|Feb. 16th, 2014 @ 04:51 pm Monster's University|
I liked it a lot, thought all of it was done well, became immersed in it more than most other films, but didn't experience a spark that made me go "wow, this is amazing". I was actively clapping at several of the high points of the film. But I didn't run out wanting to explore all the interesting things about it.
I think it's one of the best prequels I've ever seen. It was about as good as Monsters Inc: better in many way, but didn't quite have the same scope.
It's hard to do a good prequel. Specifically it:
- Was at least as enjoyable as the original film
- Was about the main characters from that film, rather than something else entirely
- Added to the characters and the world, that amplify and improve what was in the original, without changing or contradicting or undermining it
- Leads naturally into the situation in the next film without being forced
- Could probably be watched sensibly in either order.
I find it hard to think of any other films that manage that.
The character interactions
The character interactions were very good. Partly because it needed to fit the characters from the later film, the characters felt fresher than most university films, and when they lusted for something, or compromised on something, or made a mistake it felt like it was genuinely the thing they'd do in that situation, rather than doing what the plot called for.
Lots of "enemies become friends" films feel forced: this felt quite natural.
Likewise, lots of "team of misfits become good" feel contrived: here it genuinely felt like they were trying hard, and applying the talents they had, and were lucky to make it work, but deserved their success. Rather than many films, where it all boils down to "You have one power. Surprise! That's useful in the second half of the film but not the first half." It felt like the characters were genuinely insightful and hard-working in making their talents into success, rather than just "stopping being defeatist".
I thought the worldbuilding was REALLY GOOD. When it's good, you often don't notice.
When I talk about films without plot holes, this is the sort of thing I'm talking about. I DON'T mean that a film has to include a comprehensive explanation of all the physics used. That's necessary in some hard sf, but what's usually best is to implicitly set up the expectations, and then keep them.
What did this film do right:
- The economy is focussed on scaring, but there are other careers. The demographics are almost certainly off, but the film DIDN'T FOUCS ON THEM so it never became a problem. (cf. Hogwarts was OK in book 1, stretching belief by book #7)
- Scaring is a combination of skills. But one (a scary roar), is the most prestigious and is a necessary prerequisite. This was clearly established by what they learned, and how they needed to USE what they learned in scaring. It genuinely felt plausible that Mike and Sully had different strengths, not just because the plot said so. And genuinely felt plausible that the misfits were able to improve at all the other skills. (cf. quidditch, where it's constantly stressed there are different skills, but all we see is "Harry is a better flier")
- Mike's eventually failure and success were the natural result of what he was genuinely bad and good at and what he didn't and did work hard at. It wasn't just handed to him because he wanted it, he and Sully genuinely did work better together.
- The "lets do something we've never done before" moment was perfect, not because it was set up in advance, but because it flowed naturally from the premises. It makes sense why it would have worked in that situation -- and why it WOULDN'T be used in any other situation (rather than "wait, if you can do that, why doesn't everyone do it?"). It needed both Mike's skills and Sully's skills. It wasn't just the idea: it needed to be executed carefully and successfully which they did. I think that's a good standard for something that could be a deus ex machina but actually made sense.
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