On Sorcery, and the Apprenticeship Thereof

The Sorcerer's Apprentice, a Disney joint inspired by the Fantasia short of the same name, is textbook urban fantasy. This is the genre in which you'll find Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files, Mike Mignola's Hellboy, and the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling-in-Money shelved alongside lesser-known works like Charles de Lint's Memory and Dream, Ryk Spoor's Digital Knight, Larry Correia's Monster Hunter International, and Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. Of recent cinematical note, Percy Jackson & The Olympians and Twilight 3: Twi-hard With A Vegeance are found here.

(Cue argument on genre definitions now. I'll be moving on with my actual point.)

One of the hallmarks (read: tropes) of urban fantasy is that the reader is introduced to the magical world hidden amid the mundane one at the same pace the protagonist is. It's part of what makes urban fantasy so compelling -- magical explanations of anything from sudden thunderstorms to lost socks might prove important to the plot, and these wondrous elements are revealed to the reader in a way that moves the story forward as the protagonist is pulled further and further away from the world you and I are familiar with.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice doesn't do this. At all. By the time our protagonist finds out that he's Very Special and Destined To Do Something Really Important we've known all about it for at least an hour. We've known what is going on from the opening titles, when Balthazar Blake (Nicolas Cage) narrates an introductory sequence featuring Merlin, Monica Belluci, Alfred Molina, and Alice Krige (who I am always entertained to see out from under all those Borg-y prostheses.)

Was this opening narration a good thing? Well... it was entertaining, so I guess yeah. But it wasn't the BEST thing. It was like stopping for a good burger and then having to turn down an invitation to a barbecue. The movie could have been absolutely riveting if every one of the plot elements introduced in the opening narration was instead delivered as a reveal during the story.

And that is the last that Howard Tayler, armchair literary critic and sci-fi hack, shall say about that. Because in spite of filling up on Fuddruckers when a world-class backyard barbecue was available, I had a great time. The buns, they were toasted.

To continue with the food metaphors: when my friend Zacrey asked me how Alfred Molina was, I responded with "that's like asking me how my favorite dish at my favorite restaurant was. It was Alfred Molina." I've never disliked him in anything.

Did Alfred Molina save this movie for me? No. The movie didn't need saving. It succeeded in spite of a weak start, in part because these sorcerers acted less like people with guns that shoot magic, and more like small gods for whom many of the laws of physics can be suspended. To put it simply, this movie was fun to watch.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice is my new #6.

Dear Jerry Bruckheimer: You could have had the #2 slot if you'd paid more attention during "Urban Fantasy 201: Staggering the Reader With Staggered Reveals." They teach it at Hogwarts.

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