CHANNEL 4 4SEVEN E4 MORE4 FILM4 4MUSIC 4oD

Viewing your Watchlist and recommended content requires Javascript

  • PG
  • Adventure, Animation
  • 2013
  • 102 mins

Epic

Epic

Synopsis

The forces of evil are determined to poison all that is good and pure in the forest, killing its life force forever. Can the tiny Leafmen protect their home? Perhaps, with the help of lonely kid M.K (Amanda Seyfried), who is mysteriously shrunk down to Thumbelina proportions in order to help out.

About

Epic is based on the children’s book The Leaf Men And The Brave Good Bugs, by William Joyce, who takes one of five writer credits on the film, and has past form in big budget family animation, having designed concept characters for Toy Story and A Bug’s Life. It’s a designer’s film, really – it looks great. The dark stuff is really dark – the hideous Boggins baddies are reminiscent of the childhood-scarring villains in Robin Jarvis’s excellent Deptford Mice series, garbed in the skins and skeletons of dead creatures which function as part-armour, part-trophy. And the ethereal life-of-the-forest stuff is really pretty, with flowers and wooded glades that look good enough to eat.

It’s a shame that a lot of the narrative is unpinned by some very traditional tropes. The Leafmen (who do seem to be mostly men, certainly the ones who speak are all male) are tasked with protecting the Queen (Beyonce Knowles), who, as a woman, is responsible for the life force of the forest. She’s a monarch, but in contrast to – say – The Lion King’s hereditary monarchy, this is an elective monarchy, with the Queen choosing her own successor. It’s not really any more democratic, but does add an element of suspense, a bit like when the Cardinals pick a Pope. At one point a small flower-girl asks her flower-mum if she can be queen one day – she is told “it doesn’t work that way”. It’s not quite “yes, you can achieve anything!” Even spunky heroine M.K’s (Amanda Seyfried) main moment of triumph can essentially be boiled down to managing to get a message through to a mighty man.

Ah well. It’s a children’s film – the underlying messages don’t matter, do they, so long as we have fun, so let’s stop taking it all so seriously! The talking snails really are very funny, with great voicework from Aziz Ansari (Parks & Recreation) and Chris O’Dowd (Bridemaids). And on a line-by-line basis, there’s some sharp dialogue in the script, with witty one-liners like “That’s not a house, that’s termites holding hands”. Christoph Waltz proves just as convincingly evil as he did in Inglourious Basterds, even when you can’t see his face, as main villain Mandrake, though it helps that the character looks so evil too. As in The Lord Of The Rings and countless other family classics, external appearances in Epic are always precisely in line with character – you look goofy, you’re funny, you look beautiful, you’re heroic, you look ugly, you’re evil – the 19th century “science” of physiognomy alive and well, there. Those looking for a (very) traditional fairytale for all the family need look no further for their summer entertainment.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Josh Hutcherson, Christoph Waltz, Amanda Seyfried, Colin Farrell, Beyoncé Knowles
  • Director: Chris Wedge
  • Writer: Matt Ember, Tom J Astle
  • Producer: Jerry Davis, Lori Forte

In a nutshell

Dazzling visual effects and some lively voice work from the comic relief characters just about paper over a disappointingly conventional narrative.

by Catherine Bray

Latest from Film4...

  • Film4 Palo Alto

    Palo Alto

    First-time writer-director Gia Coppola adapts James Francos collection of linked short stories that tell of teenagers struggles with life, love and vice

  • Film4 The Judge

    The Judge

    In small-town Indiana, the local judge (Robert Duvall) is convicted of murder. Can his estranged big city lawyer son (Robert Downey Jr.), who specialises in getting crooks off the hook, save the day?

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Joe Cunningham's 11 recommendations for LFF 14

    Unfortunately I haven¿t been jet setting around the world this year to the various exciting international film festivals, but that¿s what makes the London Film Festival¿s compilation approach to progr

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Michael Leader's 11 recommendations for LFF 2014

    One of the best things about the London Film Festival¿s smorgasbord approach to programming is that, amongst the world premieres and gala screenings, there¿s an eclectic collection of exciting films o