Monday, December 20, 2010

The Sorcerer's Apprentice - Blu-ray / DVD Combo Review

Science and magic combined packs a powerful punch. The Sorcerer's Apprentice contains plenty of wizardry, but, to my surprise, it also centers on science, namely the Tesla coil. The family-friendly film, released to Disney Blu-ray/DVD on November 30, 2010, merges the magic of Merlin's time with modern day technology. Adventure, intrigue, suspense and even a little romance - this action packed film is driven with plenty of eye-popping special effects, amazing sets, over-the-top props and an exciting car chase scene.

The beginning of the film is crucial in understanding the basis of the story. A short and complicated opening scene shows a war of the sorcerers set in 740 AD. Merlin fights for his life while trying to prevent the evil Morgana le Fay from obtaining a most dangerous spell, one that allows her to raise an army of the dead. Merlin's three apprentices, Balthazar, Veronica and Horvath, emerge in the fight, but Horvath betrays Merlin. Both Morgana and Veronica end up trapped inside a nesting doll called a grimhold. Before Merlin dies, he gives Balthazar (Nicholas Cage) a dragon ring and tells him that he must find the "Prime Merlinean," the only Merlin successor who will have the power to kill Morgana.

Balthazar's centuries long search ends in modern day New York, when a geeky, fourth-grade kid named Dave Stutler stumbles into an antiquities shop. Unfortunately, Horvath reemerges and Balthazar must wait another ten years until he is able to reunite with Dave and teach him the art of wizardry. By that time, Dave (Jay Baruchel) is an awkward, yet brilliant NYU physics student with an interest in Tesla coils. This interest in science ultimately comes in handy in the mission to defeat Morgana as Dave reluctantly realizes his destiny as the Prime Merlinean.

One of the film's strengths is the creative use of science together with magic. In his time, the famous scientist Tesla was often referred to as the "electric magician," a scientific sorcerer. The musical Tesla coil scene fascinates and makes science romantic and exciting (although it would have been nice if Dave could have been a tad less geeky). This scene is one of my favorite parts of the film and you can see part of it, along with a general synopsis, in the following YouTube video.

The movie is partly inspired by the classic Disney animated short, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, starring Mickey Mouse. The live-action film retains some of the charm of the classic by incorporating out-of-control cleaning supplies into one fun and crazy water-logged scene. There are marching mops and a large-scale indoor flood that rivals the original. In another impressive scene, the massive eagle on the Chrysler building springs to life and flies away. New York’s Chinatown is featured in one part of the movie involving an incredible dragon and a street filled with people. Thankfully, since this is a Disney film, there's not a ton of violence, although the film does contain some scenes that might not be suitable for children younger than eight. The wizards fight using all sorts of weapons and kill with electrifying plasma bolts that shoot right out of their hands.

My automobile-loving husband immediately became interested in the car driven by Balthazar. The 1935 Rolls Royce Phantom is a one-of-a-kind model, owned by, you'll never guess...Nicolas Cage. Apparently they created an exact replica for the stunt sequences during the car chase scene. I'll admit, it's a pretty nifty car.

Viewers can learn more about the car and other fascinating facts about the movie in the Blu-ray bonus features:

"Magic in the City" - Discusses the use of NY as a backdrop for the movie
"The Science of Sorcery" - Describes plasma bolts and illustrates how the sorcerer's ring is a transducer used to focus energy
"Making Magic Real" - Covers the special effects in the film including the mirror world in the car chase plus the bull and dragon that come magically to life
"Fantasia: Reinventing a Classic" - Shows how the mops and brooms come to life on screen
"The Fashionable Drake Stone" - This showcases the character of Drake Stone (Toby Kebbell, quite possibly one of the most ridiculously over-the-top characters ever.
"The Grimhold: An Evil Work of Art" - Description of the nesting doll prop used in the movie
"The Encantus" - An enormous amount of time and skill went into producing the Encantus, the book of spells used in the movie
"Wolves & Puppies" - The film features a scene with wolves that turn into puppies. They are a lot less ferocious than they look in the film.
"The World's Coolest Car" - A short piece about Nicolas Cage's 1935 Rolls Royce Phantom
Deleted scenes and outtakes

Truly electrifying, this film is flashy and fast-paced, rather like a magical version of the National Treasure movies. The impressive sets, special effects created with computer-generated imagery (CGI) and strange but charming characters make this fantasy an enjoyable film to watch.

(DVD Source: 2-Disc Combo Pack provided for review purposes by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. All opinions expressed are my own. I am an Amazon affiliate and may receive a very small commission for products purchased through my Amazon links. View my full disclosure statement for more information about my reviews.)


Anonymous said...

I haven't had a chance to see this movie yet, but I enjoyed seeing the commercials about it. Thanks for sharing your review of the movie.