Review: ‘Epic’ a Lovely Tale with Hidden Messages

Don’t let the apparent eco-centric nature of Epic scare you off. It’s not at all an Earth-worship movie.

And don’t let the movie blurb title throw you off. (I hear the next sequel is called “The Best Movie Yet” and “Amazing Thrill-ride.”) This film deserves a better name, not to mention better marketing.

Once you get past the preconceived notions, Epic is a surprisingly satisfying movie which appeals to boys, girls and parents. Its story aligns powerfully with a Christian worldview and even at times approaches Narnian levels.

I know that’s a big statement to make and I’m not saying this film is the next The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. It’s not that (excuse me for this) epic.

But the film is delightful and a nice break from that which we so often see.

The story starts when young Mary Katherine comes home to her estranged father’s country cabin following the death of her mother. She’s mourning, looking for support from the parent she no longer knows. But she seems out of luck. He’s a wild professor, a half-hinged crusader whose life work has been to study the tantalizing clues found in the forest: He believes a parallel civilization inhabits the green trees and flowered glens of the woods.

Mary Katherine (voiced by Amada Seyfried), like her mother before her, finds his theories embarrassing and his devotion to them a poor replacement for an attentive father.

“Just because you’ve never seen something doesn’t mean it’s not there,” he continually repeats to MK’s eyerolls.

But, like many mystics, he’s absolutely correct. The forest hides not only a civilization but a raging war. A menace harasses the verdant kindgom inhabited by living flowers, roly-poly mushrooms, and leaf people. Mandrake (Christoph Waltz) spreads mold and decay with his arrows of death. He gathers his minions to eat trees from the inside out, to block the sun, to wither all that is green and lively.

But Mandrake fights a losing war because every time he spreads death throughout a portion of the kingdom, Queen Tara (Beyonce) users her power of life to revive it. No sooner does Mandrake reduce a glen to ashes than Tara’s seedlings and tendrils push through the decay to reach for the sun again.

Her loyal captain at arms is Ronin (Colin Farrell), dedicated to her personally and all she stands for.

But when Mandrake’s most daring attack yet succeeds in felling Tara with a poison arrow, the Queen uses her dying moments to draw MK into their parallel world and charge her with the care of a pod that will become a new queen.

With the help of a snail and a slug (Aziz Ansi and Pitbull), and a handsome but wayward leaf soldier named Nod (Josh Hutcherson), she must help the bud bloom and thrive.

The movie succeeds in having it all: A beautiful, gown-clad fairy princess type for the girls, not to mention flower people and soldiers mounted on humming birds; Courageous, upright, and brave soldiers for the boys, with plenty of derring-do in the offing. There’s plenty of humor, especially from the snail and slug with ambitions beyond their genus.

Rated PG, the film doesn’t have the type of body humor or rude humor that turns parents off, much less buried innuendo. The action sequences are not particularly scary. This is a film that would work for elementary school students.

The images of decay and destruction fighting the powers of life is particularly useful for people of faith. Where evil intends death, life blooms again. It’s the message of the gospel. This is not entirely wishful thinking, I’m guessing, as once character even marvels that MK “risks everything to save a world that is not her own.”

Sound familiar?

Based on the books The Leaf Men and The Brave Good Bugs by William Joyce, this is the type of movie we so often wish Hollywood would produce more often. Look for most critics (swayed by their innate secularism and addiction to cynicism, poor dears) to pan it. It’s better than they say.

In fact, it’s worth a trip to the theater.

About Rebecca Cusey

Rebecca is a lead critic and editor of entertainment at Patheos. Follow her on Twitter @Rebecca_Cusey

  • jeffreyoverstreet

    Would you mind posting some links to some… any… critics whose negative reviews are driven by “innate secularism” and cynicism? I’d be curious to see who you’re talking about.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

      From MSN: http://movies.msn.com/movies/m

      “A 3D eco-fantasy whose mantra-like insistence that we’re all connected by nature is one of the main things that underscores the abject insincerity of the sentiment as the movie articulates it, “Epic” is very nearly epic in its stifling mediocrity.”

      I’d say they TOTALLY missed the point of the film. it’s neither eco nor about nature connecting us. I guess you could reduce it to that, but I thought it was much more good versus evil.

      Not that it’s the best film ever. Not saying negative reviews don’t have some validity, just that people see through their own lens. And most of those lenses are white, liberal, secular, male, and past middle age. At least the big voices.

      • jeffreyoverstreet

        Okay. I’ve been putting together a Film Forum post quoting a wide variety of reviews and reviewers… from mainstream critics, religious press critics, male, female, young old. The majority have described problems with the film that sound perfectly reasonable and unrelated to cynicism or secularism. So I just needed an example of what you meant. I hadn’t seen it.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

          I’ll be interested to see that. Are you seeing a big difference between mainstream and faith based press?

          I didn’t think there were problems with the film if you accept a G audience. I think critics are often looking for something new and exciting, or something for adults, which is very different from what will resonate with the youngest audience. It doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel. It just has to do the wheel well, which I thought this did very nicely.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tinseltalk Rebecca Cusey

    From MSN: http://movies.msn.com/movies/movie-critic-reviews/epic.2/

    “A 3D eco-fantasy whose mantra-like insistence that we’re all connected by nature is one of the main things that underscores the abject insincerity of the sentiment as the movie articulates it, “Epic” is very nearly epic in its stifling mediocrity.”

    I’d say they TOTALLY missed the point of the film. it’s neither eco nor about nature connecting us. I guess you could reduce it to that, but I thought it was much more good versus evil.

    Not that it’s the best film ever. Not saying negative reviews don’t have some validity, just that people see through their own lens. And most of those lenses are white, liberal, secular, and past middle age. At least the big voices.

  • May

    Is this movie Epic having a sequel?

  • May

    I LOVED THIS MOVIE!
    Does anyone know whether Epic is having a sequel?

  • nourmakky

    i’m totally in love with Epic.
    i hope there’s a sequel


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