Sunday, July 7, 2013

Monsters University – Early Thoughts

Well I’ve decided to declare it sequel summer for the blog and I will be looking at sequels to films I’ve already reviewed.  So what better place to start than with Pixar’s latest sequel to their 2001 hit movie Monsters Inc.  Please note that this review contains spoilers under the cut.

Now this isn’t a true sequel it’s a prequel to the original film showing how Mike and Sully became the wonderful duo that we see in Monsters Inc.  The story is a pretty typical buddy comedy about the two main leads not getting along at first and have to learn to work together to bring their rag tag team of underdogs to the top and win the competition.  However, I do like the concept of the scare games and a lot of the nice touches to the world of Monster University including some fun new characters.  I also was genuinely surprised that Mike was study hard nerd character in the film since from the look of Randall on the posters I was assuming that role was going to go to him.  Unfortunately I don’t think the film overall was all that special or ground breaking.  That honour goes to the shot film shown with this film The Blue Umbrella.  While the story of a blue umbrella wanting to be with another umbrella isn’t really thinking out of the box I found I really enjoyed the animation style in the short.  With all the faces in the buildings and the music, and that the whole story being told without dialogue.  It really made me wish the major studios would be willing to takes risks and do that with their feature animation too, rather than leaving all that to the indie filmmakers.

That’s not to say that animation in Monsters University is bad it’s not at all.  In fact some of the backgrounds with the depth and texture of the buildings and plants is some of the best, if not the best, I’ve ever seen.  Also I thought the character designs were really great with the fifty-foot tall librarian and especially Dean Hardscrabble.  That combination of dragon and centipede I found legitimately scary, you can see why she is the all-time scare record holder.  I also liked how the whole scary look tied back into the theme of the of there being more than one type of scarer.  That everyone has different strengths and weaknesses that they bring to a team.  I also like that the film shows an interesting angle on the whole follow your dreams trope.  That even with hard work and dedication sometimes that still isn’t enough, and that’s a rare message to see in a movie primarily aimed at children.  I was really happy to see it though, because yes while hard work is crucial to achieving your goals in the real world there often does come times when you have to step and really look at your goal as ask yourself frankly if you can truly achieve it or not.  And for Mike we see that the answer is no he can’t be a scarer no matter how hard he works or how much he wants it.  That scene in the campsite was great and I really liked the whole scaring the adults to get back through the door idea too. 

Finally though I liked that Sully’s cheating at the scare games and Mike’s going through the door had lasting consequences at the end.  When Hardscrabble showed up when Mike and Sully were leaving I honestly expected her to say that they weren’t expelled after all, but no she said that they may have surprised her and that was good, but their bad decisions still stood.  In the end though they still get to Monster’s Inc. via working their way in from the ground up in the mailroom, and I think that leaves the film on a good note.  Showing that there is more than one way to achieve your dream.  The end result might not be quite what Mike wanted or on the timeframe that he wanted, but he still made to the scare floor eventually.  I also thought that ending set up the rivalry with Randall quite nicely too.  Not just that Sully beat him in the scare games, but that Randall is one day going to get beaten at scaring by the guy who used to work in the mailroom.

So overall I have to say that I really enjoyed this film.  Is it right up there with Pixar’s great films?  No, but it’s still a good solid fun movie that I recommend people go see.    

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