Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Movie Review: "Equestria Girls" (2013)

A while back I wrote a piece entitled “What’s the big deal about Ponies?” In that piece, I talked about a television show that I had recently gotten into, entitled “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic” and how I felt that it was a near perfect children’s show that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. 

That even though it’s show clearly aimed for little girls and features brightly colored ponies as its main cast, there is enough witty and clever humor, writing and morals for it to be enjoyed by anyone.

Well, like any other successful children’s show, like Power Rangers and Transformers, the program has now garnered it’s own movie, “My Little Pony: Equestria Girls.” The key difference with this product though is that the same people who created the television show were also the ones to create this film.

From the beginning, the creative team made it clear that this would not only be a continuation of the show’s story, but also have enough substance to create a spin-off show, which would have the same cast but they would be humans instead of ponies. Granted, this was all the Hasbro toy-line’s idea to create new ways to sell toys and dolls, but let’s look past that since the creative team had nothing to do with that.

As a fan of the show, it’s strange watching the film since it retells the story of the first two episodes, except with the main cast now being oddly colored humans going to high school. It’s done in much of the same style as the show, with the writing style still being crisp and clever, but the animation style is jarring to watch.

For those unaware, “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic” uses a flash animation-like style, with many distinct colors and quick movements. In a show about ponies, some of whom can fly or use magic, this kind of animation style suits the off-the-wall comedy and sets the tone for the colorful and quirky world. 

However, when it becomes humans instead, the animation doesn’t quite fit. Characters attempt to move like humans, but they try to keep the same energy and style of their pony counterparts. Thus watching them even walk feels awkward and clunky. 

Normally I’d give a short description of the plot, but to do so I’d also need to explain three seasons worth of plot points. To describe it rather briefly, the main character in the show, Twilight Sparkle, has be chosen to go on a quest into an alternate world to retrieve a magical crown. In this world, she is transformed from a pony into a human and must learn how to act in this brave new world before another corrupted pony uses the crown for her own selfish needs.

The question I’m left pondering is, if you’re not a fan of the show, would you like the film? 

There are many jokes that only people who have watched the show will get, like the first time Fluttershy introduces herself to Twilight or a reference to Pinkie Pie’s “Party Cannon.”

Fans of the show will love little in-jokes like that, but non-fans will just scratch their heads. Still, there is plenty of humor for all sorts of people, like Twilight trying to act like a human, so those who have never watched an episode won’t be left out in the rain.

What I enjoyed the most about the film was something new to the series: the villain, Sunset Shimmer. The creative team could have easily made her the stereotypical snobby popular girl, but instead chose to give her an interesting parallel to our protagonist. 

She was raised on the same principals as Twilight and tutored by the same god-like pony. The key difference is that Sunset never made any friends, because she was so absorbed with the power she wielded. Twilight eventually became one of the most powerful and well-respected ponies in the land, and Sunset was shunned.

Sunset represents what Twilight could have been if she didn’t accept elements of kindness, generosity, honesty and others into her life, choosing to use her powers to inspire instead of conquer. Sunset not only strengths Twilight’s character, but makes for a cool but unique villain.

As such, I feel there is enough substance here for non-fans to enjoy the film. The writing is still crisp as the show, even if a little clunky at times, the humor is typically solid and the morals still ring true. However, the animation style doesn’t fit with most of the character actions and there are quite a few moments that come off as hooky.

Honestly, “My Little Pony: Equestria Girls” just feels like a watered-down version of the show. Instead of watching this film, I’d recommend just watching a couple really good episodes.

For fans of the show, watch it for all the little neat and cute references. For non-fans, watch it if you’re not too sure about show. Maybe this film will give you the incentive to watch a 20% cooler program...

...Now you know why I don’t like putting in references in my reviews.

Final Grade: C

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