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Film / The Sorcerer's Apprentice

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Dave Stutler: How do you know my name?
Balthazar: Because I can read minds! ...It's on your backpack.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice is a 2010 film produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, distributed by Disney and directed by Jon Turteltaub (of National Treasure fame).

Centuries ago, the great wizard Merlin trained three apprentices: Balthazar Blake (Nicolas Cage), Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina), and Veronica (Monica Bellucci). However, Horvath betrayed them to Morgana LeFay (Alice Krige), resulting in Merlin's death. In the aftermath Veronica and Morgana ended up trapped in an artifact known as the Grimhold, in which Balthazar later manages to trap Horvath. With his dying breath Merlin tasked Balthazar with finding his heir, the Prime Merlinian, who can end Morgana's evil forever.

Centuries pass with Balthazar travelling the world, hunting down evil sorcerers and seeking the Prime Merlinian, until the year 2000 when he finally finds him in the young Dave Stutler (Jay Baruchel), a boy living in Manhattan. Unfotunately, Horvath escapes just long enough to force Balthazar to trap them both for ten years. In 2010 both Horvath and Balthazar escape. Horvath seeks to release Morgana once again and now Balthazar has to track down Dave and teach him the magic arts.

The whole thing was largely Nicolas Cage's idea, wanting to expand upon the classic Mickey Mouse cartoon short from Fantasia. The film even has a full scene dedicated to it.

Just keep in mind that if something doesn't make sense, A Sorcerer Did It.

