My fiancé and I took a trip down the theater yesterday and took in a new film, one called…Epic. It is the story of a 17-year-old girl who is shrunk by mystical means and discovers a world of tiny humanoid creatures who inhabit the forest. These humanoid creatures are split into two groups: Leafmen and Boggans.
The Leafman are tasked with protecting the forest and guarding the Forest Queen who maintains a balance between life and death, creating new life wherever death comes. But the Boggans, led by their king named Mandrake, wish to see death encase everything in the forest.
Epic does not really live up to its title; it is pretty good, but certainly not ‘epic’. Definitely worth a watch, but I would suggest waiting for the DVD, especially if you’re looking at taking smaller kids to it. There are a lot of not-so-subtle undertones because of the hectic story which seems like the writers put all of their ideas on the table and decided, “Sonuvabitch, these are all so good…welp, we certainly can’t cut any of these things, let’s put them all in!”
As such, I really can’t say much about the storyline itself. It’s pretty standard for a movie like this, although I will admit that since the Leafmen and Boggans are basically kind of insects they do let a few of the nameless fellows die; mostly by falling to their deaths from the back of winged beasts of burdens (usually hummingbirds, ravens, or bats). Unusual for a kid’s movie, but still not exactly ground-breaking to kill off the nameless fodder.
Since the storyline’s nothing to talk about, I will concentrate on the characters in this review since ultimately…they are the reason you’re staying in that seat and watching the rest of this been there done that movie.’
So that being the case…there are some spoilers in the ensuing writing because this is quickly turning from a review and into a study of the characters of the movie. So…fair warning, thar be spoilers in these ‘ere parts!
Mary-Katherine, who goes by MK, is a 17 year-old-girl who is sent to live with her father after her mother’s death. It’s never stated what the death is caused by, but it is implied that it wasn’t a car accident or anything since MK speaks of what sounds like final words from her mother.MK starts the story off as a witty, but introverted girl in mourning who really doesn’t want to live with her workaholic, and somewhat crazy, father. Although, slight spoiler…he’s not as crazy it seems (duh), and decides to just give living on her own a try.
This results, due to a three-legged, one-eyed, pug, in her getting lost in the woods and shrunk down to the size of the leafmen (two of whom she meets shortly after).
Once she comes to terms with her situation she spends some time being a touch damselly, but quickly becomes a verifiable support member of the team. Considering one of the major morals of the movie is teamwork, it is refreshing to see the Leafmen welcome her into their fold so quickly and treat her kind of like an equal. I often tire of children’s stories that talk of teamwork, but just a few moments later will exclude the main character because they’re an outsider. Especially since the person excluding them is usually the person who talks the most about teamwork. But that’s a discussion for another time.
All in all, even though she is the main character, she is always somewhat out of her element and therefore is always relegated to the supporting role of the team, or going solo and being a messenger of sorts. She does brandish a sword at one point and it is made brutally clear she is not fit to wield it (she drags it across the room with all her energy and hands it off to a Leafman who picks it up with one hand, no strain).
But given her situation I feel that she is a pretty well-rounded character and she isn’t made extraordinarily damsel-like for the most part. She is a good example of the person who uses their brains instead of brawn.
[Giant Spoiler!! I warned you…!] Her decision to return to the human world at the end is kind of stupid, since she really has nothing going for her there. She could live a glorious life by staying with the Leaf People, but she returns to the human world to be her dad’s assistant and will never get to be with Nod, whom she has fallen in love with.
That would be like me moving to mars, knowing that I could never return and my fiancé could never come to Mars. Sure, she and Nod can talk and see each other by video-conferencing and stuff…but they can never be together; unless she convinces the new Forest Queen to shrink her back down to Leaf People size. Or grow Nod to human standards; either-or.
Nod is the main love interest for MK. He is your average, everyday over-talented slacker. His father was a heroic Leafman warrior, seemingly second-in-command of the Leafman corps. His father died, although it’s not really evident how long before the story begins.
Nod resents Ronin’s attempts to keep him in line, because he doesn’t really want to be a soldier. Even so Nod respects Ronin, and takes his slacker nature in a fairly mature fashion. He doesn’t really abscond from duty, he just doesn’t follow orders and usually winds up getting himself too thick into the fray to be useful, even though he’s apparently one of the best Leafmen to have ever lived; or would be if he’d just apply himself. Cliche, but a well-rounded one.
