The Sorcerer's Apprentice is a 2010 fantasy adventure film produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, directed by Jon Turteltaub, and distributed by Walt Disney Pictures, the team behind the National Treasure franchise. The film is named after The Sorcerer's Apprentice segment in Disney's Fantasia (with one scene being an extensive reference to it), which in turn is based on the late 1890s symphonic poem of the same name by Paul Dukas and the 1797 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe ballad of the same name.
Balthazar Blake is a sorcerer in modern-day Manhattan, fighting against the forces of evil, in particular his arch-nemesis, Maxim Horvath, while searching for the person who will inherit the powers of the legendary wizard Merlin. This turns out to be Dave Stutler, a physics student, whom Balthazar takes as a reluctant protégé. The sorcerer gives his unwilling apprentice a crash course in the art of science, magic, and sorcery, in order to stop Horvath and his mistress, the legendary witch Morgana le Fay from raising the souls of the evil dead sorcerers and destroying the world.
The film opens in Great Britain within Arthurian times (740 A.D.) with a prologue scene setting up the mythology of the movie. Balthazar Blake, Maxim Horvath, and Veronica Gorloisen are the three protégés of Merlin who learned everything about magic from Merlin. Until one day when Merlin’s most deadly arch-enemy, Morgana le Fay invades the castle and kills Merlin due to the betrayal of Horvath. Balthazar and Veronica, who are lovers, arrive too late. It is later revealed that the reason for Horvath’s betrayal is due to his love for Veronica and her act of choosing Balthazar over him. Veronica does the Human Fusion Spell, an enchantment that merges the soul of Morgana into her own in order to save Balthazar. Morgana’s scheme ultimately revolves around the destruction of the entire human race and raising the dead through the most dangerous magic spell known as The Rising, so for the good of the world, Balthazar traps both Horvath and Morgana (now inside Veronica’s body) into a magical nesting doll known as the Grimhold. Merlin, with his dying breath, tells Balthazar that Morgana must be trapped until the day he finds the Prime Merlinean, a chosen successor Merlin, who is the only one that can defeat her. We then see a montage of Balthazar through the ages visiting children giving them a small silver dragon trinket known as the Dragon Ring that Merlin gave him. This object will help identify the Prime Merlinean. Balthazar, a lone Merlinean trained in the ways of Merlin himself, also traps other Morganians, conjurors who learned the ways of Morgana le Fay, within the Grimhold as well.
We then jump to the year 2000 in New York City. Dave Stutler is a 10 year old 4th grader going on a field trip with a crush on a girl named Becky Barnes. He passes her a note to check a box whether she wants to be his friend or girlfriend. She checks one of the boxes and then leaves it on a bench. When Dave tries to pick it up the wind picks it up and flies away. Eventually the paper ends up inside an antique shop called Arcana Cabana Dave goes in looking for it and accidentally bumps into and almost breaks an ancient urn called The Grimlock. Balthazar who shows up behind him catches it. He tells Dave that this urn is incredibly old and whoever opens it will be trapped for ten years. Dave mentions he was looking for a note that just coincidentally ended up here. Balthazar believes this to be fate and hands him the tiny silver dragon. In Dave’s hand, it comes alive and twirls around Dave’s finger. Dave is the Prime Merlinean.
Balthazar tells him to wait there as he goes to look for something in the basement. Meanwhile, Dave moves his finger and notices something bumping into the wall each time he moves his finger. Finally, a nesting doll bursts through the wall and lands in front of him. Not knowing it was the Grimhold, Dave picks it up and accidentally opens it, releasing Horvath. Before Horvath can kill Dave, Balthazar pushes him at the window with his magic and they have an epic wizard fight, with Dave just trying to get out of the way. Dave takes the nesting doll and tries to leave but Horvath will not let him. Balthazar opens the urn from earlier which sucks both him and Horvath into it. Dave runs outside and throws the Grimhold into the street. His teacher and the rest of his class finds him, worried. He is freaking out and talks nonsense about wizards and tries to show the teacher inside but there is nothing there. A jar filled with water had broken on his pants and the other kids see this and they all taunt him about peeing his pants.
