My Little Pony: Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks Review

The band is back together. Does it live up to the hype?

As you may know, Superdude and I are both fans of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. At some point,  we both reviewed Equestria Girls, the first movie to come from the series’ spin-off brand focused on the characters from the show as if they were teenagers in high school. A new movie was released this year and we are teaming up to let you know what we think!

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Equestria Girls 1: A recap of our thoughts.

Arthur: I’m on the side of the fandom that enjoyed this movie. Quite a bit, actually. If I had to narrow down to a single aspect why the movie works, I’d argue that it’s a matter of focus. It’s true that there’s a stigma surrounding high school related media in popular culture, particularly the version of high school being sold to young children and teenagers. For the most part, they’ve been inundated with a romanticized ideal, focused on the superficial aspects of puberty and stereotypes that have been supplanted onto the theme for many years, particularly when it comes to social cliques, their behavior, and the hierarchy they receive.  Equestria Girls, despite being set in a high school and incorporating certain typical high school tropes, is not a movie about high school, or even being a teenager. In fact, boiled down to its bare essentials, it’s a very straight-forward adventure yarn. We have Twilight out of her own element, roaming around a strange new world with no magic and a new body which she doesn’t know how to go about with, and having to rely on Spike, her own instincts, and eventually the human version of her friends to defeat a villain and take a magic McGuffin back home before a ticking clock runs out. Sure, there’s social ostracizing and yes, the climax of the movie take place during a school dance, but in the end, those were either a backdrop to more important events or a means to a higher end. For example, the subplot about the school’s students sticking to their own kind is mostly background noise, but it’s eventually used as a device to highlight the positive influence that Twilight has on the school and her friends. In fact, the movie works as a very good in-between chapter in Twilight’s development towards being a princess, where she starts off doubting whether she’s ready, and exiting the film feeling more reassured that she has what it takes. In the end, this movie was far less concerned with the trappings of high school life and much more concerned with Twilight’s growth and the consequences of having two worlds collide.

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You did good, Starbutt. You did good.

Superdude: Equestria Girls worked because it had all the resources that makes FiM so good.  The creative team is talented enough to avoid the pitfalls that spin offs and high school films fall into, and put in the extra effort to create a product that’s worth a damn.  I really only have a single complaint about the whole movie, and that’s the awkward world building that was basically forced upon the team once Hasbro decided to make a spin off.  The mirror that only works once a month (though you could argue it’s actually shorter than that).  The lame justification for keeping the other members of The Mane 6 in Equestria.  The fact that Twilight and Spike don’t have counterparts (as well as Shining Armor and Cadence) for no other reason that to make the plot less confusing.  All that stuff that tries to blend the two worlds together felt kind of awkward, which is a shame considering how interesting the concept is.  Other than that though, everything fired on all cylinders in this movie and it just goes to show how talented everyone working on this license is.

Arthur: After its success, it was only a matter of time before a sequel would arrive. Last year, I hypothesized two different routes this new film could take: the former would be to make a standard, day-in-the-life story in the vein of a typical Friendship is Magic episode while focusing on the characters in the human world, or take a similar route as the predecessor and make a story where Equestrian magic once again invades the world. With the benefit of hindsight, I can say that the former would’ve been a step-down from what has been achieved before, so right off the bat, My Little Pony: Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks is stepping in the right direction. So, how does it do?

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It even has a subtitle for its subtitle. Fancy!

Our story this time around…

Arthur: Picking up an undisclosed amount of time after the events of the previous film, the now-reformed Sunset Shimmer is struggling to make up for her past villainy and win the forgiveness of the students at Canterlot High School, getting by with a little help from her new friends Applejack, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, Rainbow Dash, and Fluttershy. These girls, meanwhile, have put together a band called The Rainbooms to perform at a musical showcase event at school, where the students get to show off their talent for charity. Things start to go sour with the arrival of a trio of new students who call themselves The Dazzlings, who persuade the students to turn the otherwise friendly event into a full-on battle of the bands, making the students turn hostile against each other. However, Sunset and her friends discover that not only do the new girls have ties to Equestria, but they might have much more sinister intentions than just winning a contest. They call upon Twilight (and Spike) to return to their world to help them set things right at CHS once again, betting on the likeliness that she’ll defeat the Dazzlings the same way she dealt with Sunset when she was evil. However, it’s apparent very quickly that it’s gonna take more than just the magic of friendship to win the day this time.

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Twilight Sparkle and the School of Hard Knocks.

