In the animated film Epic, teen Mary Katherine (M.K.) moves back into her father’s house after her mother has passed away. Dad is a sweet, bumbling scientist who is too concerned with proving the existence of a society of very tiny people living in the forest to take much notice of his daughter’s needs, a trait that ruined his marriage to M.K.’s mom. When M.K. tries to bring her father back to reality, he tells her, “Just because you haven’t seen something doesn’t mean it’s not there.”
Soon M.K. discovers that the society is real, and it is in danger. A flower “pod” has been chosen to usher in the new queen of the forest, but it can only achieve that if it blooms in a certain place at a certain time. And not only might it not bring a new queen of the forest, if it blooms in the wrong place it could instead bring a dark prince, aiding the evil Mandrake in his wish to spread rot and death to the beautiful forest.
The big strength of this movie is the animation. It is fantastic, a spectacular homage to nature. The first few scenes look more like shots from a nature film than animation, and the forest society is richly imagined. The one flat note is, oddly, the animation of the original queen, voiced by Beyonce Knowles. It looks like the Barbie doll Forest Queen Beyonce was created first and the animated version came after the fact.
Mandrake’s desire to spread death and desolation rather than vibrant life sets up a classic good versus evil tale. However, the story is less imaginative than the animation, trotting out the familiar tropes—dead mother, slapstick sidekicks, handsome young rebel—standards of the modern Disney-fied tale. There’s a wee bit too much going on between bad guys, good guys, queens, pods, the mad scientist, father-child issues, a wise keeper of knowledge, those slapstick sidekicks, and a three-legged pug, as if the writers couldn’t quite decide which threads should be eliminated and decided to keep them all. In spite of all the threads, the story lacks any real surprises.
Overall, though, it works well enough for summer entertainment, if the reactions of my tween daughters are any indication. All three of us were engaged, particularly the one who has always wished she’d discover a fairy in the woods behind our house.
The wisdom the movie wants to leave you with, its “deep thought,” is the mantra of the tiny Leafmen: “Many leaves, one tree; we’re all individuals, but we’re still connected.” This is likely meant to be some earthy spirituality in line with Eastern mysticism. Christians know that we are all connected, all individual parts of one Body. In fact, all things are connected in Christ, “for from him and through him and for him are all things” (Rom. 11:36). M.K.’s father’s encouragement to consider the existence of things you cannot see could also be brought into a faith-full discussion of the movie.
So while the story is a mixed bag, the art and the heart of it make it worth watching. (Blue Sky)