Friday, January 27, 2012

The Sorcerer's Apprentice Movie Review

In the wondrous world of marketing, a title becomes grounds for several different media types. For example, the book Eragon by Christopher Paolini hit shelves in 2003, and then a movie hit theaters in 2006; then in the wake of the movie an Eragon video game was released on several game systems. Do not play video games based on a movie based on a book; they are all lousy! I have never before seen a chain of “based on” titles that originated with 18th century classical music. The Sorcerer's Apprentice, directed by Jon Turteltaub, is a movie based on Disney’s Fantasia (1940) segment, which was based on a late 1890s symphonic poem by Paul Dukas and the 1797 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe ballad.
The story starts off in 740 AD when one of Merlin’s apprentices, Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina), betrays Merlin and joins evil sorceress Morgana le Fay (Alice Krige). Morgana mortally wounds Merlin before being stopped by another apprentice, Balthazar Blake (Nicolas Cage), who imprisons Morgana in the Grimhold, a magic prison similar to a nesting doll. Before dying, Merlin gives Balthazar a dragon ring that will identify the Prime Merlinean, Merlin's successor who will be the only one able to defeat Morgana. Throughout history Balthazar imprisons other Morganians, including Horvath, into successive layers on the Grimhold while searching for Merlin’s successor. Balthazar finally finds him in 2010, a young physics student named Dave Stutler (Jay Baruchel). Dave had accidentally released Horvath from the Grimhold a few years prior, and he now hunts down Dave to locate the Grimhold and release Morgana. Should Morgana be released, she intends to revive all the dead Morganians and destroy the world. Balthazar must find the Grimhold before Horvath does, and train Dave in the ways of science and magic so that Dave can become a true sorcerer and save the world.
This movie is so dreadfully formulaic that attempting to expound upon the characters or storyline would be redundant. It’s almost as though Disney has this one story and set of characters that they keep using for different movies. You can accurately predict what each scene will accomplish and even what the following scene will be.  Seriously, you have seen this movie and these characters before. I’m deliriously in love with the idea of fantasy elements in a modern world setting, and this movie does have that going for it. Horvath was a pretty nasty villain, but with the movie being rated PG. You know he’s not really going to follow through with his dastardly threats; people rarely die in PG movies. One of the better parts of the movie was when Dave tries to bring to life some brooms and mops to clean his physics lab, which has similar results to Mickey Mouse’s dilemma in Fantasia. This whole movie concept may have started with the idea of making a live action adaptation of that Mickey Mouse classic.
So why watch The Sorcerer’s Apprentice? Because it is really fun! The story and characters were terrible, but the visual effects were highly creative and entertaining. There was a constantly changing variety of magic being used; some were subtle like unfolding a gigantic spell book from a tiny pocket size square, to transforming a Chinatown Dragon Dance puppet into a real dragon. It was very exciting. I also liked how magic was developed as being similar to science. To get something to light up in flames, you had to focus on making the molecules speed up, creating heat, which sets something on fire. My favorite scene was the chase scene through New York City; there were creative, unexpected magical stunts were thrown at each other at rapid-fire speeds. The movie kept you guessing as to what abstract visuals they were going to pull on each other next. That kept the movie fresh and fun to watch.
This movie was not a profound example of meaningful cinema. The story and characters in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice were really weak, but the creative implementation of magic kept it interesting and fun. It was predictable, but the visuals kept you guessing. This is a great movie for a family movie night; kids will love it and adults will enjoy it too, if they aren’t too put off by the formulaic storytelling. It’s a renter, but I may get a copy just because I like fantasy in a modern setting so much.

Is there a movie you’ve seen that was good only because the special effects were impressive? What was it? Comment below and tell me all about it!

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