Superdude: The plot itself, and even the Dazzler’s as villains, is pretty cliche which is what worried a lot of people at first.  Not only is it pretty much a repeat of the first film (Equestrian invaders try to take over the school and the world while disguising themselves as high school students), but throwing in a music angle out of no where is about as hack and hokey as you can get.  That’s late 70’s Hannah Barbara shit right there.  Remember when they put Pebbles and Bam Bam in a band?

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Those were dark times…

As with the last film though, what makes the movie work is the character interactions and sharp writing of each scene.  The fact that all of them KNOW they’re in a cliched story is something I did not expect and really enjoyed about this one.

Arthur: I know I’ve probably seen a similar take on a Battle of the Bands premise elsewhere, but I wouldn’t be able to remember one by name . When you say “self-awareness”, I think you’re referring to how the characters constantly share exchanges that go along the lines of “Don’t worry, guys. Twilight will fix everything just like last time.”, to which Twilight reluctantly answers: “Yeah, I suppose.” even though she doesn’t have all the answers. I think this is part of what makes her arc in this movie feel like a natural progression from where the last movie left off. While it almost feels at the start that Twilight is going to get overshadowed by everything that’s going on here (she doesn’t really appear until towards the end of Act 1), her story is still the primary focus of the movie. Where the first one focused on whether she feels she has what it takes to be a leader, this time she gets to see what happens when she establishes herself as a leader and everyone around her expects her to save the day. I didn’t know what to make of this at first, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized what the implications here were. While she’s very knowledgeable in all kinds of magic, this is the first time that she must create it from scratch.  Since she and her friends’ inner magic only manifests itself when they play music (because reasons, but whatever), she must write a musical spell to counter the Dazzlings. Complicating the matter is that not only do the Dazzlings have the upper hand throughout most of the story, they manipulate the competition so that the students at school turn their aggression against them. Since Twilight feels she must act like the leader her friends believe her to be, she can’t own up to the fact that she doesn’t know what to do. If I have one gripe with this arc, it would be that It starts to feel that the movie is beating you over the head with this one plot thread, when Twilight is constantly remind of her duty by the other girls. While her insistence of taking this burden by herself is the source of half the problems that the girls encounter on their way through the battle (it makes her lose focus on the other problems plaguing the band), it makes sense that Twilight would want to take full responsibility as a princess and try to bite off more than she can chew. After all, the entire series is themed after how no matter how bad or overwhelming things get, a friend will have your back and help you find a way.

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“Dammit, Celestia! Why did you make the whole leader thing look so easy?!”

Superdude: Yeah, that’s basically what I’m talking about.  The first act of the movie is basically the Mane 6 (minus Twilight, plus Sunset) being aware they’re stuck in the same situation they were in the first movie.  Hell, they realize immediately that The Dazzlings are pulling the same crap Sunset did last time (no offense, none taken) which is something that I like.  I don’t want to see characters repeating the same arcs each movie, and being aware of what you did before in such a situation is a great way to get around that.  They also manage to use this against the characters who spend most of the movie (too long if you ask me, but whatever) not realizing that despite being in the same formula, they’re still managing to fuck it up.  Like you said, it does beat you over the head with their inability to communicate with each other, but the movie still manages to avoid alot of traps that a lot of sequels can fall into.

Moving on, let’s talk about Sunset Shimmer.

Arthur: This is a part of the movie where I feel that I need to separate my own expectations from what we ultimately get. Going in, I felt that she was the character with the most to prove. She has turned a new leaf, so there’s no doubt that her arc would deal with her struggle of proving that she has changed for the better. This is partially correct, as the rest of her story is about her inability of getting over her past villainy, the baggage that comes with it, and also feeling useless in the presence of Twilight due to her lack of experience on friendship. Still, her role in the movie plays second fiddle to Twilight’s, which is kind of a shame because I think her story is possibly the most interesting party of the whole movie. I get why things are the way there are; the Mane 6 are the biggest draws of the whole franchise, and therefore get top billing. As it is, her struggle takes a back seat to Twilight’s mission and the competition, building up towards the end of Act Two where the Dazzlings exploit her insecurities, leading to a mistake on her part that threatens to push the band even further apart.

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Embarrasing Yourself In Front Of Your Peers While They Mock You: The Movie

I know it’s tricky to argue that a character feels underused when part of her arc is feeling underused, but I still feel that more could’ve been done with her, especially because, much like Twilight, she gets to spend a good chunk of her screen time feeling sorry for herself.

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She picked the wrong day to start listening to Radiohead.

