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Epic review: you can’t stop the rot

Epic red light

Ironically, nothing feels organic here, and certainly nothing feels magical…
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

So apparently there’s all these little people who live in the forest. Some of them look like human people even though they’re called Leaf-Men, because they wear leaves for armor even though leaves couldn’t possibly work as decent armor, could they? Some of them look like flowers or plants with weird human-ish faces. Some of them are slugs who are sexually attracted to human girls, which is just plain creepy. And some of them are “Boggans,” who sort of look like humanoid bugs but don’t really have any real-life analogy and they’re bad guys because they make things decay and they say things like “You can’t stop the rot” as evil catchphrases.

The things is… you really can’t stop the rot. I mean, it’s a circle-of-life thing, and it’s a thing that makes forests so incredibly cool and interesting, like how fallen dead trees create awesome environments for all kinds of really neat-o insects to find a home, and how decaying vegetation nourishes the next round of beautiful things sprouting from the soil. Why would you want to stop the rot? Rot is essential and amazing.

It’s deeply odd that Epic doesn’t understand this, because it appears that it wants to be all about the mysteries of nature ’n’ stuff. All that gorgeous CGI animation of sun-dappled tree canopies and pretty flowers and tiny warriors (armored in leaves — *snort*) mounted on fast-flying birds? How does anyone think that all came to be? I suppose it’s all aiming at a grand — even, ahem, epic — sense of a battle between life and death, what with the Queen of the Forest (the voice of Beyoncé: Obsessed, The Pink Panther) passing on her stewardship of all things pretty if only the damn Boggans will let her, curse them! But, ironically, nothing feels organic, and certainly nothing feels magical here. It feels like no one involved with making this understands the first thing about life and death or the circles and cycles that drive it.

This is from some of the same folks who made sure that Rio and the Ice Age movies lack all magic, too, so maybe that explains it.

Cuz there’s this, too: our entry into this world comes via human teenager M.K. (the voice of Amanda Seyfried: Les Misérables, Gone), who — thanks to some very strained “magic” outta left field — gets shrunk down to Leaf-Men size, whence she commences to get hit on by the aforementioned slug (the voice of Aziz Ansari: What’s Your Number?, Get Him to the Greek) and flirt with a rebellious teen Leaf-Boy (the voice of Josh Hutcherson: The Hunger Games, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island). She doesn’t want to be in the forest at all: it’s a weird place that her weird dad (the voice of Jason Sudeikis: Movie 43, The Campaign) is obsessed with — he believes little people live there *snort* — which is what drove her mom from him. But now Mom has died, and M.K. has come to live with her estranged father… and yet almost immediately after we get this setup for the tale, M.K.’s grief is forgotten. There’s a (supposedly) powerful grief driving the plot in the Leaf-Men world, and yet there’s no connection offered between what M.K. must be going through emotionally (not that we see any of that) and what is happening in the forest, not on a small scale, that would allow her to relate to the Leaf-Men on a moment-by-moment basis, and not in the grand thematic scale, where human life and death might share a relevance with the battle with the Boggans against the rot that cannot by stopped. Or something.

There could have been a profound feeling of the tragic inevitability of death and decay to wonders of life and the beauty of the natural world. Instead, there’s a horny slug.

UK
DVD/streaming

Amazon UK DVD
US/Canada release date: May 24 2013 | UK release date: May 22 2013

Flick Filosopher Real Rating: rated WTR: what the rot?
MPAA: rated PG for mild action, some scary images and brief rude language
BBFC: rated U (contains mild fantasy violence and threat)

viewed in 3D
viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes
  • Isabelle May

    I was worried something like that would happen :(

  • seriously?

    “There could have been a profound feeling of the tragic inevitability of death and decay to wonders of life and the beauty of the natural world.”

    …it’s a kids movie.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    So is Bambi.

  • Evan

    It’s not as complex as Princess Mononoke, for granted, but it never tries to either, and that’s not better or worse, the personal story between MK and her father works beautifully, it’s also a beautiful adventure movie, the way they don’t seem to make them anymore, and had I seen it when I was a kid, it would probably have been as memorable as other films that are seen as cult classics today.

    The rot and the green are symbolic, and the main message in there is we’re all part of it too, and our actions influence it as much as it influences us, it’s a mutual relationship which none of the parts can ignore.

