The Sorcerer’s Apprentice didn’t shock the box office, even though it was probably one of the better summer films this year, thanks to a bushel of action and special effects, along with Alfred Molina’s well-acted and witty villain, Maxim Horvath. In fact, there’s so many FX shots packed into the 109 minute fantasy almost-epic, that they completely saturate a reasonable script. However the fully capable, by the numbers film does much more than just make it through, taking viewers on a non-stop action tour of New York City, by way of ancient Britain.
The film reunites producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Jon Turteltaub, the duo behind the National Treasure films, which also starred Cage. However, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice isn’t nearly as inventive as those movies, but more fun than the second.
The movie begins with a forced prologue set in eighth century Great Britain, surrounding Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina), a disciple of Merlin, who joins to the wicked Morgana le Fay (Alice Krige) in betraying his master. However, other two disciples of Merlin – Balthazar Blake (Nicolas Cage) and Veronica (Monica Bellucci) – defeat the evil pair, trapping Horvath in a magic vessel. However, Veronica melds with Morgana, locking herself in a doll that holds her and the many followers throughout history that would attempt to free her imprisoned. Over centuries, Balthazar unsuccessfully seeks out the Prime Merlinian, the only sorcerer capable of destroying Morgana, using a dragon ring.
Flash forward to modern-day Manhattan, and a 10-year old New Yorker named Dave (Jake Cherry) encounters the two warring magicians (Molina and Cage). Ten more years on, and Dave (now played by Jay Baruchel) is a physics student at New York University, and he meets up again with the wizards and they help and hinder him in his quest to date the prettiest girl at NYU (Teresa Palmer).
Dave predictably becomes the good sorcerer’s apprentice, and there’s a brief clean-up scene that echoes the famous Mickey Mouse episode in the 1940 cartoon Fantasia.
But the story is just an excuse for a series of wildly entertaining special effects set pieces, including an eagle statue atop the Chrysler building coming to life, along with a dragon in a Chinatown procession. Director Jon Turteltaub’s use of dynamic camera angles assists the effort, along with Molina as an evil sorcerer. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice lacks charm, as Turteltaub and Bruckheimer go for extreme glitz, and almost succeed at it.
It’s worth noting that The Sorcerer’s Apprentice Blu-ray showcases one of the best image and audio transfers that I’ve seen on the format. So much so that it more than makes up for a supplemental package that lacks the whiz-bang one would expect from such a special effects-laden release.
The 13 minute Magic in the City looks at the making-of the action fantasy in the heart of New York; Making Magic Real is certainly one of the best features on the disc, revealing which the special effects sequences were composed primarily of practical effects; The Grimhold: An Evil Work of Art tracks development of the Russian Doll prisons that play an important role in the film; Fantasia: Reinventing a Classic is a 10 minute look at the development of a live-action scene inspired by the classic Fantasia short film; The Science of Sorcery is an 11 minute look at the science behind the film’s sorcery; The Fashionable Drake Stone centers on Maxim Horvath’s (Alfred Molina) sick-kick Drake Stone (played by Toby Kebbell); The Encantus takes a peek at Balthazar Blake’s (Nicolas Cage) book of spells, revealing their power and potential uses; Wolves and Puppies centers on Maxim Horvath’s evil animals; and The World’s Coolest Car takes viewers behind the wheel of Balthazar Blake’s (Nicholas Cage) custom Rolls Royce Phantom. There’s also a selection of Deleted Scenes and Outtakes to complete the bonus package.
Director: Jon Turteltaub
Writers: Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal, Matt Lopez, Doug Miro, Carlo Bernard
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Jay Baruchel, Alfred Molina, Teresa Palmer, Toby Kebbell, Omar Benson Miller, Monica Bellucci, Alice Krige, Jake Cherry, James A. Stephens, Gregory Woo, Wai Ching Ho, Jason R. Moore, Robert Capron, Peyton List, Sándor Técsy, Marika Daciuk, Nicole Ehinger, Adriane Lenox, Ethan Peck, Manish Dayal