The movie makes it clear that her arc isn’t finished just yet. Her exit from the movie indicates that she’s about to begin a study in the magic of friendship similar to what Twilight has been going through (complete with letters to the princess). While we only get a few glimpses of how much better things are for her during the credits, it’s evident that in the future, we may get to see how Sunset carries herself now that she’s let go of her past. As a standalone performance though, I’m happy to see her as one of the good guys. Rebecca Shoichet does a fine job selling how her character’s entire M.O. has changed between movies. At first, I wanted to condemn her big turnaround towards the final battle, mostly because it sort of undercuts a point in the film where the band is reaching its lowest point [and The Dazzlings their highest], but it was clear that if there was ever a time for Sunset to step up and do what needs to be done, that was it. So, even though we’ve yet to see the full extent of what the new her can do, she does the best with what she’s given.

Superdude: I don’t know if I can agree with you there about Twilight.  To me, Sunset really was the focal point of this movie. Maybe it’s because she had an arc that we haven’t already seen before (Twilight being a less crazy version of herself in Lesson Zero, and the others are basically reenacting the Hearth’s Warming Eve play).  She’s also the only one of the group who has scenes to herself which I think helps elevate her importance to the story.  For me, she really was the main character of the movie, and I thought they did a decent job with her.  However, I still feel they went a bit overboard with her complete inability to do ANYTHING.  She’s as smart as Twilight, and was able to take over the school (before she turned good) all on her own and starting completely from a point of complete obscurity (side note: Where the hell does she live?  Does she live alone?).  You’re telling me that all she can do now is cower in the corner and timidly bring up suggestions?  I definitely felt her plight and understood she had to constantly walk on eggshells, but I thought she was a bit too beaten down through most of this.  She does come around by the end of the movie, but it still felt a little too late.

Arthur: I think I fell this way about Sunset because the moment Twilight arrives on CHS, for the most part, the plot is all about the BotB and whether Twilight can get her act together. Sunset doesn’t get to be as active until the Rainbooms make it to the semifinals. There’s a couple of good scenes here and there, such as in Pinkie’s kitchen where they establish the parallels between her and Twilight’s arc. I’ve talked with another friend about this and we both agree that while it’s nice that Sunset is good now, they should bring back a bit of that edge she had in EQG1. I feel that Rocks doesn’t go there because that’s kind of what she’s trying to get away from. Now that she’s gotten over what she did, we can maybe see what else the new Sunset can do in the future.

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“I will adorably stare at you until you put me in another movie!”

What about Twilight’s other friends?

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Arthur: Now that we don’t need to bother with re-introductions to our main cast, the group dynamics feel more balanced this time around. All of Twilight’s friends get just about equal share of screen time and they all have a little something to contribute, whether it’s a joke, commentary, moment of cuteness, or new story development. Of special note here is Rainbow Dash, who’s self-centered, egotistic ways slowly yet surely begin to disassemble the band. Meanwhile, Fluttershy (gradually) feels resentment towards Dash for not giving a song she wrote a chance, Rarity and Applejack squabble about whether they should wear outfits while performing (Applejack is more about practicality and Rarity is more about flare, as always), and Pinkie Pie feels that all this in-fighting defeats the purpose of being in a band for the fun of it. As for Spike, he once again gets to hang around, but now that Twilight’s got her other friends for most of the movie, his presence feels more minimized than last time, about the same as it typically is in the show. Instead of serving as a counsel for Twilight, he’s mostly here to pull a surprise upset that helps lead Twilight and friends to their goal. It’s kinda more of the same, but that’s not necessarily bad.

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“Everyone knows YOU’RE the Ringo of this band!”

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“No, YOU’RE the Ringo!”

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“EVERYONE’S THE RINGO BUT ME!”

Superdude: See, that’s why I think of Sunset as the ACTUAL main character of this.  No one else goes through an arc that they haven’t gone through before, so while the actual character moments and scene to scene interactions are great, the overall growth of each character is completely predictable and uninteresting.  At least with Sunset we have someone who hasn’t had a chance to go through these motions, so seeing her deal with these conflicts is much more interesting.  Spike though?  yeah, he has absolutely nothing to do in this movie.

Arthur: I get why decisions like that are made, though. The movie already has a lot of stuff going on that it wants to cover in such a short amount of time. If the movie was like 20 minutes longer, maybe there would be room to try out more things with the supporting characters. I don’t think it hurts the film to treat Twilight’s friends this way, after all, the story doesn’t belong to them exclusively and the film would run the risk of becoming a bit overstuffed. Still, they are key in supporting the development of both Twilight and Sunset, so I don’t think they hurt the movie. That being said, it would be nice if the EQG series gives them more to do.

Superdude: It’s in a very odd sort of limbo for sure.  We’ve only gotten movies so far (excluding the comic book annual which isn’t necessarily in continuity) which is just a fraction of the time that the series got, yet they’re characters we’re familiar with.  However, they aren’t EXACTLY those characters, so while we know what to EXPECT from them, they don’t have all the benefits of being the characters we’re familiar with.  THIS IS WHAT CROSS DIMENSIONAL CONTINUITY LEADS TO!!!

