Thursday, July 22, 2010

Movie Review: The Sorcerer's Apprentice


Disney is so cute sometimes. Watching them make their movies is like watching a very small dog jumping up and down desperately trying to reach the doggy treat while making sounds similar to an over-caffeinated rat.

Once upon a time, Disney made a really good live action movie - it was called Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, and it remains one of my favorite films around. It was wonderfully written, the acting was charming and fantastic, and the characters were brilliant and well developed. It was a great movie, loads of fun and one that I've watched again and again.

Disney has been making live action movies for a very long time - the problem with almost all of them is that they were so bad and easily forgettable that not that many people really noticed. In truth, the company should have stuck to their animated features.

After Pirates of the Caribbean's success, Disney threw even more effort into promoting their live-action films. Big name actors and actresses started appearing in these films, and things looked like they were going to be good for Disney. That would have been great... if the quality of those movies hadn't started plummeting like someone who has been given a serious overdose of gravity.
"My only regret is Race to Witch Mountain!"

There have been a few movies that have been sorta kinda good maybe since Black Pearl came out - Chronicles of Narnia, the other Pirates movies (yes, I did like them. Yes, both 2 AND 3) being the most notable. However, the vast majority of them were painfully bad no matter how high you happened to be at the time. The latest attempt that Disney has made to imitate past glories is Jerry Bruckheimer's The Sorcerer's Apprentice. And boy do they try HARD.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice feels like Curse of the Black Pearl redone with more magic (you know, for special effects) and in a more modern setting. It has the same producer, similar music style, and it tries to pull of a similar mood and feel. Don't think I'm right? Let me explain.

The movie starts by introducing us to our hero: Hiccup from How to Train Your Dragon.

... No, really, it's the same damn kid.
See? SEE? They're exactly the same!!!

Anyway, in this movie his name is actually Dave Stutler. It starts with him being a young boy who comes across a Sorcerer's store. There he witnesses a terrible battle between two powerful sorcerers, but not before he is given a token, a magical ring of considerable supernatural significance.
Switch Shop for Ship, Sorcerer for Pirate, and Ring for Medallion. Next!

The movie then cuts to ten years later, revealing the young man to have turned into a socially inept outcast geek.
Since the incident at the Sorcerer's shop, Dave has been unable to really live life to its fullest. He is generally a recluse, and doesn't do well when he has to interact with people. In general, he lives a rather bland, boring life. However, this all changes when the two Sorcerers return to the world! The first one to find him, Horvath, is the evil sorcerer who then tries to kill him. However, he is saved just in time by the good sorcerer, Balthazar, played by Nicolas Cage. Balthazar rescues young Dave, but is quickly revealed to be a bit off his rocker. Nonetheless, Dave agrees to go with Balthazar and learn more about the life of a Sorcerer, including the art of magic itself.

Barbossa. Jack Sparrow. Piracy. NEXT!

Oh, right, did I mention Dave's also in love with a girl who was a good friend in their childhood?

Put away your crazy face, Keira.

Or that Horvath has a stupid yet funny minion with a painful British accent?

And the creativity award goes to...

So, anyways, a lot of stuff happens in the middle that can be pretty easily described as "antics." There are a lot of explosions, lots of special effects, and lots of Horvath being vaguely evil. We are introduced to the character of Morganna, the most powerful evil Sorcerer to have ever lived. She is bound within one of those Russian doll in a doll thingies, and if she is released horrible things will happen. Something involving the dead walking the Earth.

Apparently this is undesirable.

So we find out that Dave is the Prime Merlinian, the only Sorcerer capable of defeating Morganna. It's never really explained why, but at this point I'd be willing to be that it involves being the only descendant of "Bootstrap" Bill Turner.

So anyways, the ending of the movie is very rushed. The long and short of it is that Dave ends up facing down Morganna and (surprise) emerges victorious using some of the skills that he knows from his ten years as a physics nerd. Wow! Way to stretch your wings, Disney! Good guys win and bad guys lose? What a shocker! What incredibly new and unusual thing are you going to next?
Oh, right! The guy gets the girl, and they all live happily ever after!

The saddest thing about this movie is that it could have been absolutely amazing. It had such incredible potential, and was surrounded on all sides by more than competent cast and crew. Nicolas Cage does a great job in this movie as the Sorcerer Bathazar, and Alfred Molino delivers a really fun and entertaining performance as Horvath. The movie was beautiful to watch (although what isn't these days?), and overall gives a strong technical performance. There are some really fun bits in the movie, including a great tribute to Fantasia when Dave tries to clean his place up in anticipation of his approaching girlfriend.

However, this movie falls apart in the knowledge that everything you are seeing has been done time and time again. There is absolutely nothing original about this movie, nothing new and entertaining that you couldn't find somewhere else. It may be entertaining while you're watching it, but the knowledge is still there that you're basically watching a movie of fluff. Right after the movie ended, I thought I really liked it. Since then, with each day that passed by my opinion of it lowered. In the end, I find this film to be almost aggressively mediocre. It's extremely forgettable, painfully derivative; in the end, it's more of an aftertaste than a feast.

Final Grade: C

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