Customarily science and magic are in direct opposition to each other. Science seeks logical answers to questions through proven experimentation, whereas magic relies on faith to turn impossible feats into possible ones.
What makes “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” fascinating is that it rejects convention, intertwining the concepts of science and magic. This film implies that great scientific knowledge leads to refined skills as a conjurer, which really makes you wonder, if Einstein was a sorcerer would his grasp of physics make him powerful?
As the lore states in “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” Merlin (of King Arthur fame) had three apprentices: Balthazar (Nicolas Cage), Veronica (Monica Bellucci), and Horvath (Alfred Molina). Horvath betrays his master and his fellow wizards to join forces with the evil enchantress Morgana.
With Horvath’s help Morgana is able to defeat Merlin, although Balthazar manages to trap her before she is able to take over the world. Merlin then charges Balthazar with his dying breaths to seek out the next heir to his position.
Balthazar travels the globe through the ages hoping to find Merlin’s replacement however he is unable to locate the young prodigy. After centuries of searching in vain, he gives up on the quest. That’s when the child Balthazar is searching for stumbles into his New York City antique shop.
Dave is just a fourth grader, but he passes Balthazar’s test, proving that he is Merlin’s heir. Unfortunately for Dave, Horvath shows up and ruins everything before he can begin his training. Horvath and Balthazar pull a disappearing act, leaving poor Dave scratching his head.
It’s not until years later that Dave, (Jay Baruchel) a physics student in college, crosses paths again with Horvath and Balthazar. Balthazar is still serious about taking Dave on as his apprentice, even though the now almost-adult Dave is skeptical. Finding out that Horvath wants him dead, quickly convinces Dave that he should join forces with Balthazar. The two train tirelessly in the hope that they can stop Horvath before he releases Morgana.
During Dave’s training Balthazar explains that a sorcerer’s power comes from his understanding of science. It is comprehension of matter that allows a wizard to manipulate it and to cast spells. This explanation of magic as a product of science is inventive and helps convince you that a physics student could easily learn to be a great conjurer.
The special effects in the film are well-done however the writing leaves something to be desired. Dialogue in the movie is just woefully written, and filled with uncomfortable exchanges between the characters. This is rooted in Dave’s bumbling nature, which is written so completely over the top that it alienates him from the audience. In trying to form a shy character, the writers go totally overboard, creating one that’s too awkward.
Nicolas Cage shows enough personality as Balthazar to make some of the sarcastic humor work, but in other places his performance is flat. In comparison Alfred Molina is more interesting as the villain, Horvath, a dastardly foe with a dark wit. When Horvath takes his own apprentice, things become comical because Toby Kebbell plays the young wizard. Kebbell, who was an absolute riot in 2007’s “Rock n Rolla,” brings a lot of comedy this role as a British David Blaine-esque magician.
While this film does not compare in overall quality to “Inception” which also comes out this week, it’s not a terrible way to spend your money if Christopher Nolan’s thriller is not your thing. Since it is a Disney production “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” is the kind of movie people of all ages can see and enjoy.
My Grade: B