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“You’re too country!”     “Well you’re too fussy!”     “And I’m… gonna go hide in a corner…”

We can’t have a movie without villains!

Arthur: Our villains for this movie, while not the worst, aren’t the best either. Their presence adds a new bit of mythology to the MLP world that’s pretty cool: the sirens. They manipulate people by singing and feeding off their negative energy. They get three music numbers in here and they’re all highlights of the film one way or another. However, while they work well as a unit, they don’t hold up as well individually. Even though they all have their own distinct personality (they’re basically Team Azula from Avatar: The Last Airbender) , it’s clear that Adaggio Dazzle carries the entire team on her shoulders while Aria Blaze and Sonata Dusk are strictly on sidekick duty and have practically no agency of their own or add anything to Adaggio’s plan other than to be there and feed off negative power as well. While they’re still better than the previous movie’s evil sidekicks, Aria is around mostly to look moody and ask questions regarding Adaggio’s plan, while Sonata is there to be airheaded.  Adaggio could’ve been the only villain, and the movie probably would’ve faired better, but I supposed they wanted a team of villains for this movie just so they don’t have to hear they made an evil Sunset clone.

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This is a meme. I don’t get why this is a meme.

Superdude: See, I thought the villains were great in this.  Their motivates are crystal clear, and their methods are pretty reminiscent of Sunset’s in the original, which means that we don’t need alot of time with them exposing exposition and instead get to see them interact with each other.  I loved their Three Stooges shtick (Sonata is clearly a Curly), and frankly it was also nice to see more than one villain at a time.  Think about it.  With the exception of the Flim Flam brothers (who are really just a single pony in two bodies) we rarely get to see villains interact with each other.  Sure there was Tirek and Discord, but their relationship was tenuous and built on deceit. These three are practically sisters (are they ACTUALLY sisters?) who have worked together for a long time and understand each other.  Okay, they can be a bit mean to each other at times, but that’s true of ANY three person group.  There was also an interesting element where they really had no beef with the Mane 6, so any action they took (at least for the first two thirds) was only tangentially related to what our heroes were up to.  I like this because these villains aren’t defined by their hatred of our heroes (they’ve got their own stuff to worry about), and any conflicts that arise for the Mane 6 are due more to their own incompetence and poor handling of the situation, rather than from a direct assault from the villains.

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“What are you a wise guy?”    “Maybe. I’ve learned most the alpha-ma-bet.”     “Oh yeah?  What comes after F?”     “U”.

Arthur: I agree that having no connection to the Mane 6 is a good thing. It’s the kind of detail that lets the world of this series feel bigger than what we see without spending too much time on exposition (It’s a big world and this sort of thing happens), but I think the similarities to Sunset in the original movie are what makes me feel sort of underwhelmed. I liked Sunset as a villain because the movie was willing to put her and the Mane 6 in a scenario where the struggle to come out on top wasn’t one-sided. It was a constant back-and-forth of failing and recovering from both parties. Sunset, even before she had any magic, was able to be one of the most resilient and tenacious villains that Twilight had ever encountered. In Rocks, The Dazzlings were in control the moment they stepped in the school. Therefore, the majority of their presence in the film is having them show up to do their schtick and not much else. I get that for the sequels you need to up the ante, but this may work better when you only have 22 minutes or so. For a longer format, I think there must be something more. (Maybe if the movie had given equal opportunities for all The Dazzlings to be cunning, funny, etc.) That being said, I wil give credit to how their biggest accomplishment is using the other students as an extension of themselves. Watching the general population of CHS turn against the girls is some of the best uses of villainy in either FiM or these movies.

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War, children. It’s just a shot away.

Superdude: I don’t know. Sunset’s plan seemed kind of lame.  GIVE ME THE CROWN OR I’LL BASH THE PORTAL (except it’s an empty threat)!!!  There was no real menace to her character until the end when she became a she-demon, and even then she was quickly taken care of.  What were her plans?  Keep Twilight from becoming Prom Queen?  Failed.  Get her kicked out of the race?  Failed.  Hell, the only two people who were ever on her side were Snips and Snails (who aren’t being ostracized the way Sunset is I might add) and they were just plain incompetent.  The Dazzlings though?  They got EVERY person in that school under their spell and there was absolutely nothing to stop their plans until the very end.  I thought they were much more effective as villains, even if they were pretty shallow characters.

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“I think Sonata crashed again.”     “Ugh… we should have never installed Vista on her.”