10 years later, Dave is a physics student at NYU with his own private lab within a private basement. At a Physics 101 class, he runs into Becky for the first time since they were ten. She just barely remembers him. He had switched schools after the incident and has become convinced it was all a hallucination. She works at the college radio station as a DJ. He follows her to the station and a lightning strikes the station antenna, knocking out their electronics. Dave offers to help and gets it all fixed. Becky is incredibly grateful and he says he did it because he noticed how important it was to her.
The Grimlock in which Balthazar and Horvath are trapped in is within the possession of some random new owners, a wealthy Russian couple who bought it from a flea market under the impression that it was some ordinary antique vase. At their apartment, the urn bursts open and Horvath is free again. He asks them if he is the first to arrive. The Russian wife faint. Horvath throws the urn from the apartment and before it smashes on the street Balthazar escapes. Dave comes home to find Horvath waiting for him, asking him where the Grimhold is. Dave does not know since he threw it into the street. Dave runs away and Horvath sends a pack of wolves he magically brought to life out of a wildlife calendar at Dave's Apartment to chase after him. Dave ends up at the railroad station and falls down on the train tracks. Before the wolves attack him, they become transformed into puppies. Balthazar comes flying in on a giant metal eagle that was a gargoyle brought to life magically by Balthazar. Dave gets on and slows down Horvath and flies away. Horvath just barely dodges a passing train and the wolves Horvath sends out to kill Dave, changes back into pictures.
Balthazar and Dave land on a roof of The Chrysler Building and the metal eagle transforms back into a gargoyle. Dave is freaking out but Balthazar calms him down and explains the situation to him, leaving out the part about him being the Prime Merlinean. Dave says he does not want any part of it. Balthazar summons Dave’s dresser and pulls out the Dragon Ring and asks him why he kept it. Dave says he was going to sell it on E-Bay but Balthazar tells him that he is a terrible liar which is a good thing. Dave promises he will help him up until they find the Grimhold and then he can go back to his life. Balthazar summons a an enchantment called the Biometric Pressure Spell to help him find it. Storm clouds hover over the downtown area indicating that that is where they must go. Horvath goes back to the former antique shop and is able to sense psychically what happened to the doll. He sees that a Chinese woman has picked it up. He knows that he must go to Chinatown. Balthazar goes to the car impound lot and retrieves his car to stay inconspicuous. On the drive to the nesting doll, Balthazar teaches Dave a basic fire technique. They reach Chinatown where a big celebration is happening. Dave waits outside while Balthazar goes inside. Upstairs he meets the old Chinese woman and he speaks Cantonese to her. She says he speaks wonderful Mandarin. It turns out to be Horvath in disguise. He has already unleashed one of the Morganians, Sun Lok, from the Grimhold. They fight and Sun-Lok ends up on the streets, where Balthazar tells Dave to run. Sun-Lok transforms one of the fake dragon floats into an actual dragon which chases Dave. Horvath and Balthazar fight and Balthazar gets the upper hand, taking the nesting doll away from him. Dave runs up a fire escape as the dragon chases after him, having trouble conjuring up the fire spell. He shoots it just in time defeating Sun-Lok.
In the car, Balthazar asks for the ring back per their agreement. Dave decides not to now that he’s had a taste of magic and wants to learn more. They need a place to practice and they decide to use Dave’s lab. Balthazar gives Dave the book that holds the entire history of sorcery including the things they just did today. Dave agrees to take on the responsibility and they begin training. Meanwhile, Horvath goes to visit the current living Morganian, a Criss Angel type magician celebrity named Drake Stone. He is pampered and uneducated in the dark arts. Horvath intends to teach him as well as utilize him to set up his plan to raise the dead and destroy humanity. He decides to do this in Battery Park within the Financial District of New York using the satellite dishes.
On a break, Balthazar and Dave have dinner sitting on a bench outside Becky’s radio station. Balthazar is very negative on the relationship and tells him that love is a distraction and sorcery requires focus. Dave says that she is the one for him and that he loves her. Dave gets up and follows her as she leaves the station. They go down into the subway station and a mugger robs them at a knifepoint, stealing her grandmother’s bracelet. Dave chases after him and clumsily uses his magic to knock him out. He comes back with her stuff back, impressing her and she notices something different about him. He offers to help tutor her on the physics at his lab. She agrees as she boards the next train.
