I have to admit that the trailers for Epic left me cold. The title seemed random, the story silly and the whole thing felt like an attempt to cash in on Avatar for the family audience. Well, there is a little of the eco theme and visual style of Avatar in there, but I have to say how surprised I was by the film, which is far more entertaining than I’d expected (even if it is a bit silly).
In the film the forests are full of two-inch tall creatures, split between the good, peace loving Treemen and their allies, and the evil Boggans, who want to destroy everything and turn the forest into rot. An eccentric human scientist believes in these creatures, but his singular obsession has left him without a wife and estranged from his daughter, M.K. (Amanda Seyfried).
When she comes to stay, his search for the little people is as fervent as ever, leaving M.K. frustrated and wanting to leave. However when the miniature Queen Of The Forest (Beyonce Knowles) is killed, she ends up shrinking M.K. to her size and giving her a pod, which is the only hope of saving the forest from the Boggans.
The young woman teams up with Treemen Ronin (Colin Farrell) and the reckless Nod (Josh Hutcherson) to take the pod to the place where it can grow, which must happen before midnight if the forest is going to be saved.
For a kids’ film, Epic has a surprisingly complex mythology. A lot of thought has gone into the world of the little people, both visually and story-wise. So many times with films that are essentially fantasies, they’re let down by the incredible world seeming arbitrary and illogical. Although there is a little of that in Epic – not least how sharply divided the worlds of good and evil are – it’s mostly a fun, immersive world that it’s easy to get caught up in.
You can feel the influence of everything from Avatar and The Wizard Of Oz to Honey I Shrunk The Kids and Lord Of The Rings, but it still manages to create its own universe. The characters themselves feel slightly less cohesive, as there’s a sense that each has a family film job to do and a typical journey to go on, which is stamped on their forehead early on and ticked off before the end. It could be a lot worse though.
It also helps that Epic is a beautiful looking film, full of expertly rendered forest vistas and a clever use of scale to creature a miniature world that feels very big. Danny Elfman should also be applauded for his luscious score. I was actually surprised it was by Elfman, as it’s not as idiosyncratic and eccentric as we’re used to from him, but it’s great proof (if it were needed) that he’s an incredible, smart and technically impressive composer who can turn his hand to just about anything.
As you’d hope from the Blu-ray, the visuals are pin-sharp and the audio crystal clear, so you can really enjoy both the impressive foliage-filled world of the movie and Elfman’s great score.
The extras are essentially split into two sections. The first are a series of featurettes for youngsters, which are of the educational variety. They look at how the real world compares to that of Epic, from animal camouflage to the importance of rot and decay. They’re a little basic, but I’m sure a lot of youngsters will enjoy them.
The other extras are a series of featurettes looking at the making of the movie. These are surprisingly interesting, particularly those that concentrate on how careful the creators were when working out what the inhabitants of Epic could and couldn’t do. For example, the amazing leaps of the little people are based on (tweaked) physics, as is the way they shoot arrows and how far those arrows go. Of course a lot of the film is simply made up, but it’s interesting how much attention was paid to the details, so the world feels real even if what’s going on in it is completely fantastical.
Overall Verdict: A surprisingly fun family film that offers far more entertainment than the slightly silly trailers suggested. It’s also beautiful to look at and has some great music.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac