MENU

Review
Tag Archive

Incredibles 2 Film Review: Supers Are Definitely Back in the Spotlight

Brad Bird, Incredibles 2, Review, The Incredibles, The Incredibles 2

Posted by Nia • June 11, 2018

A lot has changed since The Incredibles was released in cinemas way back in November 2004. First of all, like so many others my age, I’ve basically grown up within that time frame; graduating high school, surviving college, and taking the biggest risk of my life as I stuffed my car to the brim with everything I owned and moved across the country to fulfill my dreams, crossing my fingers and toes I was making the right decision. Obviously a lot has changed in the film industry too, and yes, I’m talking about the elephant in the room: the Box Office monster that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There have literally been hundreds, no, millions of superhero movies made in the last 14 years. So much that I’ve stopped shouting, “ANOTHER ONE?” whenever I see a trailer or hear rumors about the next Thor VS. Iron Man installment; instead I just sit there, defeated, and accept the fact these movies are just never going to end.

©2017 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Despite all that, the Incredibles 2 somehow still seems refreshing. Seeing Bob, Helen, Dash, Violet, and Jack-Jack on screen again felt like I was reuniting with my long-lost relatives; the ones I saw only once when I was a kid but always somehow managed to keep in touch with throughout the years. The same relatives I never thought I’d see again but we miraculously found a way to coordinate a date where everyone was available. And even though the reunion was only for a few hours, the reminiscing was unforgettable and even more memories were made together.

Brad Bird takes the helm again as both writer and director of the Incredibles 2. Most of the original cast returns, Craig T. Nelson as Bob, Holly Hunter as Helen, Samuel L. Jackson as Frozone, etc., save for Spencer Fox, who voiced Dash in the original, and Bud Luckey. Unfortunately Bud Luckey passed away earlier this year, so Jonathan Banks stepped in to voice the iconic Rick Dicker.

The sequel starts right where the first one left off, with the Underminer bursting through the concrete parking lot on his massive mining machine, threatening the innocent people of Metroville. C’mon, you didn’t think they’d let the Underminer not get at least a few more minutes on screen? Despite some hiccups during the opening sequence, like the family fighting over who gets to actually save the day and who’s stuck babysitting Jack-Jack, they barely manage to stop the Underminer from destroying the city center. Frozone even pops in at the last minute to help out. The Parr’s barely have time to celebrate their first real success as a superhero family before they’re apprehended by the police and thrown into an interrogation room. It turns out the world isn’t ready to have supers helping them again and they bring up a good point: if the Parr’s never helped in the first place, there’d be less damage to clean up and the officers could follow protocol to get things back to normal. Who knew everything the Underminer stole was insured?

The family has no home to return to, since it was destroyed at the end of the first film, and they’re soon relocated to a modest hotel with the help of their old pal Rick Dicker. But they can only stay in the hotel for two weeks; Dicker’s Super Relocation Program is shutting down, so it was the least he could do for the family before he’s forced into retirement. Once the two weeks are up, the family will be on their own, which means one of them is going to have to get a job in the real world again to support their family. Bob shudders at the thought of returning to a cramped desk, we all know how well that turned out in the last film, but Helen is quick to offer her help and seems eager at doing something more with her life. Bob dismisses Helen’s offer and as the couple fight over who’s turn it is to support the children, they’re interrupted by Frozone, who slithers into the scene from the shadows. He gives them a business card from tycoon and superhero enthusiast Winston Deavor (voiced by Bob Odenkirk) and tells them to suit-up; Deavor wants to chat with the trio at his headquarters. Could this be another reconnaissance mission? Or a top secret assignment that’s only worthy of a superhero? Bob nearly rips his shirt off in excitement, but Helen backs away, cautious after literally being thrown in jail that same day.

Despite the mixed feelings, they all head to Deavor’s gorgeous high-rise building downtown. He greets them like old friends, showering them with praise and nostalgia as he explains his history with superheroes and how much their legacy means to his family. We’re even introduced to Winston’s sister, Evelyn Deavor (voiced by Catherine Keener), as she stumbles through the doors of his office, nearly dropping all of her paperwork and blueprints and other mysterious documents. Winston is the face of the company, the businessman, while his sister is the one who designs everything behind the scenes. Winston then gives a presentation to the trio, detailing how they want superheroes legal again. But how are they going to achieve this goal? With the help of Helen AKA Elastigirl, obviously. Of course Bob is flabbergasted – he’s Mr. Incredible, the strongest and “manliest” superhero in that room, it should be him bringing superheroes back into the spotlight. But he also causes the most damage, which is the laws biggest complaint against supers. Elastigirl, on the other hand, is sleek and tidy; Evelyn’s research even proves Elastigirl’s damage numbers are way less than Bob’s.

©2018 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

When Helen finally accepts her new job, it almost seems too good to be true for the Parr family. Not only does Helen get to suit up like old times, but the Parr’s are quickly moved into a new gorgeous mid-century modern home, complete with fancy gadgets and waterfalls. Everyone seems to be content with where things are going and ready for the challenges ahead. Of course that all changes once Helen leaves and Bob is stuck with the children and his new role as Dad. As Helen fights crime, stopping trains from derailing and helicopters from crashing, Bob is stuck at home dealing with Violet’s pubescent rage, Dash’s ridiculous math homework, and the discovery of Jack-Jack’s new never-ending powers. The more Helen rises in popularity, garnering interviews and news specials on TV, the more Bob struggles – seething with jealously and nearly exploding due to his lack of sleep and rising stress levels. It’s not that easy for Helen though, she’s soon faced with conflicts of her own as a new villain, the Screenslaver, starts provoking her on missions. The Screenslaver is able to manipulate people from their screens – be it TV’s or glasses, and if you look into the hypnotic light for even a second then you’ll be under their spell. As the Screenslaver puts more and more people in danger through their manipulation, Helen struggles with finding out who’s behind this facade and is thrown off kilter each time they make an appearance. The more Helen’s superhero fame rises, the louder Screenslaver gets and the more elaborate their plans become.

Will Helen defeat the Screenslaver? Will supers be accepted again? And most importantly, will Bob be able to learn how to do math homework while somehow helping Violet with her boy troubles?

©2018 Disney•Pixar. All Rights reserved.

©2018 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

©2018 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

I’m usually not a fan of sequels, I think they’re almost always unnecessary and only made to benefit the studio executives, forcing beloved characters into contrived situations because it’s what the public demands. The Incredibles 2 still worked and the film is a solid sequel but it’s just that, a second installment, a DLC added to the main story-line of a popular video game. Although I had a lot of fun watching the sequel I didn’t leave feeling as inspired or blown away as I did after watching the first one, and I’m actually OK with that.

I really enjoyed the fact the sequel explored more of the Parr’s family dynamics. It was great being able to see the family interact more, how they worked together at home and out in the field, how they showed their love for each other in unique ways, and even how they managed to get around their conflicts when they butted heads. Although I’m not a parent, Bob’s struggle to be a good Dad and take care of his family was still relatable; from staying up to the wee hours of the morning trying to figure out how to help Dash with his homework to going out of his way to help Violet with some personal struggles, it brought me back to my youth and my own relationship with my parents. I also enjoyed that the roles were so obviously reversed – that alone created enough conflict to carry the entire film. Helen being in the spotlight, receiving praise for her powers and abilities to save the day was a refreshing change. Her role in the sequel seems to have come at the right moment. I loved the conflict between Helen in the spotlight and Bob stuck at home, gutted that it’s not him getting all the glory. I’m glad Brad Bird decided to show that side of Bob, as it only makes him more human and empathetic. Without spoiling anything, I’d also like to say that Jack-Jack and Edna Mode steal the entire film. Edna was always my favorite, but I have a newfound respect for her after this. If Pixar announced tomorrow that there’s going to be an Incredibles 3 but it would only focus on the relationship between Jack-Jack and Edna then I wouldn’t even be mad, in fact, I’d start throwing my money at them right now. The pair deserves their own film series ASAP.

©2018 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

©2018 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

The characters and story are one thing, but the Incredibles 2 wouldn’t soar without Michael Giacchino returning to his classic score and the overall design and animation seen throughout the film. With every Pixar film, there is so much detail thrown into every single shot. Artists spend months researching and designing elements on screen so that it can look as realistic as possible by the time it’s projected in cinemas. From the immaculate mid-century modern home the Parr’s move into, the lighting in the city as Elastigirl sits on top of a roof surveying the area, the detail on every single piece of clothing that the characters wear, the animation when Bob finally succumbs to the pressures of parenthood, and all the ridiculous explosions and special effects; this film is gorgeous and stands up to Pixar’s motto: “The art challenges the technology, and the technology inspires the art.” I don’t even question the way a Pixar film looks on screen anymore, at this point I’m just expecting to be staring at the screen in awe, with my mouth agape at how they treat the water in the oceans, the clouds in the sky, and the dirt in the ground.

With that being said, the Incredibles 2 still had its issues, and most of it revolved around the script. The film is nearly two hours long and it definitely felt like it. The film started off with a big bang but when it got to the second act the spark started to fade away, so by the time the film was over I was almost relieved. Finally, we got there! The pacing lagged and it didn’t feel natural, in turn that made the ending feel clunky and forced; as if the outcome had to happen because Brad Bird was running out of time and needed to wrap things up. Without giving away important twists and turns in the story, I still wish the stakes were upped more in terms of how Helen was going to make supers legal again. Everything felt so easy, and besides the superhero legacy, nothing else was really at stake for Helen. If Helen failed, then what’s the worst thing that could’ve happened? Return home to Bob? The Screenslaver was an interesting villain, powerful and manipulative, but the character was flat and one dimensional. Until the face behind Screenslaver is revealed, the character only feels like they were thrown into the picture to add that random conflict for Helen. The reveal could’ve been better executed, making that realization even more gut-wrenching and maybe less predictable.

Although the Incredibles 2 was far from perfect, I still got to enjoy some heartwarming moments, great laughs, amazing action sequences that pushed animation technology to even greater places, and on top of that, I got to spend time with some of my favorite characters. Who says every movie released by Pixar has to be mind-blowing or change the animation industry? Who says every film has to be as good as the first? Why can’t it just be a solid sequel and help us escape for a few hours from the horrors of the real world? If you’re looking for that distraction, then definitely check out the Incredibles 2, which bursts into cinemas this Friday.

Read article

Spoiler Free Review: Pixar’s Bao Is A Delicious And Heartwarming Treat

Bao, Domee Shi, Review, Short Film, Shorts

Posted by Nia • April 23, 2018

Earlier this month I was one of the first audiences to watch Pixar’s new theatrical short Bao. I’ve had a lot of time to think about the film since then, and I’m still 100% certain it might be one of my favorite shorts to come from the studio.

Bao is directed by Domee Shi and she just so happens to be the first female to direct a short film at Pixar. Although that fact alone is unnerving, considering the studio has been around for 30+ years and their Brain Trust has been notoriously male dominated; it’s inspiring to see the studio finally moving forward and giving others the opportunity to tell their stories.

Domee was born in China and raised in Toronto, which heavily influenced the setting and aesthetics for Bao. Domee is only 28-years-old and landed a Job at Pixar after graduating from college in 2011. Before her directorial debut, Domee was a story artist and had worked on The Good Dinosaur and most recently Inside Out.

(Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar)

Bao’s initial story started over 4 years ago – while working on Inside Out Domee was feeling that itch to make something herself, a film that was ultimately weird and uniquely hers. Domee had initially intended for the short to be her weekend gig, but when Pixar had an open call for short pitches, she decided to throw her story into the mix and see what would happen.

She first pitched it to Pete Docter, the director of Inside Out, Up, and Monsters Inc., to get his feedback. He was so passionate about the story and enthusiastic about her idea that she decided to pitch it to the studio. And obviously through their support and feedback Bao was green-lit as their next theatrical short.

Bao tells the story of a Chinese mother who’s dealing with an all too familiar feeling among parents: figuring out what to do with their life after their children have grown up and moved out. The empty nest syndrome soon evaporates when the mother discovers that one of the dumpling’s she’s about to eat suddenly springs to life. She’s given another chance at parenthood as she watches her baby dumpling grow up in the world around her. As the story progresses the mother realizes that what she wished stayed precious and innocent soon matures and grows bigger and “doesn’t stay cute forever.”

©2018 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

©2018 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Without giving anything away, here’s what I absolutely adored about the short:

  • As with most of Pixar’s shorts, the entire film was done without any dialogue. There’s always so much that can be said with a glance or a simple touch that 10+ pages of dialogue can never achieve. There were so many precious and heartbreaking moments throughout the short between the mother and her baby dumpling that were conveyed beautifully through the animation, lighting, and overall character design. I don’t think I can even picture this film with even one line of dialogue.
  • The character designs were unique and definitely stood out from previous Pixar films. The characters depicted in the short, from the mother to some of the other human people she interacted with, had massive heads that were un-proportioned to their bodies, sort of like living breathing caricatures. While watching I sometimes wondered how these characters were able to keep balance and walk from one room to the other without tipping over. The overall design of the baby dumpling was both scrumptious and adorable, even when it got older and started growing a little scruff around its chin.
  • I loved the fact that FOOD was the star of this short. OK, baby dumpling aside, there were so many gorgeous close-ups of noodles and vegetables and delicious Chinese desserts that my mouth was watering for the duration of the short; I even had to look around to see if anyone heard my stomach grumbling. The amount of detail that went into the food was mind-blowing – there’s a scene towards the middle of the short when the mother prepares an epic feast for her and the baby dumpling and I still can’t get over the steam rising from the food as it sat on the table, waiting to be eaten.
  • I loved that we were able to be immersed in a different culture, albeit only being for 8-minutes. In Sanjay’s Super Team, the short that played in front of The Good Dinosaur back in 2015, we got a unique look into Sanjay Patel’s childhood and the Hindu traditions of his family. And the same happens in Bao as we experienced an inside look at Domee’s own relationship with her mother as she depicted the Chinese customs she was familiar with growing up.
  • Bao’s story was simple and effective; despite it focusing on Chinese characters and their culture, the messages and heavy themes depicted were universal. In Coco, the film relied on it’s story being told through Miguel and his Mexican culture, but the themes of death and importance of family heritage were both prominent and relatable to everyone all over the world. With Bao, the same can be said with the mother and her Chinese background but the themes of struggling to deal with an empty-nest and accepting your child will one day grow up could be understood by people from all walks of life. I’m not a parent, but I could relate to everything the mother went through based off when I first moved away from home.

Bao is also important to me because my family are immigrants. I was born in the United States but my Grandparents immigrated to the U.S. from Greece in WWII to escape the Nazi occupation. I’ve seen similar tales told in live action, but now with the help of Bao, Coco, and Sanjay’s Super Team, it’s helping those types of stories become accepted in the world of animation. I’d love to see more unique films come from the studio moving forwards and I only hope they’re giving more opportunities to talented artists like Domee Shi and Sanjay Patel so that they can tell stories about their families and life experiences.

I really can’t wait for you to see Bao in cinemas June 15th! Keep your eyes peeled for an upcoming post about the making of Bao, complete with more story and design inspiration.

Read article

Exclusive: Our Thoughts On The First 30 Minutes Of The Incredibles 2

Brad Bird, Incredibles 2, Review, The Incredibles, The Incredibles 2

Posted by Nia • April 18, 2018

I had the pleasure of watching the first 30 minutes of the Incredibles 2 at Pixar Animation Studios earlier this month. I’ve dreamed about visiting Pixar since I was a wee lass, imagining what it would feel like to walk through the atrium that’s nestled snugly in Emeryville and breathe the same air as some of my favorite storytellers. Don’t worry, there’s a separate post coming about visiting the studio for the first time. But in short, I honestly never thought I’d ever get to watch a film at one of my favorite places on earth.

(Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar)

I had goosebumps walking into the the screening theater in the Steve Jobs building and I might’ve (OK, I definitely) had tears in my eyes and the biggest smile on my face as the lights slowly turned off before the film. The ceiling then lit up and at first glance it looked like little fireflies were floating above us, as magical soft buzzing filled the theater. At that point I had died and gone to heaven.

Then without hesitation, the Incredibles 2 began. Tread lightly for some minor spoilers.

It’s been 14 years since we were last with the Parr family and the action started just where it left off. I was hit with a wave of nostalgia as I was greeted with the familiar faces of Mr. Incredible, Elastigirl, Violet, Dash, Jack-Jack and even Frozone as they teamed up to fight against the Underminer in a stunning opening battle; it was almost like we had never parted.

I spent the night before my trip re-watching The Incredibles, so obviously the most jarring aspect for me was how stunning the characters and the world looked with the new technology. The super-suits were gorgeous and fit the characters bodies just right; their hair and facial expressions and all the visual effects were jaw-droppingly gorgeous and realistic. The action was also fast-paced and I barely had a moment to breathe as the family found unique ways to put the Underminer to a stop before he completely destroyed the city.

©2018 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Though, it turns out the people of Metroville weren’t very keen on the Parr family helping to save the day. In fact the officers who apprehended the family after they thwarted the Underminer’s plans were convinced that if they had simply done nothing, there would have been less damage to the city. It’s clear the public is still not interested in supers or what they could do for the world.

Rick Dicker, who is head of the Super Relocation Program and helped the Parr’s out in The Incredibles, makes a few cameos in the first 15 minutes. Dicker shows up to help the Parr family for the last time, as his program is now disbanded. The family is left at a dingy hotel to try and figure out what to do with their lives. How are they going to move forward? It’s hard for them to accept everything at first, surely Bob and Helen aren’t going to return to their mediocre civilian lives, not after Bob left his boring job in the first film and the family got to use their powers out in the open after years of secrecy?

Cue Frozone, who appears just at the right moment. He offers a shiny beacon of hope to Helen and Bob: a business card from Winston Deavor, tycoon and superhero enthusiast, with an invitation to come meet him at his headquarters. The other catch? He wants them dressed in their old super-suits. Bob is ecstatic, and nearly bursts through the walls of the hotel to find it, but Helen is cautious after their most recent kerfuffle with the law.

We then meet Winston at his massive high-rise building (which definitely left me with my mouth hanging open). We’re also introduced to his sister, Evelyn Deavor, who makes an entrance as she stumbles through the doors of his office with heaps of paperwork. Winston is the face of the company while his sister is the one who designs everything behind the scenes; she’s the one responsible for Elastigirl’s sleek new motorcycle and a slew of other nifty high tech gadgets. #GirlPower

 

 

©2018 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

©2018 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Winston gives a presentation to the trio about how he wants to bring supers back into the spotlight and that Helen AKA Elastigirl is the woman for the job. It takes a lot of convincing from Bob, but Helen finally accepts. The rest of the footage from the press event showcased Helen as she was thrown into the spotlight, trying to make a living for her family while also being the new face of the superhero renaissance (complete with an impressive runaway train/chase sequence). We got a more detailed look inside the Parr’s new home, courtesy of Winston. Goodbye sad hotel, hello gorgeous mid-century modern mansion! There were also a few scenes that highlighted some of Jack-Jack’s strengths as he faced off against a new enemy.

30 minutes is obviously not a lot of time to judge a film, and despite it leaving off in a pretty safe place, who knows where the story will go or what will happen to some of the characters along the way. The first half hour set up the characters perfectly and what you think will happen for the remainder of the story. It’s still unclear what trouble Helen is going to come across in her attempt to make a good name for supers or if Winston and Evelyn are as good as they appear to be. Also, is Bob going to be able to cope with being a stay-at-home dad and take care of his family? I’m curious to see how the new villian Screenslaver, who appeared in the most recent trailer, will come into play.

There’s only one way to find out though… iron your good ol’ super-suit and fly to cinemas on June 15th! If you can’t possibly wait until then, just keep re-watching the trailer below (like me):

And make sure you come back for some more coverage from my most recent trip to Pixar!

Read article

Piper: A Mini-Review

Alan Barillaro, Andrew Stanton, Angus Maclane, Finding Dory, Piper, Review

Posted by Nia • June 15, 2016

Piper is a short film directed by Alan Barillaro and plays before Finding Dory. It’s definitely one of the more simplistic shorts from the studio as it depicts the struggles of a sandpiper hatchling trying to catch food without the help of its mother. As the bird finds out, it’s not as easy as it looks. It’s a sweet little film about learning how to be independent, acknowledging the environment around you, and facing your fears; no matter how silly they may be.