At his lab, Becky arrives and introduces Balthazar as his uncle who leaves despite his best efforts to stop Dave from pursuing this. Dave shows off his Tesla coils and science projects and shows off a cool musical element to his coils. The next day he walks her to yoga class and they make a date for the next day. In the bathroom, Drake confronts Dave and pushes him around. Horvath arrives and tells him that Balthazar is keeping something from him. He demands to know where the nesting doll is. Balthazar arrives just in time and traps Horvath inside the bathroom mirror and knocks out Drake. Back at the lab, Dave demands to know everything and Balthazar tells him, including what happened to his great love Veronica and the fact that the prime Merlinean will be so powerful that he will now need the ring to do magic.
Dave tries to get ready for his date and clean up the lab but he gets frustrated with the mess so he uses his magic to get the brooms to come to life with the Cleaning Spell. When he comes back from his shower, the entire lab is a bigger mess with the entire floor flooded and everything inanimate coming to life and causing a giant mess. Becky knocks on the door and he rushes to the door and has to tell her to leave. As he tries to deal with the ever escalating mess, his electric lab equipment almost electrocutes him until the timely arrival of Balthazar, who with a wave of his hand cleans the mess via the Disperse Spell. He chastises and scolds him for taking shortcuts and abusing the sacred art of magic. They get into a big fight with Dave storming out. Horvath obtains the school records of Dave using a “Jedi mind trick” with his magic cane on the office registrar at the New York University's main lobby. He finds out where his private lab space is.
Dave sees Becky with her friends and sees how he does not belong and leaves. Becky sees him and follows him to the roof of the Chrysler Building where Balthazar had taken him to at the beginning. He’s about to throw the ring away until Becky stops him. She tells him that nothing is ruined with them and she really cares for him. At his lab, Dave returns and Balthazar says there was no need to apologize but Dave pushes him into a grating and traps him. It was Drake Stone in disguise. Horvath arrives as well and they search for the nesting doll and find it. Balthazar frees himself and tries to fight them but almost loses until Dave arrives and saves his life. Drake and Horvath escaped with what they were after and Dave and Balthazar give chase. What follows is an exciting car chase with magically changing vehicles which ends with Horvath and Drake getting away.
Back at Drake Stone’s penthouse, Drake wonders how they open it. Horvath uses the Parasite Spell to steal Drake’s power and life force and uses that to free the next Morganian, the legendary witch from the Salem Witch Trials known as Abigail Williams. This Morganian sorceress goes to Becky’s radio station and kidnaps her. Dave and Balthazar arrive at Drake’s apartment, searching for Horvath who earlier killed Abigail to steal her power in order to free Morgana by breaking the Grimhold's final shell with a couple more catalysts (magic items such as Drake Stone's skull ring and Abigail WIlliams' necklace) placed on his staff and enough magical energy gained. They split up. Balthazar gets trapped in a Persian Quickrug sand trap. Dave finds the doll almost too easily. Just as he goes back to the front door, he finds Horvath with his cane to Becky’s throat. Horvath demands both his ring and the Grimhold or Becky dies. Dave relents and gives him both. Horvath fires an energy bolt at the two, which they dodge, and flees just as Balthazar has freed himself and arrives. Dave apologizes but Balthazar says he would have done the same thing. Balthazar goes to the balcony and flies away on his giant metal eagle, to Becky’s shock. Dave offers to help but Balthazar says he can’t since he’s powerless without the ring. Dave tries to drop Becky off but she will not have any of it. She is involved now. Dave comes up with a plan using his Tesla coils strapped to Balthazar’s car. He also finds a note with a necklace telling Dave to give it to Veronica when this is all over.
Balthazar arrives at Battery Park in downtown Manhatten to find Morgana standing in the middle of the circle of a water fountain after Horvath used enough energy to break her free from the Grimhold itself. Morgana was now more then ready to cast the magic of the sinister ceremony, The Rising, to raise a legion of undead sorcerers to doom the Earth and it's inhabitants. Dave and Becky, in the car, already saw the spell taking hold in the sky (with Dave alone because of his magical power). Dave stops the car and tells Becky to climb the building to move the satellite in order to disrupt the spell. Before she goes, Dave asks her what box she checked off at the beginning of the film in case he dies. She will tell him when he does not die.