Completely unrelated to the direct-to-video 2001 film of the same name, which was given the RiffTrax treatment.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: ...Not of a book, or a series... but rather... of a standalone animation sequence. Which in itself was an adaptation of a ballad by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and a musical composition by Dukas. Based on a tale from Lucian.
  • Aerith and Bob: Balthazar and Dave.
  • Alliterative Name: Balthazar Blake.
  • All Your Powers Combined: Horvath's plan involved freeing several otherwise unrelated sorcerers before Morgana, just to take their power rings for himself.
  • Always Save the Girl: David gives up his ring and the Grimhold to save Becky. Balthazar admits he would have done the same.
  • And I Must Scream:
    • Blake and Horvath are trapped in an urn for ten years. They do have things to read; Horvath has Dave's essay on Napoleon (and probably a few of his other papers), and Blake is hinted to have the Encantus.
    • Morgana and Veronica were trapped in the Grimhold for over a millennium, though, unlike the urn, it isn't expressly stated that the Grimhold prisoners are conscious.
  • And That's Terrible:
    Balthazar: Horvath wants to free his fellow Morganians and destroy the world. THIS. MUST. NOT. HAPPEN.
  • Apocalypse How: Morgana intends to bring about either a Class 2 or a Class 3a by raising an army of spell-casting zombies.
  • Charm Person: Horvath uses this when trying to find David. Lampshaded by his own apprentice. "These are not the droids you are looking for".
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The wolves in a calendar photo that Dave's roommate uses to motivate him early on. They end up being animated by Horvath a little later and chase Dave through a train station.
    • The urn, although admittedly it doesn't take very long to fire. The bull statue took a little bit longer.
    • The radio tower at the station Becky works are made into a small plot point, and Dave's Tesla Coils are made into a very prominent set piece.
    • Related to the Tesla Coils, Dave demonstrates to Becky he can use them to shoot sparks that play music. This is how he defeats Morgana.
    • The title. Everyone's waiting for the scene where David carelessly animates some brooms.
  • The Chosen One: David is the "Prime Merlinian". The one supposed to continue Merlin's legacy (and be the one able to use magic without a ring).
  • College Radio: Becky hosts a show at NYU's radio station. Dave fixing the station's antenna and getting inspired by the song he heard during her show helps him and Becky bond.
  • Cool Car: Balthazar owns a sleek 1920s-era automobile (which has been in impound for years after he was sealed in the urn).
  • Creepy Child: Abigail Williams, a Historical Domain Character (she's one of the girls whose accusations started the Salem Witch Trials) as a sorcerer who helps Horvath.
  • Crucified Hero Shot: Balthazar chained to an appliance in Dave's lab.
  • Deus ex 'Scuse Me: Balthazar leaving the young Dave alone in the shop while going to grab a book is the reason Horvath is freed.
  • Disney Death: Balthazar. He temporarily dies as Morgana's hand, before Dave restarts his heart.
  • Dramatic Deadpan: Balthazar specializes in this.
    Balthazar: [as the floor starts sucking him in] Persian quick-rug. And he said I was old-fashioned.
  • Embarrassing Last Name: Dave Stutler (sounds like "stutter") doesn't sound particularly badass.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Invoked literally and accidentally when Dave performs a car transformation that... It doesn't quite turn out the way he intended (subverted in that the Pinto doesn't explode after crashing).
  • Evil Brit: Horvath. His apprentice, however, is more of an ineffectually evil Brit.
  • Evil Counterpart: Balthazar and Horvath, who both started out as apprentices to Merlin.
  • Evil Is Petty: Horvath betrayed Merlin and his friends because Veronica chose Balthazar over him.
  • Evil Sorcerer: The Morganians, who are an entire group of sorcerers who follow Morgana's teachings. The key among them, besides Morgana herself, is Maxim Horvath, who was one of Merlin's apprentices until he chose to serve Morgana. Morganians are opposed by Merlinians, the followers of Merlin's teachings that magic is to be used to serve humanity. The film only shows three of them (Balthazar, Veronica, and Dave) and no indication is made that more are (or were) present.
  • Exactly What I Aimed At: At the climax of the film, Dave fires several spells at Morgana which she easily phases through. It turns out the spells are to animate a mop and wires to create a Tesla coil which destroys her completely.
  • Fat and Skinny: Bennett, Dave's roommate, is a tad big. Dave, on the other hand, is stick thin. This is even noted by Drake in the bathroom scene.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Maxim Horvath. He's polite. He's charming. He's impeccably dressed and well-mannered. He's witty, intelligent, clever, well-read, culturally literate, and erudite. And he's perfectly willing to slaughter innocent bystanders if they get in his way.
  • Friendly Local Chinatown: Balthazar and Dave waltz off to Chinatown in pursuit of Horvath. A dragon dance makes an appearance, naturally. The dragon gets turned (temporarily) into a real dragon by Sun Lok, plus the dancers, that goes after Dave. Thankfully they emerge unscathed once the spell is broken.
  • Freudian Excuse:
    • Poor Drake was left by his master at age fifteen with no explanation. He even says himself he has issues with it, but he doesn't seem to show it very often, if at all.