    Wall-E showed us a world left abandoned because of pollution, by people who went on an endless luxury cruise, leaving some robots behind to clean up the mess. Then, after a few pointless crazy robot chases in massive “beach resort style” spaceships, they finally decide to come back and all is suddenly well, no consequences to such an extreme situation, they had no guts to tell the story like it deserved to be told, but yet you seemed to like that…

  • RogerBW

    Holly leaves might not make bad armour for a small creature.

    A CGI forest is changeless, unless you go to some effort to make it not be so…

  • http://www.flickfilosopher.com/ MaryAnn Johanson

    So is The Lion King.

    So is My Neighbor Totoro.

    Why do you underestimate kids?

  • innpchan

    MAJ, you have such little understanding of the natural world. Pretty is -always- good and icky is -always- evil and can’t be allowed to harm the pretty’s eyes! Don’t you watch Nickelodeon or Disney channel?

  • LaSargenta
  • http://twitter.com/RothAnim Jonathan Roth

    My hopes were exceeding my expectations on this one. I’ll likely give it a wide berth.

  • Rod Ribeiro

    I’d say that filmmakers underestimate kids because they watch every terrible movie there is. I mean, Barbie in the 12 Dancing Princesses going #1 in sales lists does not bode very well for the young minds.

  • Rod Ribeiro

    Of course, film critics also have their share of fault: Epic is certified fresh on RT. Contains “family friendly young lust” from a “slimy-but-noble character”, a “tale [that] sweeps you deep into its current and carries you swiftly along”. Its “carefully crafted relationships” deliver “a great message”. Yay, “whiz-bang excitement” guaranteed!

  • http://www.flickfilosopher.com/ MaryAnn Johanson

    but it never tries to either

    You say that like that’s an excuse. “It’s dumb, but it’s not like it tries to be smart” is an appalling justification.

    no consequences to such an extreme situation

    I have no idea what you’re referring to. No consequences?

  • Aaron Bilbrey

    I’m with you, here. This movie sucked.
    They should’ve called it “Ferngully 3″

  • CB

    Oh dang. And here I thought this might be Fox’s “How to Train Your Dragon” which redeemed Dreamworks for me.

    Then again I knew not to get my hopes up when the one thing that was sure to get me in the theater — little dudes riding hummingbirds as war-mounts — looked so dang terrible in the trailers. Like they’d either done zero research, or done the research then said “naw, that’s too hard to animate. We’re on a schedule and a budget here!”

    So am I, 20th Century Fox. So am I. And I only have time and money to see movies with effort put in.

  • Steve Gagen

    I tried to watch this movie on the plane from London to Hong Kong. Usually any garbage will do to while away the hours on a long flight. I am a great fan of animation, and had hopes this would be an interesting film. But as MaryAnn points, out the people behind this film appear to know nothing about the cycle of life. Any kid could tell you that dead things in the forest rot down to help new life emerge, yet in this stupid film life/green is seen as at war with decay/brown, a war that can be won by one side or the other. Hell, Raymond Briggs’ “Fungus the Bogeyman” did a better job than this film does in playing around with ideas of death and decay, and holding the Bogey world up as a mirror to our own absurdities! The film was such crap I couldn’t bear to watch more than about 20 minutes of it. To my joy, I found that they had “The Sapphires” on the aircraft entertainment system. A great film!

  • rurugby

    Rot is very noble indeed. Epic seems to be less rich then the Faith No More song. Another pointless, shiny cartoon that parents will still see unfortunately.

  • Zeek Swanson

    C’mon folks… This is a cartoon, not a Discovery Channel documentary. No advice on grieving, environmental stewardship, or romance advice… This is true. What a welcome relief. I truly enjoyed it, as did my wife and teen age children.

  • Uarestupid

    It is truly sad that almost all of you have lost the idea of magic. You are so caught up looking for the man behind the curtain you can’t see the magic of this movie or any others. Sad. It’s a cartoon, not real life. It is Magic and it’s a GREAT movie!

  • Christopher Williams

    Let’s not forget that this movie is a sci-fi fantasy type and not a Shakespearean tragedy. So the criticism should not come from a perspective of a theatrical play. Lighten up!

  • http://www.flickfilosopher.com/ MaryAnn Johanson

    Oh, right! I totally forgot: if it’s for kids or has any sort of genre leanings, it’s immune to criticism. Thanks for setting me straight!

  • Danielm80

    If audiences keep saying, “It’s a sci-fi fantasy movie. It doesn’t have to be Shakespeare,” we’re going to keep getting lousy movies. We deserve better.