Horvath finds Balthazar and fights him off. He raises to life a bronze bull statue nearby and it chases after Balthazar. Horvath is about to be victorious when Dave drives in and uses the Tesla coils attached to the car to give a great shock to Horvath’s cane, defeating him and his bull with Balthazar's magic attack knocking out Horvath unconsciously and Balthazar's eagle snatching the bull away. Becky successfully disrupts the satellite dish wrecking the spell. Balthazar absorbs Morgana’s spirit from Veronica’s body, freeing her. Balthazar tries to get Dave to trap him in the Grimhold but he and Veronica refused. Morgana leaves Balthazar’s body and frees herself. Morgana blasts at the group but Dave blocks it without the help of the ring. He really is the Prime Merlinian. They engage into a huge battle where Morgana blasts Plasma Bolts at Veronica and Balthazar. Dave is able to summon up enough energy with all his might to defeat her completely.
He sees Veronica over Balthazar’s body. He was dead. Dave will not accept this and uses his magic to resuscitate him. He lives and Balthazar and Veronica kiss, finally reunited. Becky arrives and she and Dave kiss. She tells him that she checked girlfriend. Dave asks her if she wants to go to Paris, France, and the giant metal eagle lands next to them. They fly away to Paris happy and victorious.
After the end credits, Horvath takes his hat from Balthazar's shop.
- Nicolas Cage as Balthazar Blake, a one-thousand-plus-year old sorcerer of the "777th degree". Based on the magician Yen Sid in Disney's Fantasia.
- Jay Baruchel as David "Dave" Stutler, a highly intelligent college student who becomes Blake's apprentice.
- Jake Cherry as Young David "Dave" Stutler.
- Alfred Molina as Maxim Horvath, an evil sorcerer, and Balthazar's rival and former friend, Veronica's former love interest.
- Teresa Palmer as Rebecca "Becky" Barnes, the love interest of Dave.
- Peyton Roi List as Young Becky Barnes.
- Toby Kebbell as Drake Stone, an apprentice-Morganian and celebrity illusionist, who joins forces with Horvath.
- Omar Benson Miller as Bennet Zurrow, Dave's roommate.
- Monica Bellucci as Veronica Gorloisen, a sorceress, and the love interest of Balthazar Blake.
- Alice Krige as Morgana le Fay, the legendary sorceress with frightening dark powers who killed Merlin in AD 740.
- James A. Stephens as Merlin, the legendary wizard killed in AD 740 by Horvath and Morgana.
- Gregory Woo as Sun Lok, a Chinese wizard.
- Nicole Ehinger as Abigail Williams, a witch in the second-to-last layer around the Grimhold, who was accredited for starting the Salem witch trials.
- Robert Capron as Oliver Twistmeyer, Dave Stutler's best friend as a child.
- Ethan Peck as Andre Dunlap
- Sierra, Takoda, Samson, and Bandit from the Howling Woods Farm animal shelter as the wolves.
- Ian McShane as the Narrator.
Awards and Receptions
- Though being nominated in Teen Choice Wards in 2010 as Choice Summer Movies, and a year later, won ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards as Top Box Office Films by Trevor Rabin, the movie itself gained mixed reviews. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 42% based on 163 reviews, with an average score of 5.2/10. The critical consensus is: "It has a likeable cast and loads of CGI spectacle, but for all but the least demanding viewers, The Sorcerer's Apprentice will be less than spellbinding." Another review aggregator, Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating from 0-100 of top reviews from mainstream critics, calculated an average score of 46.
- Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter has said that "The Sorcerer's Apprentice is a tired relic of summer-movie cliches, clearly beaten to death by far too many credited writers." Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert gave the film two and a half stars out of four and wrote "This is a much better film than The Last Airbender, which is faint praise, but it is becoming clear that every weekend brings another heavily marketed action 'comedy' that pounds tens of millions out of consumers before evaporating".