Arthur: The final confrontation between The Dazzlings and The Rainbooms, while having a bigger scale than the climax in the previous movie, feels almost punishingly short and, for the most part, lacks any kind of dread because at this point the band has gotten their act together thanks to Sunset. I like what we get, watching the characters weaponizing their music is just cool, and I especially love the “ready to fight” shot of the band all geared up, but it probably could’ve gone on for at least another solid minute, particularly before Sunset steps up to sing. Also, I feel that The Rainbooms’ verse in Welcome to the Show is a better finisher than Sunset’s portion. It’s more of a fist-pumping, arena rock type of song, and while I know it’s just personal preference, I would’ve saved that for last, especially because it’s the song Fluttershy wrote that’s been getting hyped up over the course of the movie. Also, not only does it end in a very weak exit for The Dazzlings (they just run away. I mean, that’s it?), I think we needed a scene where the school gets to show their gratefulness to the girls, especially to Sunset, which would bring her arc to a much more satisfying close. We do get a few clips of her getting along with the other students during the credits, but I don’t think that’s enough. The only one who shows any kind of gratitude (to Twilight) is Flash Sentry, while everyone else is just kinda sitting there, doing nothing. This would’ve been a perfect chance for the movie to give us a real heart-stringer moment, with Sunset finding that she’s where she needs to be (it would’ve also made for a good contrast to how awful they’ve been treated by the possessed students over the course of the film).

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If only there was an appropriate Monty Python reference for this moment…

Superdude: Yeah, the ending is really weird.  Not only did they pull a Deus Ex Machina by having a fan service character solve their imprisonment AND stage problem (is she driving a freaking TRANSFORMER!?), but it just kinda fizzled out with the Dazzlings just running off stage with broken necklaces.  So what, does anyone realize the group was brainwashing them?  Are they going to starve to death without their crystal to turn misery into sustenance?  I also liked how nastily the crowd turned on them too.  Who the hell boos teenagers off the stage at a school function for singing off key?  ASSHOLES!!  That’s who!  Still, the fight finally gave Sunset a chance to step up and it did remind me of the fight in Scott Pilgrim between the Sex Bob-ombs and the techno twins.

Did somebody say “fan service”?!

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Arthur: This is probably the most fan service-y affair that MLP has put out. Some bits are pretty fun, like Maud Pie’s cameo, some are clearly just winks to the online fan base, like Octavia finding her voice or a glimpse of Lyra and Bon Bon sharing a very cozy duet. I’m a bit mystified by the presence of DJ PON-3/Vinyl Scratch. She’s kept in the background throughout the movie, and while she’s hard to miss, I think that she probably could’ve been brought to the foreground at least once beforehand so that she doesn’t feel so extraneous. I feel this was done so that we don’t figure out right away how the girls are gonna get a leg up on The Dazzlings, but her role is so small, it probably wouldn’t have hurt to do so. As it is, I don’t dislike that she’s there. Also, I know it’s an obvious plug for a toy, but Vinyl’s car is actually pretty sweet.

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This is the Hand of the Rising Thumb. It’ll bring you good luck.

Superdude: They could have at least acknowledged her existence if they wanted to use her as the linchpin for the final act!  I wonder if Hasbro/DHX/whoever is legitmately concerned about giving her a voice (which would explain her non-presence in the movie)?  Anyway, the fan service worked rather well with the pretty clever idea of having so many bands there in order to showcase as many characters as possible.

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“THIS IS HOW YOU PLAY A FUCKING VIOLA!!!!”

No real substance other than Trixie (is she fan service  or just another character at this point?) so there’s not much more to say about it.  Always appreciated, but would like a bit more substance here and there.

The Great and Powerful Trixie has been summoned!

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Arthur: Even though it can be a bit distracting at times when the movie suddenly goes “Look! X character does a thing!”, at least this is a scenario where having all these different characters would make sense. As for Trixie, she’s basically the movie’s unofficial secondary villain as she gets to be key in pushing the Rainbooms to their breaking point. While her character stays strictly within the parameters of what we’ve come to expect from her, it fits for what she’s given. I love that her final scene is possibly the ultimate testament of who she is. She doesn’t care that Twilight is a princess from another world, or that she saved the school for a second time, or that she’s getting all up in Flash Sentry (tee hee), all that matters is that she’s still not Trixie and she’s gonna let her know it (it’s like she was never under a spell to begin with).

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“For the last time, Trixie. No one wants to see your Kanye impression!”

Flash Sentry vs. The World

Arthur: Speaking of Flash, while he gets a few scenes that keep pushing him as Twilight’s love interest, he spends most of his time as one of the more aggressive BotB contenders. It’s an overall improvement from his role in the first movie (which I didn’t mind) in that he gets more to do, but the impact of his actions is still minimal. Since its apparent that the creators are committed to keep him around (at least in EQG) and maybe give him some kind of payoff in the future, it’s probably high time that he’s given a shot at finding a more active role.

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He must be a big fan of Kenny Loggins. And arbitrarily defined general areas of danger.

Superdude: Trixie was great in this and she has the best song on the album.  Flash though?  Yeah, he was even less of a presence in this than he was in the last film.  He has what, three scenes in the whole thing?  In none of them does he actually progress the plot (which he did in the first one) and he’s a dick throughout most of it.  He didn’t have to be the focus of the story, but his non-presence here is definitely a step back for the character.  His big moment with Twilight at the end is undercut by Trixie’s appearance, and they never have a chance to reconnect which makes it harder than ever to buy this as anything but a forced romance angle.  I’m glad they still haven’t forced him unnaturally into the Equestria plot (THE POWER OF LOVE IS ONLY FOUND IN ONE MAN WHO YOU MUST FIND TO UNLOCK!!!!) but that doesn’t mean he has to be shoved into the closet to be pulled out and handed to Twilight as a prize for saving the day.

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Arthur: The narrative of the movie is definitely working against his favor. He spends most of his time possessed, so his actions aren’t his own and can’t really devote other than to just be angry most of the time. I’ll have more to say about this in the future, but for now, I’ll say this: if Flash has a problem, it’s not that he’s just the love interest guy, it’s that the narrative of EQG is structured in such a way that there’s very little room for supporting characters. The inner circle of the Mane 6 is very tight (TBF, with 6 girls plus Sunset and 3 villains, we already have quite a lot of characters to work with), that a few already established secondary characters barely get a chance to show up and offer something worthwhile (Spike, The CMC, Celestia and Luna, etc.). This problem extends to FiM, but that’s a subject for another time.

It’s all in the presentation!

Arthur: The movies looks terrific. The time between installments has allowed the animators to polish their skills working with human character designs pretty significantly. While the first movie was no eyesore, everyone feels much more articulate and expressive than before and it comes through in every aspect: from choreography, slapstick/physical comedy, facial expressions and big set pieces.

Superdude: Yeah, they really did up the ante this time in terms of animation, which I think a large part of which is due to the stronger music focus this time around.  Sure there were songs in the last one, but they weren’t really performances.  People just decided to sing at some point.  Here though, you have more expressive characters to enhance the performance, as well as lighting that just knocks it out the park.  In fact, if there are two aspects of the animation I though were VASTLY improved, they were the lighting and the facial expressions.  I loved every crooked smile the Dazzlings had which only furthered their off kilter menace.

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She certainly did have a wonderful awful idea.

Arthur: It’s those kind of touches that make the movie come alive and watching it is just joyful. If I had to pick a favorite moment (other than whenever Pinkie Pie does a thing) it would be Rainbow Dash’s animation during the Awesome As I Wanna Be sequence. It was fun to see her letting herself go and prancing around the stage like the rock star she believes she is.

Crisis On Two Worlds?

Arthur: I also wanna point out that while both movies take place mostly in the human world, this one has a sense that it no longer needs to be anchored to the presence of Equestria. In part one, the pressure of Twilight having to return home was omnipresent (because of the ticking clock), while this time around we only get to see Equestria for a single scene, which introduces Twilight into the story and shows her transition to the other world. This time, the action stays in the human world, so there’s no longer the need to think about what’s gonna happen on the other side of the portal. This is a good measure for this side-series to further establish and legitimize itself as  an extension of FiM. It’s still the same series, but with a different presentation.

Superdude: That said, the major threats against the human world have both been from Equestria.  As far as anyone is aware of, magic in this world doesn’t exist so unless they want to do HUMAN evil (which is much less pleasant to watch) they’re still gonna have to be anchored to Equestria in some way just to give them something to do.  Then again, maybe someone (*cough*Twilight*cough*) is gonna catch on to this and be the primary antagonist of the next movie?  Someone who wants the portal closed before other world destroying evils come through?  Just thinking out loud here!

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Do NOT let this bastard go through the portal!

Arthur: I like that the movie gives the EQG series a license to essentially travel between two worlds at any point now. Whether this will be referenced in FiM is unknown, at least it opens the possibility that Twilight can now travel to the other world at her own will, so that now she no longer needs to go there only on special business, which could allow for certain details here and there to be elaborated on between installments (mostly hanging out with her human friends and others) and open up possibilities for different kinds of stories. Maybe this could be a plot point for the next movie?

Superdude: It’s hard to say just yet whether the Equestria Girls universe will play into season 5.  I doubt it because it essentially doubles the size of the current universe which might be a bit too much for a kids show.  Maybe a spin-off?  Similar problem which would force kids (and DHX) to split their focus across two shows.  Not referring to it at all?  Well, then fans are going to ask what the hell happened to the portal.  I don’t know how they’ll work it out next year, but I’m not seeing a lot of good options.  The best solution might be to write some crossovers for the IDW comics considering they’re the branch of this franchise that really pushes the boundaries in terms of narrative and world building.

Arthur: I wasn’t saying that the events of these movies should be explicitly acknowledged in season 5, but maybe just a small, casual reminder that the portal is still there. The comic idea is really good, though.

Superdude: They practically did it already with the Reflections arc a while ago.   Plus the Equestria Girls universe has already been portrayed in last years annual, so it’s incredibly possible.  WHAT OTHER MEDIUM LOVES CROSSOVERS MORE THAN COMICS!?  It’s at least more likely than the show which I doubt will even makes the slightest of mentions, else they open themselves up to questions about why they don’t explore that world more in the series. Right now there is a clear seperation between the two (movies and series) and I think (but by no means know for certain) that DHX wants it that way for now.

Wait, weren’t there supposed to be songs in this?

Arthur: The soundtrack is much better this time around. While I’d be hard pressed to find more than one song from the first movie worth a second look, and while I personally don’t think that any song in here can match the infectiousness of Helping Twilight Win The Crown,  Rocks’ soundtrack holds up much better as a whole. I’ll admit that I’m pretty biased when it comes to the music in this series and tend to like songs when they’re more about promoting the themes at the heart of the series on a grand scale, or when they make them inspiriting, but I’ll admit that the Dazzlings’ songs stand out in their own right; they feel manipulative and enchanting like snake charming music, and I like how each feels like a part of their narrative through-line. The “Battle” song plants the seed of their evil plan, “Under Our Spell” finds them reveling in how everything is marching along nicely for them, and “Welcome to the Show” is their victory chant, at least up until the Rainbooms crash their party. This one in particular is a mash-up of three different songs, which to say the least, is pretty experimental for the series. Never has it tried something like this before, and while some parts are better than others, it’s a pretty great treat, which also serves as the thesis of the movie, and all things considered, a pretty creative way of delivering the requisite lesson of this story. Other personal favorites are “Shine Like Rainbows”, which is just a very bouncy, catchy, outro song, and the CD’s bonus track “Music To My Ears”.

Superdude: I wasn’t a fan of the Rainbooms when I first heard their music on those shorts that Hasbro released.  While they DO have at least two songs that stand out, overall they just remind me of One Direction more than anything else.  Think about it, they’re songs are mostly sung in harmonies, their lyrics are really mundane and cliche, and they don’t sound authentic alot of the time (there’s clearly a synthesizer in Shake Your Tail despite no one in the band playing one).  Shines like Rainbow and Rainbow Rocks do have a bit of life to them (the former sounding the most sincere of their catalog while the latter having some awesome drums) their music just ends up sounding like feel good fluff.

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Just hanging out! Hanging out! Hanging out with my family!  Having ourselves a PAAAAAAARTY!!

That’s not to say the other bands in this (The Dazzlings and Trixie) are perfect, but they do have more going for them in my opinion.  The Dazzling’s lyrics aren’t that much more inspired, but the cliche’s that THEY’RE going for are much more interesting ones.  Looking back at the movie and listening to their songs again, it’s not even debatable that they’re supposed to come off as hyper sexual (for a kid’s show).  Watch the Battle of the Bands song and the whole time the three of them are really touchy feely.  The second song (Under Our Spell) is practically about them dominating the entire school (if you get what I mean).  Then the final song is them proclaiming their complete control over everyone with their quote un-quote “song”.  Okay fine, these aren’t what you’d call ORIGINAL concepts (Destiny’s Child seems to be a big influence here), but seeing it this explicit in a kid’s movie is pretty uncommon.

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Uh… Luna?  That’s REALLY inappropriate.

Finally, there’s Trixie who only has one song in the movie (and soundtrack) but it stands out because it actually sounds like something Trixie would write.  The lyrics, while silly don’t sound cliche or uninspired, and the choice of genre used is completely unexpected and fits really well.  I THINK it would be considered Cod Reggae, but I’m not an expert on the subject.

OH! One final thing!  Did you notice that EVERY song has filler lyrics (Oh’s, Woah’s, Ah’s, Wah’s, etc)?  I can’t even tell if it’s bad song writing or an intentional theme considering the entire soundtrack utilizes them!

