This year has seen its share of kid-oriented films lacking both brains and heart. 'Percy Jackson,' and 'The Last Airbender' spring to mind. When I saw that Disney was in the process of creating a new franchise based loosely on Mickey Mouse's character in 'Fantasia,' starring Nicolas Cage, needless to say I wasn't very excited. Especially after seeing what Disney did with 'Prince of Persia .'
The film's advertisements didn't help much either. It seemed we were in for yet another one of those CG-laden kid-tastic action flicks that rely far too heavily on special effects and not nearly enough on interesting characters. Plus, didn't Macaulay Culkin make this movie in 1994? Imagine my surprise when 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice' was much more than a CGI love-fest. Instead 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice' was a pitch-perfect blend of mindless magic fun and an interesting plot to boot.
Dave (Jay Baruchel) is freakishly smart when it comes to physics. He plays with tesla coils in his spare time. When he was young he had a run in with a wizard named Balthazar (Nicolas Cage). Balthazar was one of the three apprentices of Merlin. Yes, that Merlin. One of the other apprentices was Horvath (Alfred Molina) who betrayed Merlin by backing the most evil wizard to ever live, Morgana.
It's true that there's loads of exposition to be dispelled with at the beginning so we know what's going on and who is who, but 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice' doesn't have a running commentary track/character to explain every bit of information like 'Prince of Persia' did, which was a very nice change. Dave is apparently the "chosen one" and when Balthazar fits a magical ring on his finger, we're assured that Dave is the one that will finally kill Morgana.
Like always, Cage dives head first into his role. He's crazy, he's over-the-top, and he's perfect. Cage catches a lot of flack for some of the roles he's picked, but the guy knows how to carry a movie. He's got a fine blend of charisma and insanity and it works. Baruchel is his stammering nerd-self. His shtick is starting to wear a bit thin, particularly as his five o'clock shadow grows thicker with each film, but he's still tolerable in his role. Molina, as always, steals most of the scenes he's in. He did it in 'Prince of Persia' and he does it here as the arrogant Horvath.
'The Sorcerer's Apprentice' doesn't just use its large special effects scenes to coast by. Maybe that's what sets this movie apart from much of the other mindless CG action adventures. There's some clever writing here. Even a throw-back joke for fans of 'Star Wars' that had me rolling with laughter. The world of magic, as it's explained here, is actually a higher form of science. This gives the movie some credibility. All of a sudden we can picture this type of magic taking place in our world.
In the end, 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice' is a lot of fun. Cage is excellent, and the plot, while predictable, is still enjoyable to follow because the characters are actually interesting. This is one of those exciting summer films that both parents and kids can enjoy together. Those don't come around too often.
You've got to credit Disney for this demo-worthy 1080p presentation.
The entire image is just stunning to look at. This is one of those video presentations you'll want to play over and over for friends in order to show off you home theater. Take for example the scene where Bathlazar and Dave battle an evil wizard in the middle of Chinatown. Tiny squares of confetti fall from the sky, each with a distinct shape and bright color. As the thousands of colored squares flutter to the ground you'd expect that some of them would disappear into a large mass of color and become indistinguishable. In a lesser detailed transfer they would have. Here each square is resolutely defined as it falls end over end to the ground. It's one of the many visually wonderful scenes contained on this Blu-ray.
Fine detail is at its best even with the most intricate of patterns and textures. From Balthazar's ancient raw-hide coat to the fur that lines the collar of Horvath's garb, texture detail is in full force. Blacks are deep and inky. Shadow delineation works wonders during darker scenes offering the image depth and intrigue. Colors are bright and bold. Primary colors shine magnificently on screen. Even the special effects look polished and real. Nothing gives off that dreaded green screen effect. From Dave's puny plasma bolts to the cockroaches that come together to form Horvath, each special effect seems to be done with care and looks great in HD. Artifacting is nowhere to be found. I didn't notice any banding, aliasing, or blocking. There's no source noise to speak of.
This presentation is as perfect as they come. Use it proudly for demo material.
Just as the video presentation wowed me, so too did the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio experience offered up by Disney.
This is an engaging, enthralling audio presentation that keeps you engrossed in the happenings of the movie. One of the most amazing aspects of this audio presentation is the encircling feel it gives you. As wizards blast each other with pillars of fire or balls of plasma the sound smoothly pans from one side of the soundstage to the other without missing a single beat. Directionality works perfectly as dialogue from characters off screen is perfectly placed without exception. Big explosions are helped along with an enormous amount of healthy LFE that gives the entire listening experience an almost visceral feel. Not only can you hear what is happening, but you can literally feel the rumbling on your couch as Horvath and Balthazar battle each other. Dialogue is nicely prioritized so no lines are lost in the heavy mix of sound effects. Rear channels are always alive with action. The scene in Chinatown is not only a reference moment for the film's visuals, but it also contains some of the best surround sound the movie has to offer as the crowds of people scream hysterically as a parade dragon morphs into a real one.
This audio presentation completes the demo-worth experience of this disc.
I was pleasantly surprised by Jon Turteltaub's 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice.' My expectations were extremely low after so many movies that have gorged themselves on CGI effects and left little else to create a dramatic, engaging story with loveable characters. 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice' is a fine balance of both. It's fun, energetic, and smart. The video and audio are both demo-worthy. The special features are extensive, but lack the personal touch of an audio commentary or an in-depth PiP track. Still, this one comes highly recommended.