There’s no other way to put it: Epic is uninteresting. It’s attractive, but very dry. Almost everything about it amounts to a sigh as the audience waits for Chris Wedge’s animation to go through the usual family friendly motions.
I didn’t find the film’s eco-friendly message to be clamouring, but its ability to tell an inventive story is seriously lacking. Especially when the film is visually brimming with imagination.
James V. Hart, Daniel Shere, Tom J. Astle, Matt Ember, and William Joyce conceived the flaccid screenplay which is also loosely based on Joyce’s children’s book The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs. The term “loosely based” makes me weary. The end product suggests that the film should’ve stayed closer to Joyce’s book. Maybe then, Epic would’ve had more of an inspired, child-like energy to it instead of its clomping approach to the material.
Epic’s screenplay resembles a bowl of wax fruit. It may bring the room together and help glue pieces of the film that work, but it has no personality and there’s not much anyone can do with it. The film has a crazy cast of assorted actors and musicians lending their voices, and they have a tough time making the dialogue convincing or the “been there, done that” reluctant plot worth paying attention to.
Take the obligatory comic relief played by Aziz Ansari and Chris O’Dowd. The two talents voice a slug and a snail and have a constant chemistry with each other throughout Epic. However, the jokes they’re forced to breathe life into are not particularly amusing in the first place – often putting these two in a comedic sticky situation. All of the humour you’ll laugh at between these two you’ve seen in Epic’s trailer.
All of Epic’s players are put in similar tight spots mostly because they’re all given textbook characters to voice. Actors like Colin Farrell and Josh Hutcherson sound like they want to let loose, but their directions have been restricted to filling out the generic camaraderie between a guardian and a troublemaker.
However, Jason Sudeikis’ contribution is nicely unrecognizable in a spastic, obvious role as obsessed Professor Bomba. And, even though he’s there solely to contribute his famous singing voice to an out of place song, I actually didn’t mind Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler as a kooky and knowledgable glowworm.
The film is great to look at. The rich animation has been keenly constructed in an effort to make Epic stand on its own in a cinematic field featuring fantasies with small battles taking place in a big world. It’s food for the eyes and will have movie goers hooked during those high flying action scenes.
It’s established in the film that leaf people move faster than us humans. We see that difference really come into play during an exciting slo-mo sequence between Sudiekis’ professor and a team of small heroes. It’s a strong showcase as to why Blue Sky Studios has competitive talent in feature film animation.
Even though I liked the animation in Epic, it’s important to note that a lot of its dark colour palette is appropriately made up of earthy tones – like greens and browns. It allures older movie goers, but Epic’s younger target audience is going to have difficulty being visually stimulated by its colour scheme.
All in all though, it all comes down to the substance and its flatness doesn’t measure up to Wedge’s impressive animation.
In a day and age where recognizable cartoony faces are brought to life in sequels and remakes, it’s undeniably hard to make a fairly original universe – like this one – take life and sweep audiences off their feet. It’s been proven possible, but those successful projects had competent and intriguing framework.
On that note, I commend Chris Wedge and Blue Sky Studios – a team who’s usually staying comfortable within their Ice Age films – for taking a risk with Epic. I hope future risks work out for the better.