One of the most charming aspects about this film is the amount of detail that was put into it and the fact that it’s told without dialogue. Piper is the cutest little bird, and even her ruffled feathers have character. I loved hearing during the press junket last week about the research trips that director Alan Barillaro and crew would go on in order to capture sandpipers in their natural habitat. The team would get down and dirty in the sand, waiting for hours for the birds to appear, and even submerging go-pros in the water to get the look they wanted for their desired shots. This film has so much energy and that’s in part to the overall cinematography and direction. Piper is full of macro-photography and photo-realism, as we get up close and personal with the hatchling in her environment. The music is also short, simple, and keeps the story moving with its fast tempo. The score was composed by famed guitarist and vocalist Adrian Belew.

Check out the little teaser below to get a sense of what to expect come Friday when Finding Dory is released.

Read article

Film Review: Finding Dory is Swimming In Nostalgia

Andrew Stanton, Angus Maclane, Finding Dory, Finding Nemo, Review

Posted by Nia • June 15, 2016

finding_dory

It’s certainly been a while since we were immersed in the gorgeously depicted deep blue sea, traveling across the ocean with Marlin and Dory while being cradled with Thomas Newman’s score throughout the arduous journey. As soon as the lights faded in the cinema, the Disney/Pixar logos took over the screen, I was instantly submerged with nostalgia as the ever-familiar score filled the room.

Finding Nemo is one of the most important films in the studio’s history, it changed everything about the animation industry back in 2003. The film had a refreshingly original story while being paired with breathtaking visuals and technology; it was only a little glimpse of the wonder and excitement that Pixar would bring us with future films. Since then, audiences begged and pestered Pixar – interrogating the filmmakers if they’re going to throw a sequel in the production lineup anytime soon. Even Ellen DeGeneres jumped on the campaign, begging the studio to make a film solely based on her beloved Dory. Lo and behold, in 2013, it was Ellen herself who announced the sequel on her talk show. We all waited, rather impatiently, these last three years for the film to wrap up production.

It’s safe to say that Pixar is back at it again, in their 17th feature film, with Finding Dory. Although it’s not as perfect as the first film, with the clunky plot and pacing, the sequel still holds up as a separate film in the studio’s legacy.

As we all know, Finding Dory is a story that focuses on Dory herself. At the start of the film we’re immediately introduced to a baby tang fish, with adorably large eyes. We soon find out it’s Dory and she’s been plagued with short term memory loss since she was a child. “But what if I forget you?” Dory asks her parents (voiced by Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy), who look on reassuringly, comforting their daughter that nothing like that will ever happen. Flash forward to Dory in the present day, a mere one year after it’s predecessor. Dory somehow got separated from her family as a child and has spent the last few years of her life looking, or in her case, continuously forgetting about them until running into Marlin; thus starting the events of the previous film.

When Dory suddenly remembers her parents after a word triggers a memory (a constant occurrence in this film) it sets out her motivation to track them down and reunite with her family. Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo (Hayden Rolence) agree to accompany Dory. Marlin is reluctant for Dory to set off on this pilgrimage, reminiscent of Marlin’s cautiousness with letting Nemo explore his curiosity in the first film. Dory relies on her newfound memories to track down her parents, which leads her to traveling across the ocean to California. The trio, in what feels like the blink of an eye, zip through the ocean on a current and reach the outskirts of Monterey Bay Aquarium.

After Dory is split up from Marlin and Nemo, the two witness Dory being taken by researchers and carried away to the nearby aquarium. Inside, Dory meets a colorful cast of new characters ranging from Hank the octopus (Ed O’Neill), Destiny the whale shark (Kaitlin Olson), and Bailey the beluga whale (Ty Burrell). Nemo and Marlin also encounter a pair of lazy British sea lions (Idris Elba and Dominic West) as they try to figure out how they’re going to get into the aquarium to save Dory. Without giving away any of the key plot points or spoiling the ending, the remainder of the film follows Dory as she attempts to track down her family while adhering to the limitations of getting from one location to the other in the aquarium. Does Dory find her family? Are Nemo and Marlin able to reunite with her? What do the other characters offer in relation to Dory’s story of being reunited with her family?

finding-dory-octopus

What worked: 

Pixar’s motto has always been, “The art challenges the technology, and the technology inspires the art.” With each new film released from the studio, it’s hard not to realize something spectacular with the designs in the film and the story itself. With Finding Dory, it’s like we’ve been blessed with a new HD TV and we’re re-watching our favorite movies on the device. The world still looks the same and is familiar, but it’s even more photo-realistic; the colors are brighter, the picture clearer, and the environments are more defined. There was a shot towards the middle of the film which showcased Nemo and Marlin floating towards the top of the ocean; the light from the sun on the surface was hitting the water just right and their reflections could be seen from the surface as the water moved back and forth. It was absolutely breathtaking. The setting in the film was a character all in its own; living and breathing and affecting the story.