- At the start of the movie it said "NEW YORK CITY 2000", then went to a panoramic view of New York City minus the Twin Towers. Even though they stated the year was 2000 and they did not go down until 2001.
- In the scene where 10 year old Dave chases the note, a 2009-2010 Toyota Camry taxi cab is seen. That taxi model supposedly not exist during that year (2000).
- When Dave is drawing King Kong on the bus window, in one scene his arm is up, when he looks back at Becky it is down but when the camera is on him again it is still in a raised position.
- In the scene when Balthazar and Dave are in Chinatown looking for the Grimhold, Balthazar enters a building to talk to its current owner and encounters Horvath. As Horvath is telling Balthazar that he has released the Chinese sorcerer Sun-lok from the Grimhold, we see him standing behind Balthazar, preparing to attack him with hundreds of accupuncture needles. We see all of the needles float up and out of a doll-like figure on a table as well as some other places. Immediately after the attack, Balthazar runs across the room to the window and the doll is visible with all of the needles back in place. If not count as error then, Balthazar was likely intentionally put them all back to the place they were off-screen after he warned Dave about Sun Lok's hostility.
- When Balthazar is tied to the circular electric device in the lab, the two lines that tie his left hand to it are either close together, crossing over, or far apart, depending on the angle of the scene used.
- When leaving the shop the camera and crane can be seen in the reflection in the shop window.
- When Dave listens to the radio while playing with his "Musical lightning" project, he is clearly standing in a Faraday Cage so to prevent any electric shock. This kind of equipment is also supposed to block any radio signal, which means that his radio would not be able to work as clearly as we can hear. While it is correct that a Faraday cage would block radio signals, there is no reason an external antenna would not be used to bring a radio signal into the cage. This is done all the time by electrical engineers.
- Before the scene with the mops, Dave picks up the can of soda and as he turns away, the heel of his foot sinks into the floor a little. You can tell it's a set, because the "floor" is actually tile.
- When Dave is explaining his plan to defeat Morgana to Becky the audio doesn't match Dave's lips when the camera is shooting behind him.
- In the scene when Dave is checking out the failed transmitter at the radio station, Dave says "the bad news is your return loss - way too high". This is a mistake, as the movie makers got confused between the terms "return loss" and "insertion loss". Dave should have correctly said either "your return loss - way too low" or "your insertion loss - way too high".
- After being released from Grimhold, Morgana is ready to cast "The Rising" spell. She never actually learned it, or even saw the parchment with the spell, since it was Horvath who took it, then left. Afterwards, Morgana is quickly trapped in Grimhold - it means she does not know how to cast this spell, which she actually does like a sorceress supreme. If it was not, she could have learn it from Veronica's memories when she unintentionally across the schematic for The Rising when reading Encantus (giving that she performed the ritual while possessing Veronica).
- Horvath is trapped in the bathroom mirror due to Hungarian Mirror Trap, and after knocking on the mirror from the inside, a boy comes over. You can clearing see that the shadow from the boy's shoulder is falling on Horvath, and when he turns and falls over, if you watch closely, you can see that the boy bumps into Horvath's arm. This is because the boy actor is standing in front of Horvath's actor to achieve the mirror effect.
- Horvath uses the same mirror spell during the car chase that Balthazar used in the bathroom. If that is the case, would never Horvath have been able to bring himself out of the mirror by entering his own reflection as Balthazar and David did in the car? If this not counted as error, reasons were either he forgot how to exit the reverse world or such effort actually requires the significant amount of strength for him to exit the trap by himself (similar with the case when Balthazar manipulated chains, statue, and a large chest near him as makeshift crane to lift himself from a rug that enchanted with Persian Quickrug spell) which explain why Horvath resorts to calling Drake for help.
- In the scene where Horvath tracks the Grimhold and kills the man in the car, he mentions Chinatown. The question is how would he know of the existence of Chinatown and refer to it by its common name after being trapped in the Grimhold and urn for over a hundred years (including 10 years within the Grimhold)? He likely knew this name as before sealed into the Grimhold, he already knew the places that would became the future locations of the Grimhold around the 1840s.