Summer Blockbuster Preview: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

Will Disney's The Sorcerer's Apprentice provide the requisite box office magic? We weigh up the possibilities in another summer blockbuster preview...

What Is It?

Taking its inspiration from a scene in Disney’s trippy Fantasia (the famous sequence where Mickey Mouse enchants various items of furniture, itself inspired by a Goethe poem), The Sorcerer’s Apprentice takes the necromantic theme of the 1940s animated original and updates it to present-day Manhattan.

Nicolas Cage stars as Balthazar Blake, a sorcerer with the uncanny ability to start a car with a Paul Daniels-like wave of his hands. Jay Baruchel co-stars as the eponymous apprentice, an average youth and self-professed “physics nerd” whom Cage trains in the dark arts to help protect the city from arch nemesis Horvath (played by Alfred Molina, who provided Disney’s other summer blockbuster Prince Of Persia with some of its better moments).

Who’s Behind It?

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The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, so we should probably expect a movie with all the subtlety of a falling anvil. The latest trailer, weighing in at a mere 60 seconds and change, manages to pack in giant robot buzzards, CG meteorological disturbances, enchanted fight scenes, and enough lightning from the fingertips to put Emperor Palpatine to shame.

Director Jon Turteltaub, meanwhile, has earned a solid reputation for directing family comedies and big, crowd-pleasing blockbusters, including 3 Ninjas, Cool Runnings and both instalments of the National Treasure franchise.

Of Sorcerer’s trinity of screenwriters, two of them, Doug Miro and Carlo Bernard, worked together on Prince Of Persia, while the third, Matt Lopez, wrote scripts for family comedies Bedtime Stories and Race To Witch Mountain.

Why Should I Watch It?

Clearly a movie aimed at a broad family audience, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is one of those films that could prove to be an overblown barrage of noise and light, or a genuinely entertaining slice of summer entertainment.

Jerry Bruckheimer is a producer more than capable of delivering a thrilling family movie (Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl proved to be both lucrative and hugely entertaining), though he’s inevitably suffered a few critical failures in his time. For this writer, the terminally awful Pearl Harbor surely ranks among the worst World War II films ever, while Days Of Thunder failed to make the impact of its winged sibling, Top Gun.

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Nic Cage’s performance could also make or break the film. Again, Cage is more than capable of turning in a good performance, given the right director and script. He was excellent in Charlie Kaufman’s Adaptation, but irritating in Brian De Palma’s Snake Eyes. His performance in Leaving Las Vegas earned him an Oscar, while his turns in The Wicker Man, Ghost Rider and National Treasure: Book Of Secrets very nearly earned him a Golden Raspberry.

Cage suggested in a recent interview that the role of Balthazar was one of the few characters that he was “comfortable with”, and that his “whole life had been a practice for the part,” so who knows, maybe The Sorcerer’s Apprentice will see the actor give a spirited turn on a par with his best work.

Like Cage’s performances, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’s tone is also quite hard to pin down. The murky promo posters outline a film with a fairly dark and moody tone, yet the trailers (not to mention Cage’s straggly mane) suggest a broad, comedic family fantasy.

On the positive side, the trailers we’ve seen so far hint at some imaginative and competently handled special effects work, from transforming cars to the previously mentioned supernatural battles, and the presence of Alfred Molina should assure that, at the very least, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice will be blessed with a watchable villain.

Scheduled in the middle of August in the UK, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is released on the same day as M Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender, a film with a similar audience and reliance on flashy special effects.

And while The Sorcerer’s Apprentice has the full weight of Jerry Bruckheimer behind it (not to mention almost double the budget), Airbender has a healthy following of fans who enjoyed the original animation, so only time will tell which of these two blockbusters will provide the greater amount of popcorn entertainment for our money.

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US Release Date: 16 JulyUK Release Date: 13 August