The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (Contains Spoilers)

Perhaps it is a case of me building up how good something is going to be in my own mind, and then that particular something not quite delivering to the extent I think it’s going to be. I mean, it does happen a lot with certain films, but in all honesty The Sorcerer’s Apprentice came fairly close and only fell slightly short of the mark that I had predicted for it. But that’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy it – in fact, it’s one of the more enjoyable and easily accessible films I’ve seen recently.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice isn’t exactly one of these films that I have spoken about in which you don’t have to engage your mind very much. Ok, it might not exactly be very challenging either considering that it IS a Disney-produced movie, but thinking of it as being on par with films like Pirates of the Caribbean or Jerry Bruckheimer’s other Disney Studios film this year Prince of Persia is a bit closer to how mentally engaging it is. It is almost a mixture of equal parts clever storytelling and entertaining CGI graphics, mixing the intelligent parts with the effects-lead distractions pretty well.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice basically tells the story of Dave (Jay Baruchel), a young physics nerd who meets Master Sorcerer Balthazar Blake (Nicolas Cage) who tells him that he is the last in the bloodline descendants of Merlin, and must be trained in Sorcery in order to keep the world safe from Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina) who wishes to release Morgana le Fay from her prison and take over the world. Ok, so it doesn’t seem like the most original plot conflict in the world (and in fact, there are bits of it that are a bit predictable because of it) but its the way the story is told and what they do with it that set’s it apart.

There were probably an equal amount of things that I loved and thought less of in this film. Firstly, even though it could have been FAR too easy to do in a film such as this, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice managed not only to steer clear of but completely avoid something I call the “Harry Potter Excuse”. The “Harry Potter Excuse” acts as a plot device which can instantly explain any action taken by someone in a film by saying “It’s magic” and thusly needs no further explanation. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice managed to go the opposite route and ground all the mystical actions of the characters in the real world through saying that Sorcery is a mixture of both Magic AND Physics. The explanation is all there when you watch it, but trust me when I say that it definitely grounded the story a lot more than I thought possible.

There’s also the right mixture of humour and action in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Despite how much Nicolas Cage wears that particular look on his face (you know, the one he put on in Con Air and seems to have had ever since?), he does manage to introduce an element of cool humour to his character of Balthazar, and Jay Baruchel is gradually making his way to the big time with his geeky-but-lovable charm that we saw in How To Train Your Dragon and now in this film, where he brings his natural humour to his main character.

Essentially, there is a lot to be liked in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice as there is something for everyone to enjoy – there’s humour, high-budget effects, a storyline that can easily entertain both kids and adults alike and a concept that draws you in and keeps you from the start. There are effects-driven scenes that are pretty entertaining, such as the car chase scene where the cars change form, and there are parts of the storyline that are pretty grounded so you don’t feel like you’re watching something with too much suspended disbelief. However, as with many films, there was always going to be things that didn’t quite measure up…

Firstly, the biggest thing that The Sorcerer’s Apprentice lacked in was the emotional engagement with the characters. The death scene with Balthazar Blake was pretty obviously on its way, but the only thing that surpassed this obviousness was the fact that he get’s brought back to life again when it actually would have been a bit more emotionally compelling if he had died at the end instead. Perhaps we’re giving a Disney produced movie a bit too much credit as far as depth of character goes, but even so there could have been a bit more to that scene than there was. And on the subject of depth, Jay Baruchel’s Dave probably could have used a bit more of a struggle of character throughout the film, as there wasn’t really anything that created any kind of inner turmoil with him. That’s not to say anything about Jay’s performance, he’s actually very good, but there could have been more of a connection established with his character so that we feel a bit more when things happen to him. Perhaps if it had panned out that Horvath had killed off his love interest (who actually doesn’t serve much of a purpose other than being a love interest until the very end) at the point towards the end when he holds her hostage, that would have created a bit more of a double layering to his character with the consequences of doing the right thing? Maybe, but again perhaps we’re forgetting that this is a family movie and therefore doesn’t require too much depth of character in its make-up.

The only other thing I found annoying, but also satisfied that it didn’t last far beyond the opening credits, was all the obvious narrative pointing that goes on for all the set-up when it probably could have, with a little bit of clever writing, have been a script-lead set up of its own. And it probably was to begin with, but my guessing is that it ran a little to long and they couldn’t shorten it without losing storyline, so they had it narrated instead. At the end of the day, it serves a purpose and gets to the main storyline quicker, but it still seems like it could have been handled a bit differently and been better off because of it.

Apart from these, and the occasional obvious plot-hole and loose end, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is basically a fun, enjoyable film for people who like action, fantasy and comedy all together in a neatly tied together package. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice gets an 8 out of 10 for enjoyability, but the lack of depth from the same people who made National Treasure (which was cleverer in its make-up and set the bar for this) let it down a little bit.

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2 Comments

  1. It was enjoyable, but also forgettable.

    • I thought it was pretty good, not exactly forgettable because there were some good performances all round and some cool effects and an interesting plot. I think its main problem, as some films suffer from nowadays, is that it fell a little short of the hype it got. Perhaps avioding adverts for a film before you see it is a good thing!


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