Wednesday, July 14, 2010
The Sorcerer's Apprentice (Movie Review)
The early trailers for this movie grabbed my attention with the spectacular magic effects and semi-serious tone. But the PG rating and youthful protagonist made me fear that we had just another run of the mill fantasy movie for kids. Thankfully, this was not the case.
Nicolas Cage plays Balthazar, an immortal sorcerer who studied under Merlin. Morgana LeFey, Merlin’s ancient nemesis, is about to be unleashed on the world by an evil sorcerer(played by Alfred Molina), and Balthazar is in search of the stereo typical chosen one who alone has the power to defeat her.
Enter college student and science geek, Dave. The “Prime Merlinian”. (AKA, Chosen One) By a twist of fate, his life intersected with Balthazar and before long he is studying under him to prepare for the battle to come.
Yes, it’s a very simple plot. But the performances by the cast keep things engaging. Cage and Molina are especially fun to watch in their roles. Cage is not what you would expect from an immortal sorcerer and his odd characteristics serve the part well. Molina is unchallenged by this role but has great instincts and fits his character like a glove.
Although the film is rated PG, the tone, when it comes to magical dueling, is serious and often potentially deadly. The visual design also keeps things dark enough to suit a geek who didn’t come just to show his kids this movie.
There are a ton of cool effects in this movie. Giant monsters, animated objects and plenty of “magical energy” being thrown around. The latter was my favorite part, as it is seen so rarely ever since Peter Jackson decided it wasn’t cool. The other effects still look like CGI, but they serve the movie well.
About half of the jokes(usually those of the protagonist) are attempted with too much force, but there are many other moments that are genuinely funny when they aren’t trying so hard. Likewise, the movie successfully pulled me in to real emotional involvement near the very end, only to screw it up by having the protagonist talk too much.
As for philosophical relevance, there isn’t much. We briefly hear the familiar pop-spirituality mantra of “believe in yourself”, but it’s not a theme of the movie. “Do what feels right” is also found once in the script, but spoken by a bad guy for a change.
Real world sorcery may come up, especially given that Abagail Williams, of the Salem Witch Trials, is a character in this movie. Unlike Merlin, her ties to historical witchcraft connect the film more readily to reality, suggesting by implication that sorcery is real and this movie describes its true nature. But I think saying this movie promotes real-world sorcery would be looking for a fight.
While a few performance elements are hit or miss, the movie as a whole is very cool and fantasy fans shouldn’t miss seeing this one. And while there is a chance that you might find yourself discussing the Salem witch trials and the existence or nature of magic, it's a pretty small one.
Rated PG for fantasy action violence, some mild rude humor and brief language.