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Epic: Blu-ray + DVD + DigitalHD UltraViolet Review

Epic (2013) movie poster Epic

Theatrical Release: May 24, 2013 / Running Time: 102 Minutes / Rating: PG

Director: Chris Wedge / Writers: William Joyce (story, screenplay, and book), James V. Hart (story & screenplay), Chris Wedge (story), Dan Shere, Tom J. Astle, Matt Ember (screenplay)

Voice Cast: Colin Farrell (Ronin), Josh Hutcherson (Nod), Amanda Seyfried (Mary Katherine "M.K."), Christoph Waltz (Mandrake), Aziz Ansari (Mub), Chris O'Dowd (Grub), Pitbull (Bufo), Jason Sudeikis (Professor Bomba), Steven Tyler (Nim Galuu), Beyoncι Knowles (Queen Tara), Blake Anderson (Dagda), Judah Friedlander (Larry the Taxi Driver), John DiMaggio (Pinecone Jinn), Troy Evans (Thistle Jinn), Edie Mirman (Flower Jinn)

Buy Epic from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy • Deluxe Edition Blu-ray 3D Combo • DVD • Instant Video

It's premature to claim that after one flop Blue Sky Studios is in danger of losing its status as one of the major forces in computer animation, but on an annual release schedule, one can never be sure. The success of Ice Age in 2002 made the East Coast company the third of its kind, following Pixar and DreamWorks. Since then, other serious competitors have turned up: Universal's Illumination Entertainment, Sony Pictures Animation, plus Disney Animation has gotten the knack of CGI.
This year, box office grosses for animated features have been down. Outside of summer's smash hit Despicable Me 2 (Illumination) and solid performer Monsters University (Pixar), which both soared on pre-existing goodwill, the once unstoppable CG family comedy has struggled some, suggesting the market can only support so many films and studios of this sort.

To date, Blue Sky has been the most consistent and one of the most fruitful players in the game. Domestically, they've never reached the tallest heights of Pixar and DreamWorks, having repeatedly approached but never eclipsed the $200 million mark. Worldwide is a different story; their Ice Age sequels, issued in between original works about every three years, have done over 70 to 80 percent of their business in foreign markets. The two most recent installments, not difficult to overlook stateside, have nonetheless been behemoths internationally, their global impact ranking on the order of a Star Wars, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, or Transformers episode. There are no concrete plans for a fifth movie in the flagship series just yet, but there is a financially lucrative case to be made for Blue Sky accepting a reputation as an Ice Age factory.

The studio's latest original film, Epic, became its weakest performer to date both domestically and abroad. This adventure from director Chris Wedge (the first Ice Age and Robots) and decorated children's author William Joyce (Rise of the Guardians, Meet the Robinsons) opened on the traditionally prosperous Memorial Day Weekend and, despite a nearly 4,000-theater count and the now-standard 3D bump, could only swing a fourth place debut. Facing little direct competition for a month, Epic floundered, barely crossing the increasingly meaningless $100 M mark in North America and thus falling well short of the bar for success set by a reported $93 M production budget.

In the Blue Sky film "Epic", human teenager Mary Katherine (M.K.) is shrunk down to a world where Leafmen ride hummingbirds.

Loosely adapted from Joyce's 1996 book The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs, Epic explores two layers of life that intersect. On the human front, teenaged girl Mary Katherine (voiced by Amanda Seyfried), who prefers to go by "M.K." nowadays, makes the journey to the remote forest home of her nerdy, widowed, estranged scientist father (Jason Sudeikis), a man obsessed with proving that an advanced society of tiny little people exists.

He's not crazy, as M.K. soon finds out when she is entrusted with a pod from Queen Tara (Beyonce Knowles), a dying, handholdable royal. Tara has just chosen an heir -- the aforementioned pod -- on whom the life of the forest hedges. This land, you see, is in a constant battle between vitality and rot. The heroes are Leafmen, itsy-bitsy men who dress in leaves, ride on birds, and promote vegetation under the reign of their flower-decorated ruler. Their archrivals are the Boggans, ugly gray creatures who ride bats, wear animal skulls and furs, and eradicate life.

M.K. joins the ranks of a brave warrior Leafman named Ronin (Colin Farrell, allowed to use his natural brogue) and the headstrong young Nod (Josh Hutcherson), the son of Ronin's late friend whom Ronin has essentially raised. The oft-clashing duo takes M.K., per the Queen's instructions, to the scrollkeeper caterpillar Nim Galuu (Steven Tyler), a showy fun uncle type who reads the "rings of knowledge" from trees. The party hopes that there is something in these records that will inform them of how to proceed to save their kind.

