When you think about Jerry Bruckheimer-produced Disney movies, there's the ones you think of right off the bat like the Pirates of the Caribbean (2003-17) franchise or the two National Treasure (2004-07) films. However, one often goes forgotten is The Sorcerer's Apprentice, starring Nicolas Cage (Leaving Las Vegas (1995)) and Jay Baruchel (How to Train Your Dragon (2010)).
While initially there might not have seemed too much to get excited about for the project at the time, the movie actually delivered a fun, entertaining, and action-packed adventure with great performances that really could have taken off in a franchise with its cliffhanger post-credits scene.
The Sorcerer's Apprentice followed another Jerry Bruckheimer-produced film earlier that summer with Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010), a video game-based story starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton, and Ben Kingsley. It was a busy year for Bruckheimer, and while both films were quite successful at the summer box office and overall enjoyed, both became disliked and forgotten over time.
It's also interesting to speculate on some of the reasons why people did not respond well to The Sorcerer's Apprentice. The Hollywood Reporter stated that the film was a "tired relic of summer movie cliches." Hmm. Funny how seven summers later we are still getting those types of films and they are not always being met with that negative criticism. People were tired back then? It doesn't seem like those types of movies are going anywhere anytime soon. But is The Sorcerer's Apprentice the same old, same old we had been seeing up to that point? Maybe a little, but we had seen Pirates-type movies and National Treasure-type movies before too, and there was not much said about that. In fact, The Sorcerer's Apprentice was directed by Jon Turteltaub, the director of the two National Treasure films, so it's curious why more people did not enjoy it or get into it. The Sorcerer's Apprentice does have some cliches to be sure, but it did still manage to feel fresh at the time.
It adapts Fantasia fantastically
While this writer has his own story issues with Prince of Persia, The Sorcerer's Apprentice remains a vastly underrated film. No, it's no Oscar-winning film, but if you think about what The Sorcerer's Apprentice was able to accomplish given what little source material it had, it's pretty amazing. The storyline came from the idea of adapting Mickey Mouse's famous animated excerpt from Fantasia (1940) into live-action. Contrary to what many film and music novices think, the sequence in Walt Disney's film, while memorable and often the standout of the movie, was not an original idea. The song used for Mickey's fun disobedience of the magician was already called, "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," from a German poem put to music by Paul Dukas in 1897. While an undeniably fantastic and iconic piece of music, the Fantasia song sequence itself lasts less than ten minutes in length (long for music, short for a movie). The poem itself and the film's sequence are a small idea to base a whole new franchise on, let alone the one film that emerged in 2010, but combining that with Merlin and Arthurian legend, they pulled it off quite spectacularly, creating a world that is a confliction of magical, medieval, and modern day with a phenomenal cast, engaging music by National Treasure's Trevor Rabin, heart-pounding action, and true spectacular effects "wizardry." You could say that The Sorcerer's Apprentice was a bit of a precursor to Marvel's Doctor Strange (2016), which we might not have had with its subject matter and visual feats if it weren't for this film.
The film features also, in this writer's opinion, one of the best automobile chases done in the movies, with transforming cars and mirror flipping imagery, and there is also a delightful homage to the original Mickey Mouse sequence involving mops, music, and magic with Jay Baruchel (quite fun to see in live-action). There are lots of laughs and surprisingly tender moments from Baruchel and Nicolas Cage, but the cast also offers Teresa Palmer (Hacksaw Ridge (2016)), Monica Bellucci (Spectre (2015)), a younger and almost unrecognizable Toby Kebbell (Kong: Skull Island (2017)), and Alfred Molina (who was also in Prince of Persia), who once again proves how deliciously evil and frightening he can be. Why haven't we seen more from him these days?
It appears also that Disney doesn't think too little of their Fantasia-based ideas, with a Night on Bald Mountain film in development, so that might make The Sorcerer's Apprentice naysayers take a second glance. It doesn't deserve the bad rap... and I still want a sequel.