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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Epic

September 1st, 2013

Epic - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack or 3D Combo Pack

Epic was the first big digitally animated film of the summer, but it wasn't able to become a monster hit. In fact, it will need a bit of help on the home market to break even. Will it get that help? Or is it just a middling family film destined to be forgotten?

The Movie

The film begins with Professor Bomba checking out the forest. He's convinced there is a battle between tiny forces raging throughout the forest, and he's right. Of course he's right. If he were wrong, it would be a short film.

After this we see the battle with Nod, a Leafman, being chased by the forces of evil. He was being chased, because he decided to fly home alone, instead of with the rest of the Leafmen. This of course annoys his commander, Ronin, who has to rescue him. Nod is thinking of quitting the Leafmen, saying he's not cut out for it. However, Ronin is convinced Nod has what is takes, if he put in a little effort.

Back in the big world, we meet Mary Katherine, a.k.a. M.K. She's traveling from the city to the country to be with her father, someone she considers a stranger. Her mother recently passed away and she hadn't lived with her father in years, so it is a little awkward. Her father tries to be there for her. On the one hand, he tries a little too hard. On the other hand, he's got a lot on his mind trying to keep track of the tiny world. It's the full moon and the summer solstice, so he thinks something big is happening. Again, he's right.

Back in the little world, Ronin returns to talk to Queen Tara. He wants to warn her about the Boggans. Queen Tara has to choose a new heir and Ronin thinks the Boggans will try and stop her. Ronin wants Queen Tara to be more cautious, but she's not afraid of the Boggans.

Who are the Boggans? The Boggans are the forces of rot, as opposed to the forces of life, represented by Queen Tara. The leader is Mandrake, he and his son, Bagda, want to kill the Queen before she can name an heir. If they can, the tide will turn in their favor and rot will rule.

Back in the big world, MK and her father get into a fight. She wants him to live in the real world, while he's convinced he's on the cusp of a huge breakthrough. MK decides it's time to leave, but while getting ready to go, she accidentally let's out the dog, Ozzy. She has to chase him into the woods.

Meanwhile, Queen Tara chooses the new pod that will be her heir, and as Ronin suspected, Mandrake uses this opportunity to attack. He sends his army to capture the newly chosen pod and a major battle breaks out. The Queen gets away, momentarily, but is fatally shot by Bagda. (Ronin returns the favor.) The Queen falls to the ground, but MK sees her. The Queen gives the pod to MK, which shrinks her down to the level of the leafpeople. The Queen tells MK to take the pod to Nim Galuu, before she dies.

This seems like a good place to end the plot summary.

Epic doesn't live up to its name and it is instead merely an average kids movie. The filmmakers clearly spent a lot of time and energy creating the world, which is beautiful, but the writers should have put as much effort into creating compelling characters. None of the characters were really engaging, while a couple of them (Mub and Grub) were annoying. We learn very little about MK before she is thrust into this world and what we do learn about her and her dysfunctional family life doesn't have much of an impact for most of the story. The writing was clumsy leading to a number of scenes where exposition was dumped on the audience instead of being shown in an organic way. This results in a story that is simply not captivating enough and instead feels very derivative. Its a Good vs. Evil story without a well developed mythology and you can tell something is lacking. It's not all bad. Like I said, the world does look beautiful and some of the action scenes are well done and probably looked great in 3-D. That said, crowded storytelling (there are six people with screenwriter and / or story credits) keeps it from being memorable.

The Extras

Extras include a quartet of edutainment featurettes for kids. The first looks at the denizens of the forest, the second on the process of rotting and why it is good for the forest, the third one is on camouflage, and the final one looks at how the physics would be for a tiny person. In total, they run about 16 minutes. There is also a 25-minute long making of featurette. That's an acceptable level of extras, but nothing more.

On the other hand, the technical presentation is close to reference quality. Granted, digital animation has a serious advantage in this regard, as every pixel is created, every sound effect is designed, so the filmmakers don't have to worry about real world issues. This results in a very crisp picture with gorgeous colors. The sound produces a great immersive experience as well.

The DVD costs $20, which isn't exactly a bargain. On the other hand, the Blu-ray combo pack is just $2 more, while the 3D combo pack costs just $3 more than the Blu-ray.

The Verdict

Epic is fine for a kids movie, but it pales in comparison to films like A Bug's Life, or even some of Blue Sky Studios' other films like Ice Age or Horton Hears a Who. The DVD is fine if you are interested in renting, but the Blu-ray Combo Pack or 3D Combo Pack is clearly the better deal.

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Filed under: Video Review, Epic, Aziz Ansari, Colin Farrell, Josh Hutcherson, Beyonce Knowles, Chris O'Dowd, Amanda Seyfried, Christoph Waltz, Jason Sudeikis, Steven Tyler, Blake Anderson