Aside from the arrogant lady’s man, Nod really doesn’t have much personality. He’s definitely the comic relief, but not much more than a handsome love interest who learns the moral of the story (teamwork, as I mentioned earlier) in just the right moment to become a greater person at the end of the movie.
Ronin is the leader of the Leafmen; their strongest warrior and second-best rider (supposedly Nod is the greatest, so I assume Ronin is their next best). He is definitely portrayed as the stone-faced samurai warrior archetype and it’s done fairly well. He is stern and stoic, ruthlessly efficient, but also has a personality underneath that veil of professionality.
He’s a likable guy who would be a great friend to have, although he does seem to be too forgiving to Nod. In his situation I’d have booted the little prick out of the corps, regardless of what promises I’d made to his father to protect and care for the little bag of numbnuts.
Anywho, Ronin is, in my opinion, the most well-written character of the story. I’m torn on his survival at the end of the movie, it worked all right though I suppose. And I like his name, because if no one has ever noticed with my work (or my old Yahoo! username) I signify strongly with the wave men that the name Ronin draws reference to. But that’s a personal thing for me.
Queen Tara, played surprisingly well by Beyoncé Knowles (honestly the best voice actor in the whole movie), is the Forest Queen with the magical ability to control the ambient plant life and create new life on a whim with the wave of her hand.
She is a very playful character who teases Ronin for his stoicism. It is made quite evident that they were once childhood loves and that Ronin is probably in his current position because of his love for her; however due to her status he seems in an odd position between lover and servant.
Needless to say Tara is a bubbly, effervescent, and somewhat carefree, albeit intelligent, character in the story. Honestly a story about Ronin and Tara would have been much better than one about MK and Nod; but I digress.
One thing I liked was Tara’s depiction of women, at least among the Leaf People. She proves herself to be the most powerful of all the Leaf People and also the most open-hearted.
When the Boggans attack the pod-choosing ceremony she takes down far more enemies than any of the Leafmen, you know…the guys who are tasked with being her guardians. Now, like MK she is not physically strong. She does not wield a sword or spear and she does not ride wild hummingbirds like the Leafmen (which is a misleading title, because there appear to a handful of women in the corps, although they are really only visible near the end of the movie).
But even so, she uses a combination of her magic powers and intellect to be far more efficient than even Ronin who is a combat and tactical genius (at least in comparison to anyone else).
She is mentally, emotionally, and through magic, physically strong. Definitely the best female character I’ve seen in a long time.
And finally we’ll address the villains, or at least the main villain himself…
Mandrake, the leader of the Boggans, is infatuated with death or more particularly…decay. He likens himself somewhat as the counterpoint to Queen Tara’s ruler of life, making the ruler of ‘decay’. Mandrake, ultimately, is actually probably about the most well-rounded individual in the movie. He is starkly efficient and very intelligent, the best military tactician of the film and also a warrior-general capable taking down even Ronin; not to mention scores of nameless Leafmen.
His tender scenes with his son, General Dagda, who just wants to prove himself to be a good heir to Mandrake is actually kind of touching, especially since it comes shortly after Ronin’s scenes of tough-love with Nod and MK’s scenes of no-love with her own father.
It almost makes you root for Mandrake later in the movie. Especially since as the movie goes on he starts to seem a little unhinged. Which makes sense, after witnessing your son killed by the Leafmen.
Mandrake is a pretty good example of a sympathetic villain. His motivations are pure and human: He desires power to at least be equal to Tara, hates the fact that Tara always bests him and that he and his people are trapped in their small bit of territory by Tara’s powers, and wants to avenge his son’s death later in the movie.
And for this he’s thrown into a tree and presumably crushed to death.
If Ronin wasn’t so damn likable I’d definitely have been rooting for the villain in this one.
Also a little bit of opinion on the voices, because I think some professional voice actors could have done good for the film (and been cheaper, no less!). First of all keep Pitbull, Beyoncé, and Steven Tyler in their roles; they actually did pretty well, and Amanda Seyfried did all right as MK, too. But a few better options for the other roles would have been…
Nod: Johnny Yong Bosch would be good, but maybe a bit too much; Kirby Morrow would have been my choice for this role.
Ronin: Troy Baker would have been great one for this one!
Mandrake: I’d have loved to hear Brian Dobson to this role; definitely would have made Mandrake more menacing.
Those are my thoughts and opinions on the matter. Thanks for coming, and thanks for reading.