In the animated tale of nature’s battle between growth and decay, the human teenager MK (Amanda Seyfried) is shrunk down to Thumbelina size, where she inherits the mission of the dying forest queen. Befriended by the Leafman, namely the battle-tested Ronin (Colin Farrell) and rookie Nod (Josh Hutcherson), she finds herself up against the forces of the Boggans. Boggan leader Mandrake (Christoph Waltz) is a dastardly leader, who hopes to destroy everything good and rule for himself. Sure, the overall good versus evil storyline is pretty straightforward, but the depiction (visually amazing) and the stewardship of nature message is spot on.
MK’s estranged father (Jason Sudeikis) has studied the Leafmen for years, but no one, including MK, ever believed him. Of course, that leads into a conversation about faith versus doubt (a la Contact) where MK is challenged to believe for herself: “just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not real.” But MK doesn’t believe until she sees for herself firsthand, like doubting Thomas, and she’s taken from skeptic to full-on Avatar mode. It’s not the last time that MK will be “incarnational” in Epic: and that’s maybe the opportunity for the movie’s best line.
Most of the story revolves around these Boggans and Leafmen, the first representing “decay” and the second representing growth. There’s a great scene toward the end that harkens to the rolling back of the winter in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe as the reign of the White Witch ends, but the battle that exists throughout will have adults and kids engaged. It also asks us to consider how we’re caring for nature, and what our stewardship model looks like, but it’s not even the greatest message of Epic for me.
MK needs to be around when a magical bud opens so that she can get back to her normal side. But this occurs at the same time as the conclusive battle between the Boggans and the Leafmen, and, of course, MK’s heart has changed to the point where she chooses to defend the forest over her own future. One of the supporting characters asks, incredulous: “Who gives up everything for a world that isn’t even theirs?” MK has suddenly transformed from a Doubting Thomas into a Christ figure, like the bud itself unfolding into something beautiful.
Epic is visually incredible, ridiculous fun, and immensely theological. It’s a trifecta for the family, or anyone willing to embrace the beauty of story itself.