The aquarium itself is one of Dory’s main motivations and an exciting new setting to explore in the film. There are different areas that she has to travel to when she’s inside, and each object or phrase that triggers a memory for Dory helps her put together the fragments of her past to reach her family. Every new location within the aquarium has it’s own style, while also offering larger obstacles for Dory to get through to her goal. The best location was definitely the ever so friendly pet zone, where children were able to stick their hands rather viciously into the water feeling the different types of fish inside.

It was nice to get a fair share of familiar faces from Mr. Ray and his knowledgeable tunes, to Crush the chillest turtle in the deep blue sea. We also got to meet some of our new favorite Pixar characters in Dory’s quest. It’s safe to say that Hank the octopus is now one of Pixar’s most stunning characters. He moves around so gracefully, even when lurking in the shadows. His character design is distinctive and lovable; Ed O’Neill’s work also makes it easy to fall in love with him. Hank is a key player in Dory’s story, she’s introduced to him almost instantly after finding herself deep in the aquarium. Hank agrees to help Dory find her family knowing that she is the key to him finally leaving the institution. Hank is a big curmudgeon at first, as these type of characters often are, but the more he spends time with Dory, the more his heart(s) turn into gold.

In a recent press junket UP was invited to, Stanton himself mentioned that Hank couldn’t have been achieved had this film been made in 2003, or at least, he wouldn’t have been as effectively depicted as he was in the sequel. It’s true. Hank’s skin glistened, his tentacles moved effortlessly as he crawled across the stage, and it felt like at any moment he could burst through the screen. The modern technology has certainly helped Andrew Stanton and his crew tell a better story, and one no one could have told back it in 2003. Even having the majority of the action taking place in an aquarium offered some big challenges; the largest one being all of the new sets and massive crowd shots.

Thomas Newman’s score also helps tie everything together. He most certainly works well with Andrew Stanton, as he successfully composed the last two of his films at Pixar. Newman captured some of the most tender moments of the film so perfectly; his score helping move the plot along and hitting us emotionally at the right moments. Newman’s music is filled with a sense of wonder and familiarity; the perfect theme tune for an adventure into the unknown.

finding-dory

What didn’t work:

It was certainly great being back in familiar waters and reuniting with old friends, but the magic from the first film was lost somewhere in the transition. Throughout Finding Dory, there was really no sense of wonder. Sure, the technology is better than it was in 2003, the backgrounds were more realistic, the character models were upgraded, the allure from the first film was attempted several times; but it still somehow fell flat. Everything seemed incredibly easier this time around. It took Dory, Marlin, and Nemo mere seconds to cross the ocean and stumble on the supposed aquarium from her youth. Everything was too simple, the obstacles were almost repetitive, and certain elements in the story felt like they were added without motivation. The film certainly relied too heavily on the nostalgia of the first film, but even that didn’t work since Dory and Marlin’s chemistry somehow lacked this second time around.

Dory was one of the most important elements of Finding Nemo, she was the sidekick, the supporting character who kept the plot moving forward; who offered something new to the story that affected the major players. Marlin and Nemo were the supporting characters in the sequel, and their struggles with each other as a family came across dull at times.

Despite some of the obvious flaws in the story, Finding Dory does leave you feeling rewarded at the end. You get to watch Dory become stronger and a better person during her journey. You emphasize with Dory’s sense of belonging, her desire to find her family. You’re rooting for her all the way until the end. It’s an inspiring sequel that gives you the courage to fight on, no matter what type of obstacles get in the way; no matter who tells you what you can’t do; no matter what type of disability may set things off kilter; you just need to keep swimming. Dory helps us get through the day, and it’s hard not to ask yourself when times get tough, what would Dory do?

Finding Dory hits theaters this Friday.

 

 

Read article