Epic Review: Life and Death Struggle in Miniature
Epic is partially the story of Mary Katherine, or MK as she likes to be called, voiced by Amanda Seyfreid, who has to go live with her father, Bomba, in a run-down mansion in the woods after her mother dies. She hasn’t seen him in some time, due to her parents divorce because of his obsession with a society of tiny green men in the forest around his home. Not that Bomba has any proof that these “Leaf Men” actually exist, which is part of the reason his wife left him. Bomba lives with Ozzy, a three-legged pug who crashes into everything. So MK goes from having what we assume is a stable life to living with a man and dog who cause nothing but chaos everywhere they go. It’s actually MK who encounters the leaf men. She ends up getting shrunk down to their size, which is good, since she plays a pivotal role in their survival.
While the human characters play a role, the movie is more the story of the Leaf Men and their queen, Tara, who looks like she just flew out of a Fairy Princess box at the toy store. It’s time to choose a successor, and Queen Tara has to make a dangerous journey to the pond where the pod from which the successor will grow are located.
The journey is dangerous because of the Boggans, a race of little monsters who exist only to rot the forest and who hate the leaf men with all their rotten little hearts. Mandrake leads the Boggans, and he wants the pod for himself to grow a dark prince that will help him destroy the forest. Mandrake loses his own son early on in the film, though if he’s actually dead I’m not quite sure, but it provides him with extra motivation to claim the pod if he can.
There’s a surprising amount of death in Epic, both discussed and actual, though the actual tends to be downplayed by having characters not mention the violence. Each of the main characters is somehow affected by death’s icy hand, though I feel like the greater implications of that will go over kids heads.
The biggest issue I have with Epic is its talk about balance. The Leaf Men make a big deal about how everything is connected, yet they don’t seem to take into account that the Boggans, terrible though they may be, are also a part of the forest world. I would’ve enjoyed a story that attempted to reconcile the Boggans and the Leaf Men in some way, rather than just have the Boggans being evil by default. Maybe I’m looking for shades of grey where there aren’t any. I blame you, Game of Thrones.
The voice acting is well done, though some performances were better than others. Beyonce works fine as Queen Tara, but she didn’t bring anything amazing to the role. Jason Sudeikis is great as MK’s bumbling father. He walks that fine line between genius and stupidity very well, and he also manages to pull off the more emotional parts of the role as well.
I enjoyed Mub the slug and Grub the snail quite a lot. They were funny and some of their comedy was definitely aimed at the adults in the crowd rather than the kids. Mub’s obsession with the shrunken down MK was a bit creepy at times, and I wondered if leaf men had attorneys so she could get a restraining order.
The animation is well done, and Epic really comes alive in 3D. The chases on the backs of hummingbirds are amazing, you feel like you’re flying along with the leaf men instead of just watching them. The Boggans are suitably terrifying, though I feel like I know their design from something else, though I can’t figure out what.
While Epic is aimed at kids, there are quite a few story threads that will speak to adults as well. There are some saccharine moments, but not as many as you’d expect.
A lot of reviewers are comparing this movie to Fern Gully and other “enviromental message” movies, but I think they’re missing the point a little bit. The threats in those movies came from something unnatural attacking the environment, but the Boggans are just as much a part of nature as the Leaf Men, albeit a less pleasant aspect. Then again, Epic itself doesn’t seem to agree with me on this, which makes me think there’s no environmental message at all. You can’t have life without death, after all.
Summary : While Epic is aimed at kids, there are story threads that speak to adults as well. The animation is great. Epic really comes alive in 3D.