    • Horvath could be a candidate for this as well, since he lost his love, but that doesn't give him the excuse to destroy humanity and turn evil.
  • Full-Contact Magic: Several times, Horvath and Balthazar end up straight-out punching each other.
  • Giant Flyer: The steel eagles from the Chrysler Building are brought to life in the film by Balthazar as a means of getting around the city.
  • Groin Attack:
    • While training with the plasma ball, Dave manage a self-inflicted groin attack. Ouch.
    • Later on, he also apparently gets one from behind by an animated mop.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Veronica made one back in the Middle Ages, casting a reverse Grand Theft Me spell to trap Morgana's soul in her body, then convincing Balthazar to trap them both in the Grimhold. Balthazar attempts the same thing with less successful results. His planning to go off alone to take on Horvath and Morgana may also be considered one.
  • Historical In-Joke: As it turns out, there was a witch in Salem... the one who accused everyone else. In fact, the real-life Abigail Williams fled Salem when the witch trials were coming to a close. In real life, she probably either died or made a new life under a different name, but in the context of the film this could easily be explained as Balthazar having captured her. And yes, she really was a child (age 11) instead of the seductive teen in The Crucible.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Horvath steals the rings/amulets of Dave and the various Morganians he's allied himself with (plus the formers' life energy), making himself powerful enough to free Morgana unaided. All that extra power, however, makes him an easy target for Dave's tesla coil.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Said word-for-word by Dave, but unfortunately The Call Knows Where You Live in the form of Horvath. Also stated by Balthazar to be a desire Veronica had.
  • Inept Mage: Dave, when he's not too busy being awesome.
  • Infodump: The movie's beginning. It is also sort of misleading: it said that over the centuries Balthazar fought various evil sorcerers, trapping them within layers of the doll, and he eventually captured Horvath as well. One may be left with the impression that before Morgana is released, a horde of evil sorcerers and sorceresses would have to be released. In the end, the doll only contains three villains besides Morgana.
  • Instant Runes: Only for very special purposes and they are appropriately seldom used.
  • Insult Backfire: Dave asks Blake if he's insane, to which Blake gives a "little bit" sign.
  • Interchangeable Asian Cultures:
    • First simply alluded to when Balthazar tests an old Chinese woman by speaking Cantonese. Since it was Horvath in disguise, he responds in English saying "Oh, you speak Mandarin!" which tells Balthazar that this woman is actually Horvath in disguise.
    • Later Played for Laughs and lampshaded when Balthazar, disguised as a policeman, tells other policemen that the visitors of the "Asian festival" (in Chinatown) were "hitting on the sake" too hard. Dave nearly blows their "slightly ignorant beat cop" disguise by correcting him, saying that "Actually, sake's Japanese." Balthazar later tells him off for not staying in character.
  • Invisible to Normals: Pure magic spells like energy projection are invisible to regular humans. Becky is incapable of seeing a giant fiery pentagram traced across the sky, for example. Matter manipulation, telekinesis, and similar spells, on the other hand, are fully visible, since they're acting upon visible objects.
  • It's Always Mardi Gras in New Orleans: In this case, the Chinese New Year in the N.Y. Chinatown.
  • I Was Just Joking: At the start of the movie, Balthazar.
    Dave: How did you know my name was Dave?
    [Dave gives a shocked expression]
    Balthazar: It's on your backpack.
  • Jedi Mind Trick: Used by Horvath on a clerk to get around needing an identification card. Drake Stone promptly lampshades this by waving his hand and saying, "These are not the droids you are looking for!", earning him an annoyed look.
  • Kick the Dog: Any savvy viewer could tell that the driver was dead the moment he honked at Horvath.
  • Kamehame Hadoken: Now in Rapid-Fire variety! Really, it's much closer to a Projectile Spell attack. It's even explicitly a "sorcerer's basic offensive ability". Lampshaded by Drake's actor in behind the scenes material on the Blu-Ray.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: As with most family/children's movies the dark elements of the story are merely alluded to. But there are a few scenes and lines that point to Balthazar Blake being one.
  • Large Ham: Nicholas Cage was clearly having a bit of fun with his role, but gave a very subdued, calm performance (compared to his usual roles). The really large ham of the film, however, is Alfred Molina as Horvath.
  • The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday: Played with. The Arcana Cabana is quite visible to Dave's teacher and fellow students when he tells them about it (and the store is also physically there ten years later, but abandoned and then refurbished into something else, when Balthazar goes back for the Encantus), but what he told them about (the battle, the two sorcerers, the fire) is gone, with everything as neat and undisturbed as it was before.
  • The Load: Averted. Becky isn't Too Dumb to Live, and even though she's not a fan of heights, she arguably saves the world on her own by knocking the antenna out of alignment and causing Morgana's Master Spell to fail completely.
  • Love Makes You Evil: Horvath, whatever shall we do with you?
  • Love Triangle: Balthazar and Horvath battle it out for Veronica.