Meanwhile, the Boggans, led by the nasty Mandrake (Christoph Waltz), are determined to seize the opportunity to do away with their colorful foes. But it's not all serious, as we get comic relief in the form of Mub (Aziz Ansari) and Grub (Chris O'Dowd), silly slugs with dreams of their own.

The Boggan leader Mandrake and his son Dagda dress themselves in the fur and skull of rats. The avuncular showman scrollkeeper Nim Galuu (voiced by Steven Tyler) clutches the pod on which the life of the forest depends.

Building a fantasy world from scratch without even leaning upon the popularity of a widely loved book series is a challenging task and one that Epic admirably is up to. It's a tough sell. The film's poster art looks derivative and overwhelming. Plus, there's a much greater margin for error in animated action fantasy adventure than in plain old family comedy. Between How to Train Your Dragon, Tangled, and Brave,
the subgenre has done well of late, but there have also been non-starters too, like Rise of the Guardians, Guardians of Ga'Hoole, and that whole Arthur and the Invisibles trilogy that really didn't catch on here.

Although Epic doesn't live up to its title, that's not a bad thing. There's true economy to its storytelling, as it resists introducing characters it doesn't need or indulging in overwrought action sequences. At 102 minutes with end credits, it's a tad long, but not overbearingly so. One immediately recognizes that the ongoing battle between Leafmen and Boggans suffers from some of the same limitations that hung over Rise of the Guardians. Fortunately, the film addresses this by keeping the conflict out of the foreground, choosing instead to focus on M.K.'s journey and the relationship of Nod and Ronin. Epic has fun playing with scale and perspective; humans move slowly and clumsily to these swift little guys, who dub them "Stompers." Some of the most enjoyable scenes explore the contrast of lifestyles and living spaces.

You won't find hearty laughs, breathtaking adventure, or poignant emotion here, but that doesn't prevent Epic from being appealing and breezy diversion. Those wanting an actual animated epic will have to keep looking. What's here is more in line with prevailing CG filmgoers' tastes. That may diminish the fanfic-fueling fervor of a niche flop that finds a cult following, but it makes for an enjoyable standalone film that requires no sequel or cable cartoon spin-off.

Now that Fox has brought DreamWorks Animation, in the midst of its biggest and only commercial slump of its 15-year existence, into its fold, the necessity, value, and identity of Blue Sky have all grown a little foggy. Instead of the animation dominance foreseen with priceless cross-promotion opportunities, Fox is having to release two or three animated films just to match a single Pixar or Illumination one in revenues. That isn't a fair fight, though, since Fox's three 2013 releases have all lacked a popular predecessor or widely identifiable brand. Still, it will be interesting to see how this plays out next year, when Fox is scheduled to open Blue Sky's Rio 2 and three new DreamWorks movies including How to Train Your Dragon 2. The disappointments of this summer's The Smurfs 2 and Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters have proven that not all family sequels are certain to take flight, and yet even originality-espousing Pixar has conceded the value of cashing in on a successful brand.

In the meantime, Epic has quickly made its way to home video, releasing today in a single-disc DVD as well as Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D combo packs.

Epic: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy combo pack cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.39:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: 7.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (DVS, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Croatian, Czech, Slovak, Slovenian, and Turkish)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, English DVS), Dolby Surround 2.0 (Spanish, French)
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish; BD-only: Portuguese, Croatian, Czech, Slovak, Slovenian, and Turkish
Extras Subtitled in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Czech; DVD Closed Captioned
Release Date: August 20, 2013 / Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Two single-sided discs (1 BD-50 & 1 DVD-9)
Blue Keepcase in Holographic Cardboard Slipcover
Also available in Deluxe Edition Blu-ray Combo ($49.99 SRP), DVD ($29.98 SRP), and Amazon Instant Video


This section of the review is more or less unnecessary for the Blu-ray of a new computer animated film in 2013. Yes, of course, Epic showcases outstanding high definition picture and sound in the disc's 2.40:1 widescreen and 7.1 DTS-HD master audio presentation. Blue Sky's animation has yet to wow me and the start of this film is particularly unpromising, with its human character approaching that undesirable place called "uncanny valley" that's typically reserved for motion capture. Once we settle into the primary setting, however, we are treated to pretty colors and lush visuals. They're not on the order of Pixar's dazzlement, but they are quite a bit more sophisticated than, say, the 15-year-old A Bug's Life. The tactful sound design is satisfyingly engaging, complementing the onscreen action at all times. Aware of the medium's global appeal, Fox loads up the Blu-ray with a wealth of foreign dubs and subtitle options.

