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Sorcerer's Apprentice, The (2010) Print E-mail
Wednesday, 01 December 2010
ImageBrace yourselves for another family Disney drama that wants to be a classic but falls miserably short.  Yes, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” could have been oh so much more.  But, instead the film lacks a cohesive plot and mood and great storytelling.  Instead it focuses on visual battle sequences that in my opinion are nothing that special.

If you are a kid, defined as a pre-teen, then this is probably going to be a great movie for you.  However, anyone past middle school is going to see this film as a bust.  It longs to be magical, but it doesn’t live up to the definition.  The film is loosely, and I use that term strongly, based on the short film “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” contained in “Fantasia,” review forthcoming.

The classic animated short turned into a feature length film presents all sorts of problems. It really should never have been done.  At the very least it should try to be based on the short film. It should stand on its own two legs.  I think the filmmakers realized that as the film quickly turns more into an homage than an elongated short film.

The film opens with a look at the past when Merlin and his three apprentices battle arch-nemesis, Morgana.  So here it is.  Merlin is killed by Morgana, one apprentice goes bad, another apprentice sacrifices herself to trap Morgana and the third sets out for centuries searching for the Prime Merlinian, the one with the power to vanquish Morgana forever.  In the interim, Balthazar (Nicholas Cage), captures Morganians along his journey to find the Prime Merlinian.  Each time he traps them in a layer of the Grimhold, the Russian stacking doll that imprisons the sweet and innocent Veronica as well as Morgana.

In the present day, well 10 years before the present day, a boy named Dave (Jay Baruchel) stumbles into an antique shop where a grungy and tired looking Nicholas Cage discovers he has found the Prime Merlinian.  Unfortunately, the mischievous boy accidentally sets free Horvath, the apprentice turned evil.  Dave escapes but Horvath and Balthazar become trapped.
Fast forward 10 years.  Horvath and Balthazar return and seek to find Dave.  Balthazar wants to train Dave to become the Prime Merlinian.  Horvath wants Dave to find the Russian stacking doll so he can free his fellow Morganians and Morgana herself.  The rest of the story is up and down all leading to the inevitable and utterly predictable conclusion.  After all this is a Disney film so it can only end one way.  Oh, and did I mention there is a love story her as well.  Dave has a chance meeting with his grade school crush and they ignite, well crackle anyway, a flame of romance.

“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” lacks that magical quality that keeps us enthralled in Disney classics.  Even the homage to “Fantasia” with the broom/mop sequence and flooded dungeon doesn’t really evoke much magic.  The story is full of plot holes and character development holes.  The film is filled with those cringing questions, “well, why didn’t they just do this…?”  Oh yeah, because then the movie would be over.  As I said before, children will love it, elders will not despise it but surely see it for all its flaws.

So, the film itself is the bad.  The good is the outstanding video and audio qualities.  The video comes in the norm for ever studio but Warner Bros., AVC encode.  It is without a doubt that Bruckheimer and the other filmmakers wanted this film to be a visual masterpiece.  While I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a masterpiece it sure doesn’t have any technical flaws.  Ever aspect is perfectly rendered.  Film grain is intact and consistent, never drawing attention to itself.  The color palette is extraordinary.  As is to be expected, the colors are exceedingly warm and for many probably too saturated.  I found them to be eye-popping and engaging, since the film wasn’t.  Details and textures perfectly convey every nook and cranny of the subway-dungeon, ever nook and cranny of Balthazar’s ancient clothes, and every magical CG visual effect.  Though it seems to be a cross between “The Prestige” and “Street Fighter: Legend of Chun-Li,” in terms of the ball of lightning.  Black levels never waver, nor do the contrast and brightness levels.  Shadows remain fully detailed when called upon.  This is a terrific visual that deserves respect.

Likewise, the audio quality is quite stunning.  The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 affords the listener a chest-pounding, head swirling experience.  Sure this only applies to the climatic battle sequences, but what do you expect.  The LFE channel gets some nice use throughout the film.  It spread evenly throughout the room with no phase cancellation when using bass management.  The dynamics and frequency response are as close to perfection as I have heard in a long while.  Dialogue is clean and intelligible.  The music and effects are well prioritized throughout.  The surround channels are enveloping for the entirety of the film and immersive in the battle sequences.  This audio track will take you on quite a journey.

The Blu-ray disc contains some pretty standard special features, nothing that will jump out and scream, “this is a Disney Blu-ray disc” at you.  “Magic In The City” examines the car chase sequence in the film.  “The Science Of Sorcery” is an attempt to look at the physics of the film’s sorcerers.  “Making Magic Real” looks at the visual effects of the film.  “’Fantasia:’ Reinventing A Classic” is an adaptation segment.  “The World’s Coolest Car” is self-explanatory.  “The Flamboyant Drake Stone” takes a look at the most underappreciated character in the film next to Monica Bellucci’s one minute of screen time.  “The Grimhold: An Evil Work Of Art” looks at the doll housing the evil Morganians.  “The Encantus” examines the book of spells.  “Wolves And Puppies” features the animals in the film.  Finally there are some deleted scenes and outtakes.  The Blu-ray package also comes with a DVD Copy of the film.  A separate release of the film comes with the Blu-ray, DVD and a Digital Copy.

“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” is not going to be remembered as one of the great Disney films.  However, kids will like the visual aspect of the film. Junior high students may find the romance between the main characters interesting.  But adults will want to do something else while this is playing.  Still, the visual and aural aspects of this Blu-ray disc make it a tempting addition to one’s collection.

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