movie enjoyable. That is, a romantic and comedic angle is not needed. M.K. does not have to fall in love. And Grub and Mub, a snail and a slug, are completely unnecessary. If that’s not bad enough, yes there’s a musical number which doesn’t make sense. Did the music just mysteriously come out of nowhere?
Too much of the tale is predictable and it lacks depth in the moments where having some characters develop their motivations count. Instead, maybe this movie would have been better had it have been a midsummer’s night dream.
3 Stars out of 5