The Asylum Studios garnered a reputation early on for producing low budget knock-off titles like Transmorphers and Geo-Disaster. These mockbusters, or tie-ins, as the company prefers, are widely lambasted by the denizens of the interwebs. But the studio hit notoriety in 2013 with a wholly original idea, when Sharknado drew in massive numbers for Syfy. That doesn’t mean The Asylum has abandoned their mockbusting origins. On the contrary, they have got even more ambitious and imaginative.
Avengers Grimm: Time Wars is the third film in The Asylum’s superhero franchise. Avengers Grimm was released in 2015, just before Avengers: Age Of Ultron. In it, Rumpelstiltskin steals the magic mirror from Snow White. He uses its power to open a portal into our world. Snow White, Cinderella, Red (Riding Hood), and (Sleeping) Beauty pursue him. After Rumpelstiltskin’s defeat, the mirror shatters, opening several portals and scattering shards of the magical object across dimensions and time. Sinister Squad, their Suicide Squad tie-in, opens with Alice (In Wonderland) and Goldilocks working for Looking Glass, the FBI of fantasy lands. They track Rumpelstiltskin, who makes a deal with Death to take over the underworld if he can make the witch Carabosse fall in love with the ruler of the afterlife. This leads to various fairytale bad guys such as the Big Bad Wolf and the Queen Of Hearts fending off Death’s minions in the cell blocks of Looking Glass. Always out for himself, Rumpelstiltskin does not fulfill his bargain but becomes ruler anyway.
This is where Avengers Grimm: Time Wars begins. Rumpelstiltskin (Eric Feltes), always scheming, leaves the underworld, due to boredom. This coincides with Magda (Katherine Maya), from Atlantis, and her army tracking down Prince Charming (Michael Marcel), who recently escaped and is trying to get back to Snow White (Lauren Parkinson). This captures the attention of the ever-watchful Alice (Christina Licciardi) and the Hatter (Randall Yarbrough), who now works for her. Teaming up with Red (Elizabeth Eileen) and Beauty (Marah Fairclough), who have been unable to return to their respective homes since the end of their first adventure together, they must save Charming and discover Rumpelstiltskin’s ulterior motives. Magda tricks the fairytale–based heroes and uses the assembled parts of the magic mirror to send them back in time. They get flung to the Middle Ages and now must find a way to open a new portal and get back home. They must do this before Rumpelstiltskin convinces Charming to wed the evil princess.
“…they must do this before Rumpelstiltskin convinces Charming to wed the evil princess.”
Jeremy M. Inman wrote all three adventures, having directed the first two as well. Avengers Grimm was a solid, fun entry with an epic scope but has acting issues and plotholes. Sinister Squad had less resources, being largely confined to prison cells and offices, but was the more lively directorial effort and displayed a better understanding of the fairytale-action mixture. Maximilian Elfeldt directs Avengers Grimm: Time Wars to a happy medium, so this is the most fulfilling outing in this interconnected universe.
“What if I told you fairytales are real? Imagine endless realms of terrible wonders. Each and every reality beyond our own is linked. A vast multiverse of grim forces and sinister reflections…” So begins Alice’s voiceover catching any new viewers up to speed and tying not just the three movies directly together but also incorporating every single fantasy movie The Asylum has made into the fold. From their non-fairytale based Dragon Crusaders to the pseudo-steampunk Jack The Giant Killer to their dwarf-less Grimm’s Snow White and the perfection of Sleeping Beauty, and all the others not named. It is a thrillingly edited sequence which signals an intense, enchanting momentum that the movie never loses.
An action beat that sees several Atlantean soldiers fight the trio of main heroes, and introduces the brutal fighting style of Prince Charming, is quite exciting. But it is Red’s solo fights, hiding in the trees, sniping enemies, lining up her bow and arrow to hit multiple targets at once that prove to be the most intense. Perhaps that is because this occurs after they are scattered through time, so the stakes are higher. Maybe it is because Elizabeth Eileen is having a blast in the role. It might be due to the way the scene is shot, as Elfeldt’s camera blocking utilizes the sets very well. Relying on more than the standard medium and wide shots, with clever use of arc movements to give a sense of urgency and highlight the rather splendid set design.
Due to the low budget, highly ambitious project this is, there are a few issues. One of the first scenes is the emergence of the merpeople from the ocean onto land. The CGI, created by Aaron Witlin and Sasha Burrow, is a bit stiff, but that isn’t a huge issue. Mainly, the problem is that the various battalions coming forth are such an obvious cut and paste job because the delineation between each group shows due to motion blur at the top edges of each line. But the use of CGI for the spells is impressive.
“…the creativity on display within Inman’s adept script…proves to be infectious amounts of fun.”
Given the limited means available, Areayl Cooper’s costume designs are stellar. The seashell-inspired armor and weaponry of the merfolk have an unreal, twisted look to them, meshing nicely with the fantasy elements. The special effects make-up, by Denise M. Chavez, is also quite good, with Magda’s gills being the standout.
In Avengers Grimm Casper Van Dien portrayed Rumpelstiltskin, and he made for a fun villain. Johnny Rey Diaz took over for the next installment and brought a manic, cartoonish energy to the character. Eric Feltes’s turn as the conniving trickster is enjoyable and charming but more subdued than Diaz’s take. It works for the long con being played storywise though. Parkinson returns to the role of Snow and she is much better here than in the first movie. She has a more authoritative screen presence and sells the magical mumbo-jumbo more believably than before. Briefly mentioned already, Elizabeth Eileen (credited as Elizabeth Peterson in the first movie) is terrific. Fierce, funny, a total badass, she makes the character 100% her own.
Yarbrough reprises his role as the Hatter and proves to have excellent comedic timing. Also coming back from Sinister Squad is Licciardi as Alice. Her quippy but serious demeanor is very entertaining. Fairclough, once again as Beauty, delivers a strong performance. As Charming Marcel is thoroughly charming and fun. His smooth, deep voice is soothing, and he ably carries off the action. Katherine Maya is over the top as Magda, which makes her more creepy and crazy.
If you don’t like other titles by The Asylum Studios, Avengers Grimm: Time Wars will not change your mind. Some of the dialogue is cheesy, the effects are obvious, and it is a tie-in. But the creativity on display within Inman’s adept script, combined with Elfeldt’s slick direction, proves to be infectious amounts of fun. The set design and costumes all add layers to the fantasy realms, while the acting grounds it all.
Avengers Grimm: Time Wars (2018) Directed by Maximilian Elfeldt. Written by Jeremy M. Inman. Starring Lauren Parkinson, Michael Marcel, Christina Licciardi, Elizabeth Eileen, Marah Fairclough, and Katherine Maya.