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It can be argued that the “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” segment of Disney’s “Fantasia” is the most famous segment of the film. Everyone just enjoys seeing Mickey in his wizard’s hat trying to find the easy way out of doing work by creating chaos of epic proportions!
Hence, it wasn’t long before someone decided to make a full-length feature film based on that segment. And as you can imagine, the resulting film had nigh NOTHING whatsoever to do with the original segment. But is the film worth ignoring totally? Or can we still find some enjoyment from this wizard’s tale featuring Nicolas Cage? Well, let’s find out!
And remember, SPOILERS AHEAD!
The movie begins in Britain 740 AD where we see the wizard Merlin along with his three sorcerer apprentices, Balthazar Blake, played by Nicolas Cage,
Maxim Horvath, played by Alfred Molina,
and Veronica Last-Name-Not-Important played by Monica Bellucci.
The three have been loyal apprentices to Merlin for a long time learning all about sorcery and…doing whatever else sorcerer apprentices do.
All this changes when Horvath takes a turn to the dark side, betrays Merlin, and joins forces with the evil sorceress, Morgana Le Fay, played by Alice Krige. She apparently wants some important spell from Merlin’s “book of spells” and Horvath helps her try to get it.
But of course, they can’t get it without a fight. Balthazar and Veronica do their best to protect Merlin and the spell from Morgana and Horvath’s attack. In the aftermath of the battle, Merlin dies, and Veronica manages to trap Morgana’s soul into her body.
The problem with this is that Morgana’s soul is now literally killing Veronica from the inside. To prevent any further pain, Balthazar traps Veronica (via a magical spell) in a nesting doll called the Grimhold.
He keeps her in there until he can find a way to rid Veronica of this problem and destroy Morgana for good. Well actually, he already knows a way to destroy Morgana. Before he died, Merlin mentioned that a particular person known as the Prime Merlinean would be born and would be the only person who can defeat Morgana.
The trouble for Balthazar now is to try to find this person. How will he know this person? Well, there’s a particular dragon ring that will cling itself to the finger of the real Prime Merlinean.
He travels far and wide searching for this “chosen one”, and spends hundreds of years doing so (apparently, Merlin gave him an anti-aging spell) all while defeating other Morganians (followers of Morgana) along the way who want to stop him from his quest. He traps each Morganian in his/her own layer of the Grimhold and even manages to capture Horvath as well.
We then cut to 2000, where we see a young boy named Dave Stutler who’s attending a field trip with his 4th-grade class. They’re in NYC visiting random places and learning about the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and anything else on a basic NYC Geography Quiz.
While on the field trip, Dave manages to stray from his group and comes across an old antique shop. And who do you think owns this shop?
No, it’s actually owned by Balthazar. Balthazar has a strange feeling about Dave when he sees him enter the shop and wonders if this 10 year-old boy might be the Prime Merlinean. To prove it, he gets the dragon ring and gives it to Dave. Immediately after, the ring comes alive and clings itself to Dave’s finger.
Relieved, Balthazar tells Dave all about who he is, what he’s been doing for hundreds of year, the fact that Dave is the one who’s destined to be the Prime Merlinean, and that Balthazar is willing to train him. And Dave surprisingly takes this all very well!
But trouble occurs as Dave accidentally knocks over the Grimhold (which is just hanging around the antique shop for some reason) and accidentally opens the first layer thereby releasing Horvath. And once again, Dave takes this surprisingly well.
Luckily, Balthazar is there to protect Dave from Horvath and the two have an awesome fight resulting in both Balthazar and Horvath being locked in a magical urn that can only be opened every 10 years….o…k….
Dave afraid for his life (FINALLY) runs out of the antique shop where his teacher and class find him. He then tell them while sobbing, all about the creepy wizards in there, the big fight, the destruction that happened, and the fireballs they threw. But when the teacher checks inside the shop, she sees nobody nor any sign of damage. You can just imagine how much of a laughingstock Dave became.
