My three daughters and I loved “Epic.” The central heroine, M.K. is smart, brave, funny, compassionate, and independent. I loved her look, too. She’s dressed in a hoodie with a messy ponytail. She doesn’t have a Barbie face, I’d recognize this girl in a crowd.
M.K. narrates the movie. YAY. Do you know how rare it is to get a female narrator in an animated movie for children?
There’s more good news. Queen Tara is another brave, powerful female in this movie who is central to the narrative. Please note QUEEN, not princess. Not only that, GOOD queen, not evil. And…she’s not white. This may be a first, but let me know if there is another animated film with a good queen of color.
Queen Tara is played by Beyonce, and the movie concludes with an awesome song about the matriarchy. The matriarchy, people! It’s so fitting and perfect because the whole movie is about protecting the heir. I was super worried that the next ruler would be male, especially because the evil character, Mandrake, keeps referring to said heir as his “dark prince.” Luckily, the evil dude is wrong, and just after you find that out, the matriarchy song comes on. I laughed when I heard it because I felt like Beyonce was saying to me, “Don’t worry, Margot, I got the girls covered.”
I do have some complaints. I wish M.K. was in the movie more. Much more. You cannot deny she is the protagonist– she is the narrator, she has the quest, and she goes through the transition. M.K. acts, takes risks, and makes choices. She is such a great character, but based on lines and screen time, “Epic” is pretty much an ensemble movie. Most of the other characters are male. The Queen dies early. M.K.’s mother is also dead. The central relationship in the movie is with M.K. and her father.
The evil character is male and he has an evil son. M.K. pals around with two male heroes, so in most of the action scenes, the same old Minority Feisty gender ratio is in your face. Speaking of, M.K. is riding bitch most of the time. Her position “makes sense” in the story because she’s the visitor to the tiny world, but still, writers can make anything happen. I am sick of sexism making sense in plots, and I had hope for M.K. taking the lead here. At one point, she gamely hops on a bird and says, “Come on, let’s go!” Nod, the young male hero, hops on behind her, but in the following scenes, Nod is the one in the driver’s seat again. Argh.
There’s an army of Leafmen, and from what I could tell, they are, in fact, men: 100% male. Comic relief is a male slug and his BFF, a male snail. That pair kind of reminded me of the male krills who steal the show in “Happy Feet 2” or the meerkat/ warthog duo in “Lion King” and countless other cartoon buddy boys. It would be so nice to see a couple of females being friends and being funny in an animated movie.
Finally, I wrote I love M.K.’s look and I do, but both she and Queen Tara are super skinny, and why not give her a blue hoodie, or brown, or red, or any goddam color in the entire universe but pinkpurple?
M.K. is prominently featured on many of the posters seen around San Francisco, another total rarity for children’s movies. Though I didn’t see this one, I want to order it for my kids.
Reel Girl rates “Epic” ***HH***