If you follow my twitter feed or have seen some of my reviews, you can probably assume that I’m a Brony, i.e. an adult fan of My Little Pony Friendship is Magic.
The challenge in reviewing the recently released Equestria Girls is separating my overwhelming fandom of the show from the actual quality of the movie, but then again… who else would have the inclination to seek out this movie in the first place? I feel that the film has done a lot to limit its appeal to a wider audience, which is why it had such a limited release (drove 100 miles to see it. NO REGRETS!). It’s a continuation of the show (picks up weeks, if not days after the season 3 finale) and there isn’t any reintroduction of the characters for newcomers. There isn’t even an opening monologue to explain the world and the main characters’ places in it. When looking at it like that, should the film be held to the same standards that we judge other children’s films? OF COURSE YOU IDIOTS!!! Being a fan doesn’t excuse us from thinking critically about what we obsess over. Ya think Phantom Menace would have made over 1 BILLION at the box office if there wasn’t a legion of starry eyed fans willing to bow down at the altar of Lucas and text crawls? Also, the key words in there were THINKING and CRITICALLY, so any one of you shit heads who thought that the trailer was enough to start sending DEATH THREATS TO DHX can jump off a submarine with a screen door onto a short pier (or something like that). I have PLENTY of things to say about the creeps in our community (just to be clear, I’m not talking about cloppers), but this introductory paragraph is getting long, so let’s actually talk about the movie.
If anyone out there is worried about spoilers, I’ll give a brief summary. Is it any good? ABSOLUTELY! This staff has been writing for these characters for three years now and knows how to make them shine. Are there problems? YES. Mostly when it comes to the over-arching story and certain details that they fail to explain adequately. Does it work as film outside of the fandom? Not nearly as much, but even if audiences are confused about the logic used in this movie; the characters are endearing, the animation is solid, and the musical numbers work. There is also very little pandering in terms of selling the teenage lifestyle to young girls, and has genuinely strong female characters which is rare in a movie about high school aimed at children. What’s really going to drive away the mainstream audience is the lack of any context for what the rules are and why certain things are happening in the movie the way they do (the final confrontation being the biggest example). So everyone can put down their pitchforks and just chill out because the movie is really good, and is worth seeing.
OK! Time for spoilers.
The set-up is simple and has been revealed many times by now, but here it is: Twilight Sparkle, now a princess (of what, they haven’t said yet) is in The Crystal Empire for an unspecified princess ceremony. Her crown, which is also the element of Magic, is stolen by Sunset Shimmer (a former student of Princess Celestia) who tries to replace it with a fake crown. Both Sunset and the crown go through a mirror that leads them to another dimension and Twilight must go in there and take it back. HOWEVER!! There is a 3 day time limit because of reasons (something about the moon) and if she doesn’t get the crown back in time, she will be stuck in this other dimension until the portal opens again in “30 moons.” The movie sets up several things in the opening scenes before human world that help to not only flesh out the film but some aspects of season 4. First off, Twilight flying is now de canonized which should give Rainbow Dash a sigh of relief knowing she’s guaranteed an episode next season (sorry Rarity).
We also see that Twilight is worried about the responsibilities (still unspecified) of becoming a princess. Her having these doubts and worries helps take some of the bad taste the season three finale left me with. The episode ended up feeling like the kind of shallow wish fulfillment that entertainment aimed at girls has been pandering for decades, and the kind of stuff that Friendship Is Magic was actively avoiding. Now we can see that being princess isn’t what Twilight wanted to an extent and that despite being honored that Celestia puts so much faith in her, she still has doubts about her abilities to lead. While I understand ending the season on a high note, this aspect should have been at least introduced in the finale, if for nothing else than to show the fans that the series and staff weren’t sacrificing their integrity so they could sell out to Hasbro (or whatever conspiracy theories were floating around during that time). We also get introduced to Flash Infantry (Twilight’s love interest seen in the trailer), but he doesn’t do anything other than set himself up as a character who exists in this world as well as the human world. Other than that, we get a little back story on Sunset Shimmer and a somewhat flimsy excuse for why the others can’t follow Twilight into the portal (UPSETTING THE BALANCE!!!!). So we hop skip and jump into the human world where Twilight is a human and Spike is a dog. Not an actual complaint but I question how the dimensional portal decides what species gets turned into what when it goes from one world to another.
What we get in the first few minutes is pretty simple but very effective. We get to see Twilight not only struggling to understand her new body, but to understand how these people interact with each other. We already know that Twilight is somewhat of an introverted person who only grew out of it when she made her friends. Now that she’s all alone with no magic, no friends, and left with only her smarts, wits, and external voice of reason (i.e. Spike), she easily mirrors the social anxiety that most new students feel when entering into a new school. Alone in a crowd is quite apropos, and speaking as a fellow nerd / introvert, it really hit home.
There’s more plot set up with the crown, which Fluttershy found before Sunset could get to it, and it turns out that the fake one that Sunset had was the one given to the winner of the Fall Formal (i.e. Prom Queen), which looks exactly like the real crown and was returned to Principal (take a guess)… Celestia.