  • Made of Air: Morgana exists as a spirit and can completely control her physical form, allowing her to dodge attacks by creating openings for attacks to pass through. Dave beats her by turning the nearby lights into makeshift Tesla Coils, hardening her form so he can blast her apart.
  • Mad Scientist Laboratory: Dave's underground workshop. Complete with Tesla Coils.
  • Mage in Manhattan: New York City is in danger of literal evil mages trying to destroy it (and the rest of the world).
  • Magic A Is Magic A: They don't go into an extreme amount of detail regarding how magic works, but it is consistent regarding the actions and concentration of the user and the need for a Ring of Power to channel their magical ability. A circumventing of the normal rules is also present, and made into a major plot point.
  • Magicians Are Wizards: Drake Stone, and loving it.
  • Magic Versus Science: Subverted. Although not elaborated upon, magic here is noted to be at least partially grounded in science instead of being incompatible. In fact that is supposedly the reason Dave is so good with physics, because he has natural magical talent.
    Dave: So, is sorcery science or magic?
    Balthazar: Yes and yes.
  • Magitek: Armed with the knowledge of the above, David combines magic and science to defeat Horvath and Morgana.
  • Master of Illusion: Drake's whole thing is illusions. He uses it to make his living and pretends to be Dave for a few seconds. It seems to be his favorite type of magic to use.
  • Masquerade: ...Sort of. There does appear to be one, as fairly early into the movie Balthazar says it would be "complicated" if regular people found out about magic. While it's never stated why we can guess at a few justifications: a lot of people probably couldn't live in a world without fixed rules and would kill themselves en masse, many more charlatans would pop up claiming to be able to perform magic, some people who otherwise wouldn't have tried would discover they have magic powers and would use them to exploit others, and other problems. After the first couple fights, however, it's not mentioned again, and the characters don't even bother trying to hide or disguise their magic anymore.
  • Masquerade Paradox: The closest thing we get to a justification for the Masquerade is when Balthazar says it would be "complicated" if regular people found out about magic. It's easier to enact the Masquerade, as pure magic spells like energy projection are invisible to regular humans (e.g. Becky is incapable of seeing a giant fiery pentagram traced across the sky); however, anything acting on physical objects (e.g. matter manipulation, telekinesis) is still fully visible. After the first couple of fights, the Masquerade isn't mentioned again, and the characters don't even bother trying to hide their magic anymore.
  • Mass Resurrection: This is Morgana's final goal: to resurrect a legion of Sorcerers for world domination.
  • Matryoshka Object: Morgana's prison is a literal nesting doll. She's trapped at the center, and each of the other layers imprisons a different Morganian.
  • Measuring the Marigolds: Dave has a mild case of this; it never occurs to him to make music with his Tesla coils until he hooks up with music student Becky.
  • Miles to Go Before I Sleep: Balthazar cannot die until he finds the Prime Merlinian.
  • Minion with an F in Evil: Drake helps Horvath take the Grimhold and harasses Dave a bit, but when Horvath remarks that a group of children will be dead soon, he looks quite uncomfortable.
  • Mirror World: What one gets stuck in after a certain "old-fashioned" spell.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Moving broomsticks. The movie credits lists that it was the inspiration for this movie.
    • Yen Sid's hat is seen in Balthazar's magic shop.
    • The skull without the jaw that Yen Sid stores his butterfly color stuff in the Fantasia short is there too.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: Horvath's Hannibal Lecture about power and control from the trailer? Nope, not in the movie!
  • 90% of Your Brain: According to Balthazar, sorcerers use all of their brains instead of just 10%.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Drake Stone is David Copperfield with real magical powers. Or maybe Criss Angel due to his alternative fashion sense.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Balthazar, Veronica.
  • Now It's My Turn: Twice over — first, after Morgana tries to bring down Balthazar and Veronica, only for Dave to instinctively throw up a shield (without his ring), he says this to her and begins assaulting her with plasma balls. Then, after Morgana has succeeded in dodging then all, she turns the phrase back on him before counterattacking.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: The scene where Abigail kidnaps Becky. Even her outfit changes offscreen.
  • One to Million to One:
    • A side effect of being trapped in the Grimhold. Maxim Horvath, first appears as a swarm of cockroaches scurrying out of the matryoshka doll and assembling themselves into a human figure, complete with clothes.
    • Sun Lok materializes as butterflies. We don't get to see what Abigail is released as, though smoke pours out at the start. Veronica/Morgana emerges as repulsive black mud.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Made from a Chinese parade dragon. And the dancers inside it. note 
  • Out-of-Character Alert: Several times, but most prominently when Dave suddenly uses British slang, and Balthazar immediately understands that it's actually Drake in disguise. (That and the nail polish.)
  • Person as Verb: Dave mentions that his experience in 2000 made the local slang for having a breakdown "Pulling a Dave Stutler."
