Today: April 19, 2024

Sorcerer's Apprentice, The

From the man who brought us the massive movie franchise based on a
Disney theme park ride comes a movie based on a scene from a Disney
animation. OK, that movie happens to be the classic masterpiece
Fantasia, and the scene is one of its most iconic, featuring the
studio’s biggest star, with the image of Mickey in wizard’s garb still
very much part of Disney’s branding to this day. So how do you turn a
sequence about enchanted, out-of-control housekeeping into a live action
movie that will appeal to today’s sophisticated (in its archaic
meaning) audiences?

Obviously, you plunder the Disney
archives for a popular wizard (Merlin) to set up a back story about
curses and apprentices, then set in modern New York with a geeky kid
(preferably Jewish, for a bit of additional neurosis), add some romantic
interest for the female audience and then, being a Bruckheimer movie, get Nicolas Cage
to star in it. If this makes it sound contrived and formulaic, you
wouldn’t be far wrong. However, this is the movie business and not
arthouse cinema. The Disney/Bruckheimer partnership has produced some of
the biggest box-office hits in movie history by making mass-market
entertainment, and while it may not appeal to the cineaste purists,
they are good at what they do, which is to entertain, and on that score
this film is a success.

In 8th century Britain, Balthazar Blake (Nicolas Cage) is one of Merlin’s apprentices, along with Balthazar’s lover Veronica (Bellucci) and fellow wizard Maxim Horvath (Molina). In a battle with the evil Morgana le Fay (Krige)
Veronica, who has captured Morgana inside her body, and Maxim become
entrapped within a Grimhold where they must stay until Balthazar can
find the Prime Merlinian, who will be capable of finally destroying
Morgana forever.

Fast forward to Manhattan in 2000 and young Dave Stutler stumbles
upon a magic shop run my Balthazar and is identified as the Merlinian
but ends up awakening Horvath who does battle with Balthazar, before the
two old adversaries are trapped in a magical urn for ten years. Jump
forward to today; Dave is a physics genius studying at university and
the two rival wizards have escaped the urn. So ensues a battle for the
Grimhold to either release Morgana so she can complete her plan to
release evil into the world, or for Dave to finally destroy her by
realising his potential.

It’s your basic good versus evil story, which allows for plenty of stunning special effects set pieces (including
an updated version of the domestic chaos scene that inspired the
movie). The characters do tend towards stereotypes rather than
archetypes, but they are saved by a knowing script (not to be confused
with another Cage starrer) and some enthusiastic, over-the-top
performances from Molina and Toby Kebbell (Control) as a young rock-star illusionist Drake Stone, both of whom are clearly having fun.

Cage makes a fair fist of his part as the longhaired Balthazar,
utilising his familiar mixture of angst and action, although this is not
on a par with his other recent outings as the drug-addled cop in Herzog’s Bad Lieutenant, or as Big Daddy in Kick-Ass. Jay Baruchel is
fine as the geeky hero, although he is better at the geeky, and less
convincing as the hero. From a geek/nerd perspective, the most exciting
thing about the movie is the use of a Tesla coil as Dave’s weapon of
choice against the forces of evil, especially as Nikola Tesla is often
referred to as the Wizard, even during his lifetime. If Tesla’s
inventions had been used as he intended, the world would be a much
better place (free electricity, universal wireless internet, electric
cars that didn’t need batteries, the list goes on). Unfortunately, Tesla
was unable to defeat the greatest evil facing the world – corporate
greed.

The film is a lot of fun with plenty of eye candy and
action to keep it entertaining for its entire running time. A sequel
seems inevitable.

Marcia Degia - Publisher

Marcia Degia, who has worked in the media industry for more than 20 years, is the Publishing Editor of KOL Social Magazine. See website: thekolsocial.com

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