Strawberries decompose in time-lapse photography in the short decay featurette "Rot Rocks." Ken the Bug Guy shows off Bugs of Camouflage including this praying mantis.


Epic's average supply of all-HD Blu-ray bonus features begins with "Birds, Bugs and Slugs: Forest Explorer" (5:21),
an ordinary but good short that dispenses facts about the real plant and animal species personified in the film, including caterpillars, dandelions, and hummingbirds. Nature footage complements fitting clips from the film.

"Rot Rocks" (3:18) considers and celebrates the importance of natural decay, using time-lapse photography and nature stills as examples.

"Bugs of Camouflage" (3:44) extends the nature motif, with host "Ken the Bug Guy" showing us a variety of insects that manage to blend in with their environments as evolutionary defense techniques.

"The Epic Life at 2 Inches" (3:42) analyzes the physical advantages of Leafmen, explaining how the diminutive species is able to jump so high and lift several times its body weight.

A brunette Josh Hutcherson ("The Hunger Games"' Peeta) is shown recording lines of Nod. A statistic-oriented "Epic" crew member uses this 2-inch figurine to establish a Leafman's height in relation to a human being in one of the "Mysteries of Moonhaven Revealed" shorts.

After those edutaining youth-friendly shorts exploring the film's subjects and settings, we finally come to something addressing the filmmaking side.
Seven "Mysteries of Moonhaven Revealed" shorts (24:39) gather comments from director Chris Wedge, producers, animators, other crew members, and voice actors regarding the production's goals, physics, characters, designs, and challenges. It's good material that should satisfy your appetite for Epic making-of content.

The extras draw to a close with Epic's theatrical trailer (2:12), an always fitting inclusion.

Though Fox, like basically every studio has moved away from digital copy discs in favor of download codes, the second disc of this pack is a DVD + Digital Copy platter differing from the Epic DVD sold on its own. Whereas that includes "Forest Explorer", "Rot Rocks", and "Bugs of Camouflage", this one simply holds the sneak peeks.

Both discs open with a Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters trailer, a Fox format promo (the BD's is for family movies on Blu-ray 3D, the DVD's is for Blu-ray), a Shrek: The Musical ad (which is evidently bound for DVD and Blu-ray), and a spot for The Croods. Along with individual and collective access to these, the Sneak Peek submenu adds previews for Turbo, "Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness" Good Croc, Bad Croc, "Dragons: Riders of Berk" Parts 1 & 2, and Team Energy Star.

Funny slugs Mub and Grub narrate the Blu-ray's menu, which creatively describes and excerpts the bonus features. Wisely, the design isn't revived on every visit. Not having extras to highlight, the DVD simply uses the standard screen-filling montage that the Blu-ray later employs. The Blu-ray coolly supports bookmarks and also resumes playback flawlessly.

Holding the uniquely-labeled discs across from one another, the standard eco-friendly keepcase is topped by a faintly holographic slipcover. A booklet explains what is needed for the coloring app fun while also supplying your unique code for redeeming both the DVD's digital copy and the downloadable HD UltraViolet stream. I believe the coloring app requires a tablet or touch phone, neither of which I have. Seems like it's a free download that can be enhanced with BD-Live, so whether it even needs to be reviewed here is debatable. I'll pass, though it looks like it could be fun.

Professor Bomba finds his daughter M.K. much smaller than when he last saw her in "Epic."


I would rank Epic on par with Horton Hears a Who! and Robots as one of the stronger entries in Blue Sky's oeuvre. It may be forgettable, but it is fun and has enough original ideas to stand out from the glut of contemporary animation. It's a film worth seeing, though not with the expectations its title conjures.

Fox's Blu-ray combo doesn't go above and beyond, but its sterling feature presentation and enjoyable 45 minutes of bonus features make for a perfectly satisfactory release of a fine movie.

Buy Epic from Amazon.com:
Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy / Deluxe Edition Blu-ray 3D Combo / DVD / Instant Video

Buy from Amazon.com

Related Reviews:
Blue Sky Studios: Rio • Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas Special • Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs • Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!
William Joyce: Rise of the Guardians • Meet the Robinsons
2013 Family Films: Escape from Planet Earth • Jack the Giant Slayer • Oz the Great and Powerful • Monsters University • Planes
New to Blu-ray and DVD: The Muppet Movie • The Sword in the Stone • Robin Hood • Standing Up • The Sapphires
A Bug's Life • Brave • Tangled • The Spiderwick Chronicles • Tinker Bell • The Gnome-Mobile • James and the Giant Peach

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Reviewed August 20, 2013.

Text copyright 2013 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2013 Twentieth Century Fox Animation, Blue Sky Studios, and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.
Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.