Monday, May 27, 2013

Hardly Epic, But Well Worth Watching Nonetheless

OK, I'll admit I came into the movie with more than my fair share of trepidation. 61%, says the Tomatometer at Rotten Tomatoes, with the main complaint being that "its narrative themes are all too familiar." Watching Star Trek Into Darkness and Iron Man 3 had, courtesy of their horrible plots, left a sour taste in my mouth. I wasn't too keen on watching a movie with yet another vapid storyline. But then I watched a couple of the Epic trailers and couldn't help thinking: "Oh but it looks so pretty!", sounding for all the world like a crow being drawn inexorably to sparkly things or a moth being drawn to a flame. Alright then, I have been forewarned. The narrative is going to be unoriginal, I am just going to watch the movie just for its visual eye candy, or retinal crack, as I like to call it.

I was not disappointed. In fact, I was more than pleasantly surprised. The visuals are simply stunning to look at. And the storyline, while unoriginal, was better than expected. It seems as though the movie's five scriptwriters simply decided to blend together elements from movies like Ferngully, Avatar, The Borrowers, Alice in Wonderland and The Secret World of Arrietty and hoped for the best. The result is, astonishingly, a not-bad confection. The plot chugs merrily along for most of the movie and although it does begin to get a bit drawn out by the third act, it is easy to forgive the slight falter because you are just simply mesmerized by the gorgeous world-building.

One thing though that quite irked me was a phrase that at one point, seemed to be bandied around by everyone, even the villain. "Many leaves, one tree" utters another character yet again and I couldn't help rolling my eyes at such a contrived philosophical blather. I guess an animated movie geared towards children needs to have some sort of positive message for its young audience, even if it's a clumsy catchphrase espousing the ethos and importance of teamwork.

The voicework is quite decent though not outstanding. Beyonce voices Tara the queen, and here she sounds playful and like she is about to burst into song at any moment, which thankfully she doesn't. Colin Farrell as Leafman leader Ronin, Amanda Seyfried as M.K. our human female heroine and Josh Hutcherson as her love interest Nod round out the rest of the main cast, with the wonderful Christoph Waltz voicing the role of the evil leader of the Boggins, the Leafman's perennial nemesis. Humor here is provided by a slug and a snail (voiced by Aziz Ansari and Chris O'Dowd respectively) and it is gratifying to see that they are not just token black voices (Ansari is Indian and O'Dowd is white). Sassy one-liners abound throughout the film, but these are uttered with more sincerity and less snark, which make them sound far less grating than the annoying zingers abounding summer blockbusters Star Trek Into Darkness and Iron Man 3.

Overall I found the movie visually and even plot-superior to Skydance studio's previous outing, Rio, which scored a slightly higher rating on Rotten Tomatoes with a score of 72%. Rio 2 will be out in 2014, which I will probably watch but have no particular anticipation for. I hope Epic will do well enough in box office receipts to warrant a sequel; I would do so love to clap eyes on its lovely and colorful visual palette again once more.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars for me.

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