Cut to 2010! We seem to travel through time more often than Doc Brown.
Dave is now 20 years old and played by Jay Baruchel. He’s quite a physics nerd, not really a ladies’ man, and has taken years of therapy to get over his “traumatic antique shop hallucinations”.
While setting up a demonstration for a physics class, he notices one of the students is Becky Barnes, a girl he’s had a crush on since 4th grade. Becky, played by Teresa Palmer, remembers Dave as well as the antique shop incident that occurred. Nevertheless, she spends time with him despite his geekiness and starts to develop a liking towards him as well.
Meanwhile, the urn that Balthazar and Hovarth have been trapped in, has been bought by a couple (and by bought, I’m guessing it means “stolen” since the proprietor was stuck in the bloody urn for 10 years). And since the 10 years are up, the two are able to leave it…but of course only after freaking out the owners of the urn.
Now free, Hovarth, goes on a search for the Grimhold (which has gotten lost over time) so that he can free Morgana. Balthazar, on the other hand, hurries to find Dave so that he can help him find the Grimhold as well as so that he can train him to be the Prime Merlinean. And like he was when he was younger, Dave surprisingly takes the fact well that these two figures he thought were hallucinations are actually real and back in his life.
After some persuasion, Balthazar convinces Dave to help him find the Grimhold and much of the movie deals with the search for the Grimhold, all while dodging Horvath and his evil recruits. Some of their confrontation scenes include fighting during a Chinese festival
and having a car chase through the city.
(Oh, you might be asking yourself how and why did Horvath become evil in the first place. Well apparently, he and Balthazar were best friends at one time, until they both fell in love with Veronica. Sadly, she chose Balthazar instead of Horvath, causing the latter to hate Balthazar and become evil. Ah, don’t you just love love?)
While all this is going on, Balthazar manages to find time to train Dave. At first, Dave does poorly as a wizard, but slowly becomes more and more adept at it. He even uses his powers one time to make all the brooms and mops come alive and start cleaning the floor of his laboratory.
He eventually becomes close with Balthazar and looks to him as a mentor. He also becomes close with Becky and even musters up the courage to go on a date with her.
In the climax of the film, Horvath manages to locate the Grimhold and free all the Morganians from it including Morgana Le Fay herself (who’s still inside Veronica’s body). Now that she’s out, she can finally bring her evil plan to fruition. What is her evil plan, you ask? Well, it’s to bring all the dead people back to life and use them to enslave mankind (which makes me wonder exactly how strong her magic is that she has to depend on an army of dead people to take over the world).
Thankfully, Becky (who’s eventually discovered the truth about everything), Balthazar, and Dave are there to thwart Morgana’s plan. Dave, with his new Prime Merlinean powers, manages to defeat Morgana and she’s freed from Veronica’s body.
Veronica and Balthazar get together, Dave and Becky get together, and the ending scene hints that Hovarth managed to escape from being defeated and may still be alive for a sequel.
I like to classify this film, “John Carter”, and “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” together as the same type of film. They’re all live-action Disney films from the 2010’s that attempted to make a great, enjoyable action film that would hopefully spark a franchise. And this film, in my opinion, is the best of the three.
Does it have problems? Oh, big time! There are many plot points that aren’t explained, but the movie makes up for it by being very enjoyable. You enjoy seeing Nicolas Cage and Alfred Molina on the screen and feuding. You enjoy seeing the special effects that aren’t perfect, but pretty darn impressive. You enjoy the many fight sequences and action scenes.
If you’re looking for a film that’ll remind you of “Fantasia”, umm…this isn’t it. But if you’re looking for a film that’s enjoyable, but not great, this is the one for you!
(You can click on the image below for an enlarged version of my rating sheet.)
So, the final score for this film is 25/35 = 71.43% (C-) !
The next review will be posted on March 3rd.