Coalitions are rather in vogue at the moment, first from the government and now from the film studios. ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ is the second blockbuster out this year from the collaboration between Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer, the first being the Prince of Persia. The jury is still out on the success of the ‘Con-Dems’, but this reporter has truly made up his mind on the ‘Dis-Bruck’.
The story is very much on the basic side, with a plot that is by no means in the same league as ‘Inception’. In 740 AD, the sorcerer Balthazar (Nick Cage) is an apprentice of Merlin. He and two other apprentices help Merlin battle Morgana le Fay, but due to the betrayal of Horvath (Alfred Molina), one of his apprentices, Merlin is killed. Because of this, Morgana is only trapped, not defeated, and in doing so takes the body of the third apprentice with her. Balthazar then spends the next 1,000 or so years searching for Merlin’s heir who has the power to help him defeat Morgana. The heir turns out to be wet physics nerd Dave Stutler (Jay Baruchel) who has no choice but o be trained in order to defeat Morgana. The plot has little, if no, surprises, and readers of this brief synopsis can likely guess how the rest of the film pans out.
Unusually for Jerry Bruckheimer, who usually charges up his films with high calibre star power, there are only two big names in the cast: Nicholas Cage and Alfred Molina. The effect of these two stars could not have contrasted more. In the past decade, Nicholas Cage has increasingly failed to resurrect the acting talents that won him an Oscar for ‘Leaving Las Vegas’ in 1995, and this film hasn’t helped. His performance is wooden and lacks the depth and slightly oddball, troubled quality that the character desperately calls for. Alfred Molina, on the other hand, plays Horvath extremely well, making him both sinister and believable in a performance that effortlessly steals the light away from the other actors on screen. The other main cast members are new to important big screen roles, and such inexperience is painfully exposed in their performances. Baruchel’s portrayal of Dave as an ordinary boy in extraordinary circumstances comes across as merely wet, whiny and pathetic, while Teresa Palmer, who plays Becky (the love interest) is one of the most pointless heroines of recent times. Palmer’s character adds nothing to the plot and any acting ability she might have is lost in the dire script.
The strength of the film, however, lies in the magic, the effects of which beat those used in the’Harry Potter’ films. All of the spells and enchantments are creatively rendered, making the magical fight scenes a delight to watch. The movie also tries to add depth to the magic by fusing it with science, though this has limited success; it’s difficult to find a scientific explanation for turning a pack of wolves into puppies. However, the depth to the magic doesn’t extend very far and intricate details and histories that could have been added are simply skimmed over. Instead, these are replaced by the inevitable goofy scene of out of control brooms and water, a ‘crowd-pleasing’ moment that impresses none.
Although the magic and special effects are top notch, they can’t save this film from its tediously clunky dialogue and neglected script. The deficiencies in these areas mean the film lacks any shred of tension, clearly a major problem for a supposed action movie. The fights, the chase scenes and the near misses do nothing to thrill the audience or keep them on the edge of their seats because character development is neglected. This bland film utterly fails to live up to its potential, and no amount of CGI that the ‘Dis-Bruck’ coalition try to throw at it can save this mess.