Jay Baruchel plays the “Apprentice” of the title, who is, in one of the film’s more clichéd bits, the descendant of Merlin who is destined to destroy the evil Morgana le Fey (Alice Krige). The title given this legacy is the clunky “Prime Merlinian,” which I persisted in wanting to hear as “Prime Meridian.” Once you get over that, it’s a fairly decent bit of story telling. It was nice to see that, even after “Harry Potter,” something relatively fresh can still be said about teaching magic, and the distinctly “Dungeons and Dragons” flavored magic being thrown around is flashy and effective.
Kudos for Baruchel, who plays the role of the young man driven into geekdom by his earlier, traumatic exposure to magic and the warring sorcerers Balthazar (Nicholas Cage) and Horvath (Alfred Molina). Despite learning real magic, and that he is the heir of Merlin, Dave (Baruchel) never looses his geekiness or his adenoidal accent.
Cage as Balthazar is a wild-haired, glaring eyed questor, who plays his role as it should be—dead serious, with only the rare bit of mordant wit as called for by the situations. Molina as Horvath joins the line of sneering, well-dressed and accoutered evil wizards (I want his walking stick--) very creditably.
Of course there has to be a reference to the mops-and-buckets incident, and the updated sequence works nicely. I liked the fact that the initial invoking gesture Dave uses is the same one given Mickey in “Fantasia,” one of a nice little number of references, including one in the ‘sequel hook’ that is, yes, at the very end of the credits.
One criticism I haven’t seen elsewhere is the extent to which sorcery is a “boy’s club”. Veronica (Monica Bellucci), Merlin’s female apprentice is the cause of dissention between Balthazar and Horvath, and allegedly Horvath’s turn to the dark side, and regrets having become a sorcerer. Besides the opening sequence, neither she nor Morgana have any action until the final battle, and her part in that is minimal. Morgana shows up only to be an opponent. The only other female sorcerer we see, “Abigail Williams” (Nicole Ehinger) is sacrificed by Horvath almost as soon as she shows up.
This is somewhat softened by the presence of Teresa Palmer as “Becky”, Dave’s muggle—er, non-magical love interest, who is a reasonably strong character, forgiving of Dave’s foibles, and who survives getting dragged into the wizard war without a screaming freak-out.
Special effects and production values are up to modern standards and overall nicely done. Fun, and good for the whole family who can handle fairly intense wizard duels and car crashes. No sex or bad language, and it’s actually less scary than “Pirates of the Caribbean”.
This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/169842.html. Please comment there using OpenID.