From here on, the plot is pretty simple. Twilight must become the Princess of the Fall Formal while learning about this new world and make friends along the way. She also has to deal with Sunset Shimmer and her two lackeys (take another guess)… Snips and Snails who are trying to stop Twilight from winning the crown.
So what works about this movie? We get reintroduced to the entire mane 6 who are perfectly realized in their human forms. Pinkie Pie is still Pinkie, Rainbow Dash is still awesome, etc. We also get to see the other citizens of Equestria who all look perfect in their human form, and a few of them are given scenes that really allow their personalities to shine.
One of the most interesting things about the movie is how the two worlds are parallel to each other outside of the characters. A few moments from the show are recreated here, and there are several events that have happened in this world that reflect what happened in Equestria (The Cutie Mark Crusader song from Show Stoppers is on YouTube). It’s the right amount so that Twilight and the audience can recognize it, but not enough that events can be predicted ahead of time which allows the story to play out in its own way. One such instance being that the mane 6 aren’t friends in this world, and (like in Equestria) it takes Twilight’s influence to bring them all together. It’s a great moment that further shows us how important Twilight is to everyone around her and further shows us that she deserves her title as Princess. Something else that works is the music. Yeah, the song in the trailer sucked. It’s not here. Daniel Ingram once again does all the music, and it’s pretty damn good. The musical numbers have some great animation, particularly the lunchroom song, and they end up being the highlights of the movie. Overall, the movie put extra effort into making sure all the characters are accurately represented, fun to watch and have enough emotional resonance to pull some genuine feels out of you.
Now that we got the good out of the way, what doesn’t work as well? The movie just glosses over important plot points, and drops subplots that it brings up. Why isn’t there a copy of Twilight, Spike, Sunset, Cadence, and Shining Armor walking around? How is it that Princess Celestia has had this mirror for a long ass time, yet doesn’t know what’s on the other side? How can Twilight run for Princess of the Fall Formal if she never actually enrolled? Sunset does something clearly wrong involving pictures, but never suffers any consequences for it. The movie brings up the fact that Flash Sentry is Sunset’s ex-boyfriend, and yet there isn’t a SINGLE scene with the two of them in it. What was the point of bringing that up if you aren’t going to do anything with it? They also mention another person who tried to win the Fall Formal (they mention her TWICE) but we never find out who it is and it ends up meaning nothing. I was actually convinced it was Trixie, because right before the final confrontation, we get a little extra screen time of her, and I was sure she would have a key role in some final twist.
Another problem is Flash Sentry who almost works. He doesn’t take any focus away from Twilight’s quest, which is very refreshing to see a female protagonist not needing the help of a guy at the end, and he doesn’t do anything to make us dislike him. He’s nice, helpful, and genuinely cares about Twilight. Unfortunately, they give him a little too much screen time and there are too many scenes that don’t have anything other than the two of them blushing at each other. Either flesh him out more, or cut back on his screen time. There are also two characters that are completely mishandled which are Snips and Snails. From the show we know that they tend to follow the biggest person around and it makes sense for them to be Sunset’s underlings, but they just get downright nasty in a few scenes, and in the climax… well let’s just say “Never go full villain.”
While we’re on the subject, another problem is the ending. It’s big, with some unexpected stuff thrown in like DEMONS and VOODOO STYLE ZOMBIES!!!!!!!!
However, I’m pretty sure you can guess how they win in the end.
This is villain number three that got their ass handed to them by the Elements of Harmony. It’s starting to become too much of a MacGuffin and an easy out for the writers. Twilight’s speech during this is great, but I’m tired of this plot device being used. It’s also not clearly explained for general audiences who will think the movie pulled it right out of its ass. They never explain what the elements are outside of needing the crown back for them to work, and they never say that the mane 6 are the bearers of the elements. I’M aware of all of this, but general audiences should at least have been given some indication of these characters’ importance so that this final confrontation doesn’t seem as random. There’s also somewhat of a lack of closure as far as the mirror goes. Now that pretty much EVERYONE in the high school knows there’s a dimensional portal right in their god damn court yard, are they just gonna ignore it? The portal opens every 30 days (I’m guess a ‘moon’ is equivalent to a day), so who’s to say that the human mane 6 (I guess it’s 5 now) won’t try to see Twilight again? I might be predicting the future of the franchise here, but I would have appreciated if someone asked Celestia what she planned to do with the mirror.
So that about sums it up. The movie works very well when we get to see these characters interact in this new world, and the movie has some wonderful character moments and musical numbers that will become highlights of the series. Unfortunately, they got somewhat sloppy when it came to the overall story which ends up leaving the audience with too many question about what happened, and will also end up alienating general audiences who won’t be coming in knowing some of the basic information that the movie assumes the people watching this already know. That being said, it really is a treat to watch and everyone who was worried it would be the death of the integrity of the show can calm down. It’s a somewhat above average episode of the show, and like other big event episodes (*COUGH* Royal Wedding *COUGH*) it has some issues in its story that don’t eclipse the overall quality of its well-rounded and memorable characters. SO STOP WORRYING AND JUST SEE THE DAMN THING!
P.S. There’s an easter egg in the credits that I don’t want to spoiler here. Needless to say, the audience I was with was very pleased.
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