Science fiction and fantasy                                            

The Sorcerer's Apprentice

directed by Jon Turtletaub

The Sorcerers Apprentice poster  
The legend of Merlin meets the modern world in this effects-heavy take on the ancient battle between good and evil magicians. To be more precise it's not Merlin, but a few of his very long-lived pupils, who feature. They're on the lookout for the Prime Merlinian, as especially talented child destined to be stronger in magic than anyone since Merlin's time, and mankind's last hope.

David (Jake Cherry plays the younger version) is a fairly normal kid with a crush on a girl in his class. But on a class outing he loses a bit of paper and ends up wandering into an antique store in search of it, where he comes across Balthazar Blake (Nicolas Cage). Balthazar immediately realises David is no ordinary child. But rival magician Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina) escapes his magical bonds and starts to play up. Soon a battle ensues between Balthazar and Maxim over an artefact that holds the trapped spirit of Morgana le Fay (Alice Krige).

Ten years later David (Jay Baruchel) is a physics student with a passion for the same pretty girl he liked when they were at school together. His original meeting with Balthazar has been explained away as some kind of hallucination, and David is all set to get on with his life. So he's not too happy to see Balthazar once again. But soon Balthazar and Maxim are at large again, and the whole epic struggle between them begins once more. Balthazar and David must track down the stolen artefact before Maxim releases Morgana. At the same time Balthazar is trying to tutor David in magic, although he's not the best of students. But David has to concentrate on his studies and master his powers so he can save the world from Morgana's evil schemes.

Once the scene is set the plot is extremely predictable. Alfred Molina plays a cartoon villain, the kind who can't help but double-cross all his allies and who tends to laugh manically at our heroes' misfortunes. Why exactly does he want to release Morgana, when he knows what she has in store for the world? He has his reasons, but they're not very good ones. And why exactly does Morgana want to raise an army of the dead and take over the world anyway? Because, fools, the army of reanimated cleaning tools has already been taken!

No, it doesn't make sense. The film is about as deep as a teaspoon, and typically Disney in its over-simplified, feelgood tone. However the relationship between Balthazar and David is lively, and their dialogue is fresh and interesting. Nicolas Cage is actually not spoon-your-eyes-out irritating as the quirky wizard Balthazar.

This movie is largely about the spectacle, and there are some very good effects. The giant Tesla coils are particularly effective. The film mixes magic and science in a way that reminds me of the Arthur C. Clarke quote, "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." The way Balthazar explains it to David also put me in mind of midi-chlorians, but perhaps that's just me.

It's the smart science lover who gets to be the cool wizard with special powers in The Sorcerer's Apprentice. Yet the movie itself is actually quite lowbrow. With unsubtle villains, hectic car chases and fancy magical lightshows, it all amounts to a bit of sparkly, undemanding fun.

20th December 2010

Film Details

Year: 2010

Categories: Films

  Kids     Fantasy

Classification: PG

If you like this, try:

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief cover    

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Chris Columbus
The Greek myths meet modern America in this adaptation of a novel by Rick Riordan.

3 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson