Wizards: Tales of Arcadia Review: A Thrilling, Dark and Magical Adventure!

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Rating:

8.5/10

Cast:

Colin O’Donoghue as Douxie
Stephanie Beatriz as Callista
David Bradley as Merlin
Clancy Brown as Gunmar
James Faulkner as King Arthur
Kelsey Grammer as Blinky
Mark Hamill as Dictatious
Lena Headey as Morgana
Emile Hirsch as Jim
Diego Luna as Krel
Lexi Medrano as Claire
Alfred Molina as Archie
John Rhys-Davies as Galahad
Charlie Saxton as Toby
Fred Tatasciore as AAARRRGGHH!!!
Steven Yeun as Steve

Created by Guillermo Del Toro

Synopsis:

Following Trollhunters and the second series 3Below, Wizards marks the final chapter in the epic Tales of Arcadia trilogy that brings together the three disparate worlds of trolls, aliens and wizards. In the newest installment, wizard-in-training Douxie (Colin O’Donoghue) and the heroes of Arcadia embark on a time-bending adventure to medieval Camelot that leads to an apocalyptic battle for the control of magic that will determine the fate of these supernatural worlds that have now converged.

Wizards: Tales of Arcadia Review

There’s something electric about Netflix’s Wizards: Tales of Arcadia, the third and final installment of the Tales of Arcadia trilogy that began with Trollhunters and continued with 3Below. Solid animation, terrific character designs, a rousing score, and an engaging storyline all work to produce an exciting 10-part mini movie, as it were, told through the darker lens of creator Guillermo Del Toro’s wild imagination.

Wizards unites the heroes of Arcadia Oaks once more in Arthurian times where monsters, aliens, humans and wizards collide in an epic battle royal that will (what else?) determine the fate of the universe. Simple stuff. Adventure stories are obligated to follow the same tried and true Hero’s Journey we’ve seen countless times before with only a few variations thrown in to mix up the quest, and Wizards is no exception. In this case, a young sorcerer named Douxie (a minor character in the first two Arcadia installments) who spends nine centuries* wiping the great Merlin’s floors and pounces at the opportunity to show his true worth, emerges as the one-who-must-stop-the-coming-evil-and-save-the-universe. We know the outcome, but his journey actually bites off more than most animated fare dares to chew. At one point, when confronted by the fabled one-eyed, tentacled lady in the lake, Douxie must determine whether to fix a broken Excalibur or set the monster free. Guess which way he chooses? “I may not know how to fix this,” he explains, “but I do know you should not be stuck here.”

If Harry Potter was about the magical properties of friendship and love, Wizards is about making the right choice and living with the consequences.

After an extended action sequence in which a levitating Kingdom of Camelot dukes it out against a massive, skull shaped barge, our heroes are inexplicably thrust back in time to late 12th century Camelot where they must join King Arthur, Lancelot and the, er, lot to take down the evil (and complicated) Morgana. You see, man has upset the balance of magic and three strange beings yearn to put everything back on track and need Morgana to take out Arthur to achieve their endgame.

Twists and turns abound. Some fresh, most formulaic. Though, the beautiful animation and terrific vocal work keep things moving at a breathless pace.

Into the fold drops a batch of memorable characters voiced by a who’s who of talented actors, including Clancy Brown, Kelsey Grammer, Lena Headey, Alfred Molina, David Bradley, Nick Offerman, Steven Yeun, Mark Hamill, and, of course, Ron Perlman. Those who watched Trollhunters and 3Below will likely wait in anticipation to see lingering plot threads play out between the likes of Claire Nuñez and Jim Lake, Jr. and returning players like the hilarious Steve Palchuk and the hapless members of his gang, AAARRRGGHH!! and Toby Domzalski. And even if you have yet to watch any of the previous entries, Wizards works as its own standalone story, albeit packed with quite the backstory.

Episodes move in rapid-fire succession and each is packed to the brim with plenty of intense standoffs, slapstick humor and silly dialogue to keep the kids invested. Yet, the series refuses to play it safe. Characters die and (mostly) stay dead. Important decisions come with ramifications both positive and dire. Like those old Don Bluth films of the 80s, and even Del Toro’s own Rise of the Guardians, Wizards pulls no punches and knows when to stop with the wisecracks long enough to deliver a ferocious battle filled with Del Toro’s nightmarish creature designs. The big set piece arrives midway through the season and is handled in such a rousing way you’d think you were watching Braveheart: the Animated Series, what with Arthur’s mighty speech — “Today we say no more to fear and darkness!” the great king announces — amidst John Fee and Jeff Danna’s thrilling, powerful score. Here we have a series in which characters actually feel the impact of difficult choices and must deal with the repercussions; and in this day and age of “safe” programming, the results are both thrilling and refreshing.

Wizards: Tales of Arcadia won’t break the bank in terms of sheer originality, but its darker elements, serious themes, riveting creature designs, clever humor and awesome action sequences should be enjoyed by all.

*As a side note, I’m always amused when a character such as Douxie lives to be nearly 1,000 years old but still acts in the same manner as a teenager. Maybe Wizards age at a much slower rate, but most people have become tired and bitter after a mere 60 or 70 years on the planet … I would imagine a person would undergo an enormous transformation in the span of 1,000 years. Oh, there I go overthinking a movie featuring a cat who wears glasses.