  • Playing with Fire: Sorcerers have the ability to wield fire, while the dragon Dave encounters in Chinatown tries to kill him using fire breath (despite the fact that Chinese dragons don't typically breathe fire).
  • Present-Day Past:
    • During the opening credits of the film, the song "The Middle" by Jimmy Eat World plays. Keep in mind that the scene is set in 2000, and the song wouldn't become a hit until two years later.
    • The shots of the Manhattan skyline in 2000 at the beginning of the sequence above, taken from uptown looking downtown and from a bus going past it, have two glaring errors:
      • There is no trace of the Twin Towers, which would have been visible at the time (though, to be fair, digitally adding them back in would have called the wrong kind of attention).
      • The Bank of America Tower is visible to the right of the Empire State Building on the bus. Construction of Bank of America Tower did not begin until 2004, and it wasn't completed until 2009.
  • Product Placement: Drake Stone is immortalized as a planeswalker in Magic: The Gathering.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Thanks to one of Merlin's spells, Balthazar stopped aging until he could find and train the Prime Merlinian.
  • Reflective Teleportation: One of the spells a wizard in this setting can use is turning reflective surfaces into a portal to an empty world that mirrors our own. This spell, called "the Hungarian Mirror Trap", is first used by the main hero to trap an enemy wizard mid-fight and is later used by that same villain to trap the heroes mid car chase, forcing them to find another reflective surface.
  • Right in Front of Me: Balthazar hands David a pair of sorcerer's shoes. He notes that they're "old man shoes". Balthazar, who's wearing a pair, remarks "Excuse me?"
  • Ring of Power: For David and Balthazar specifically — a number of the wizards present cast their spells using other objects as well... like a cane, a pendant, and a belt buckle, just to name a few. To be able to cast spells without such a focus is what proves David's destiny as Prime Merlinian. It is worth noting that Horvath's cane appears to incorporate his ring as the head.
  • Salem Is Witch Country: One of Morgana's followers is Abigail Williams, one of the original accusers at the witch trials and herself a sorcerer.
  • Sealed Cast in a Multipack: The film has half the cast aside from the main character stored in an artifact. They emerge in a sort of Last-In-First-Out.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Maxim Horvath. Twice. First, Balthazar traps him in the Grimhold. He escapes. Later, they are both sealed in a Chinese urn. They both escape ten years later. And the other Morganites; Sun Lok, Abigail, and Morgana Le Fay herself.
  • Sealed Evil in a Duel: Veronica/Morgana, if you consider that by taking Morgana's soul into her Veronica was essentially creating an ongoing battle with her Enemy Within inside of her. Judging by who was in control when they emerged, she lost.
  • Sequel Hook: Horvath's hat is lying on the table, and a hand reaches out to pick it up. Look more closely, and you'll find the silhouette quite familiar.
  • Shadow Discretion Shot: Subverted during the shout-out mop scene.
  • Shock and Awe: Dave likes to build Tesla Coils, and make music with them! He even creates makeshift Coils in the climactic battle with Morgana.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shrine to Self: Drake Stone sports a couple of partially-naked portraits of himself around the house.
  • Sorcerer's Apprentice Plot: In a direct homage to the source material, Dave enchants some mops and sponges with his sorcerer's ring, only for the spell to go out of control and cause the mops to flood the entire workshop. Dave nearly gets himself electrocuted trying to get control of the situation until Balthazar shows up right on time and sets everything right.
  • Spanner in the Works: With all of the magicians around, nobody (except Dave) thought that the cute, blonde Muggle girl would be of any use (except as a hostage to trade for things) or any possible threat. Cue Becky blowing apart Morgana's world-spanning plan by kicking a TV antenna out of alignment.
  • Walking the Earth: What Balthazar was doing until setting up shop in New York City.
  • Weaponized Landmark:
    • The Wall Street bull.
    • The Chrysler Building eagle as well, considering that it is what took care of the bull.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: What happened to the second demon of the Grimhold?
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Becky mentions that she isn't fond of heights. You can guess what her role in the climax involves.
  • Wizard Duel: It's kind of the point... As such, there are many. In Germany the film was actually released as "Duell der Magier", i.e. "duel of mages".
  • Yellow Peril: Sun Lok is rather distressingly stereotypically Chinese.
  • "Yes"/"No" Answer Interpretation: Horvath after rematerializing from the urn.
    Horvath: Am I the first one out?
    [old woman faints]
    Horvath: That's a yes...
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Horvath to... well, everyone except Morgana. Partially justified. The endgame has every evil wizard being resurrected anyway; this way they're puppets instead of independent.
  • You're Insane!: Responded to by a smile and finger-measurement to show just how insane Balthazar is. Well, at least he's honest about it.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Sorcerers Apprentice


Maxim Wan-Kenobi

Maxim uses the Jedi Mind trick on a college receptionist. Drake Stone quotes the droid line.

How well does it match the trope?

4.92 (12 votes)

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