Like going back to the eighties

2010-08-30 00:00

IN the eighties Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, the swashbuckling producer duo were responsible for some of the eighties irresistible blockbuster fare. I say “irresistible” because I was a teenager then and was usually swept up in the spectacle of big-budget cinema.

The duo, famed for throwing money at high concept pictures like Top Gun, Flashdance and Days of Thunder, were box-office gold. Sadly Simpson died of a drug-related heart attack in 1996, but Bruckheimer was to continue on his money-making ways with The Rock and Pirates of the Caribbean, cementing along the way a relationship with Nicolas Cage that now extends to six pictures. It’s unusual in the post big-studio days for producers to get top billing, but Bruckheimer has enough of a reputation in the action adventure genre to guarantee thrills for his audiences.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice finds its inspiration in the famed sequence from Disney’s Fantasia (1940) that involves a naughty apprentice (Mickey Mouse) who dabbles in magic that he is unable to control and ends up creating havoc in his master’s premises. Cue Cage who was intrigued by the idea of playing a wizard or sorcerer and who decided to develop a script from the aforementioned Disney sequence.The result isThe Sorcerer’s Apprentice(2010) that somehow feels more like the early Bruckheimer/ Spielberg action adventure flicks that kept kids like me off the streets in the eighties.

It is a move that goes against the grain of the contemporary superhero trend and its tanking at the U.S. box-office is likely due to its resonance with “old school” Merlinesque capers rather than the more complex Harry Potter series.

Don’t get me wrong, the special effects are very “noughties” and used to great effect in morphing a theatrical Chinese dragon into the fire-breathing real thing. My personal favourite was the bringing to life of the famed Wall Street bull. The mood and style, however, are very much nostalgic — thinkBig Trouble in Little China crossed with Highlander.

The plot is set in contemporary New York and involves Balthazar Blake (Nicholas Cage) who has spent hundreds of years seeking the Merlin of the future only to discover that “the prime Merlinian” is Dave, a geeky teenager more intrigued by Tesla coils and a childhood crush than saving the world.

It is a battle of wills cut through by the presence of Maxim Horvarth (Alfred Molina), Blake’s centuries old foe. Horvarth wants to revive Morgana (Merlin’s arch-enemy) who will in turn re-animate an army of the dead to take over the world. The only problem is that her soul is trapped in something akin to a multi-layered Russian doll. Magic battles a la Harry Potter ensue and all the while the apprentice slowly learns his trade.

This is a straight-up action adventure flick that is more of a nostalgia trip than a ground-breaking addition to the canon. Likely to disappoint younger views looking for a greater assault on the senses, it rests more easily in the decade of the eighties. It gets three stars only because it reminds me of my much-loved matinees at the old 20th Century bioscope in Longmarket Street.

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