Wondercon: The Sorcerer's Apprentice

Disney brought panels for three upcoming movies to WonderCon this year, and Jerry Bruckheimer is attached to two of them. (Come to think of it, so is Alfred Molina… but only one of those men was here live onstage.) Two of the films are summer tent-pole hopefuls, and the third is already part of a very successful franchise. And all three feature massive amounts of CGI animation. Surprise!

I’d be lying if I said I had previously been looking forward to this summer’s Nicolas Cage flick, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Cage has a pretty spotty record when it comes to big action movies with his best work (The Rock, Face/Off) being over thirteen years old. Recent attempts like the National Treasure movies are perfect examples of safe, mediocre film-making. They were directed by Jon Turtletaub (whose best film remains 1995’s While You Were Sleeping)… who also helms The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. So you can see the problem. Early teasers haven’t done much to dampen my disinterest, but a couple of new scenes from the movie may have succeeded where those teasers failed.

The first scene screened for the crowd finds a young boy chasing a note down a windy street. The boy is a younger version of Jay Baruchel’s character Dave, and the note contains vital information written by the girl of his dreams. The paper slips inside a creepy-looking building and the boy follows only to find a dark antique shop filled with dusty odds and ends. He accidentally starts a chain reaction that breaks several pieces and sends a large urn heading for the floor before Balthazar Blake (Cage) catches it at the last moment. Blake refers to the boy by name, startling him, and when asked about it he snaps back with a very Cage-like “Because I read minds!” He skips a beat and then admits it’s written on the kid’s backpack. It’s funny and it’s entirely due to Cage’s delivery. Blake tells the boy not to touch anything and leaves the room temporarily… allowing just enough time for Dave to pick up an over-sized Russian nesting doll. He drops the doll which cracks open allowing bugs to crawl out and form the shape of a man. It’s Alfred Molina! Blake returns and Horvath (Molina) begin to battle with dragonballs, swords, and other CGI-enhanced weapons.

The second scene takes place ten years later where we find Dave shaking it at a urinal. A goth-looking guy (Toby Kebbell) walks in and tells Dave that he’s going to kill him, to which Dave replies as anyone would… by asking if he’s a member of Depeche Mode. The man is Horvath’s apprentice, Drake Stone, and soon the big man himself enters the rest-room as well.  Dave makes a valiant attempt at dispatching the men with magic, but his power blast becomes a weak CGI drip. Before Horvath can dispatch Dave though Blake appears and again enters into a flashy and violent battle. Like the first scene, this one finds a solid balance between the laughs, the action, and the CGI, and if the rest of the film plays out as strongly it may be a Disney ride worth taking.

Bruckheimer was joined onstage by Cage, Turtletaub, Baruchel as the apprentice, and Teresa Palmer as the requisite love interest. Cage apparently brought the project to Disney because of his well-known fascination with magic… apparently he’s wanted to play a magician for some time now. The director stated that the film features “well over 1000 effects shots to serve the notion that magic is alive and well in NYC.” Asked how much Disney’s original Fantasia factors into the film Turtletaub replied that “we’re not doing two hours of a mop.” But those looking for an homage will definitely find one as the trailer includes a brief look at a scene featuring Baruchel trying in vain to mop up a quickly flooding room. Someone asked about the relationship between Cage and Baruchel and the younger actor replied that they were very “Midnight Run-ish” while Cage suggested they were more “Hope and Crosby.” Is Baruchel pitching him and Cage for the Midnight Run remake? Probably not, but after seeing their interaction and dynamic here I’d say they may just be a pretty inspired choice.

The Sorcerers Apprentice hits theaters on July 16th.

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