Arthur: I hate to use the phrase, mostly because of how condescending it may sound, but I like the soundtrack for what it is. The music in FiM is mostly show-tune style, which fits the fantasy setting, whereas all the music in EQG is more pop, which is a decision I feel got made not just because it fits the high school setting better, but because it’s the kind of music that the series’ target demo (i.e. young girls that may be feeling too old for ponies) is listening to right now. Still, there’s definitely a quantity over quality thing going on here. This is the most songs that an individual MLP installment has had so far, and while there are a few standouts, it’s apparent that this isn’t the style that composers  Daniel Ingram and Steffan Andrews are the most comfortable with. Cliches are no strangers to songs in FiM, but  they can make up for it either through orchestration (if a song has swelling key changes, chances are I dig the hell out of it) or the context in which they fit in a story. While there is variety within the pop aesthetic used in this movie and it feels that there is consideration of what a certain song at a certain time says in context, it  feels like it has less variety than the  FiM aesthetic, where we’ve had not just pop songs, but also Broadway style musicals, a cappella, country, marches, and even hip hop (that wasn’t supposed to be bad). Not to mention that songs in the show feel like they’re at their best when they’re integral to the story, and it’s not just the characters putting on a performance.

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“Lords of age-appropriate music, bless me with your mellow love!”

Your analysis of the Dazzlings is certainly valid, and their “music personas” is supposed to match with their mythological backstory in that they’re manipulators who charm others with singing (and also their looks). Of course, the difference is that they manipulate for personal power rather than for, well, murder. The name “sirens” is definitely intentional.

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“That bitch Shakira has nothing on our hips!”

While not my favorite song, mostly because I think the Dazzlings do it better and also because I generally run hot and cold when it comes to Trixie, Tricks Up My Sleeves is a good character-specific song.

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Personally, I would’ve gone with a “Jareth the Goblin King” sort of angle.

Also, I’m pretty sure the “point” of a keytar is to hold a synthesizer/keyboard as if it were a guitar.

Superdude: Aha! But in that scene Rarity was unable to play her keytar because of the magnets!  CONTINUITY ERROR!!!!

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Arthur:

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Superdude:

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Final Thoughts?

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“…and THAT’S why this was the best day ever.”

 Superdude: I think a lot of us forget how good we have it as fans of this franchise.  The fact is that Rainbow Rocks is this good, something that most other children’s cartoons aren’t able to even hope of pulling off.  They actually managed to make an enjoyable film out of one of the worst and hack ideas there is for a kid’s show (remember the TMNT band?) and make it seem so effortless that you wonder why the hell anyone tolerates the garbage that gets branded as Children’s Entertainment.  That said, it definitely suffers from sequelitis (let’s make the same movie, only with THREE villains this time!) and the music, while so much better than I expected, is still pretty generic and underwritten.  It just doesn’t have the punch the first one had.  I didn’t feel the need to see this in a theater like I did the first one; and when I DID eventually see it, I didn’t feel like I missed out.  There are a lot of great moments, almost every aspect of the production has been refined, and there is some interesting character stuff here and there that makes it a marked improvement over the original.  However, the fact that it’s not as big a leap forward for the franchise as the original is hardly surprising, but it’s still worth noting.  Maybe if they expanded the universe out a bit instead of keeping it centered squarely around the high school, it would have felt a bit grander in scope and ambition, but as it stands, it’s another great entry in the My Little Pony legacy to place alongside all the OTHER great entries in the My Little Pony legacy.

Arthur: The general (online) response to this movie is that it’s better than the first one. For the most part, this seems to be coming from people who weren’t already on board with this series. While I’m glad for that, putting down both movies side-by-side, I think the predecessor has the edge. Not only does it carry with it a stronger sense of self-assurance in its right to exist as something more than just Hasbro entering the world of fashion dolls, it also has the most charm (possibly the strongest aspect of MLP). That’s not to say that Rainbow Rocks pales in comparison. After all the hype and buildup to it between its release and the time I saw it, I can say that while this isn’t a revelation, it’s still a very solid, very enjoyable sequel that manages to feel familiar, but never redundant (which is a very good thing to say about sequels in general). It’s a welcome new chapter in the tales of both Twilight and Sunset and opens up the possibility of new ideas and stories to tell in the future. Here’s hoping in the by-now inevitable follow-up (and other potential projects) we get a bigger expansion of what can be accomplished with these characters and this setting. Whether this series will keep going until the current version of MLP goes away, I’m happy that this has carried on until now and has new plans over the horizon.

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“They wanted a talking anthropomorphic duck for this scene. They got me instead.”

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One thought on “My Little Pony: Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks Review

  1. Pingback: Super Recaps: My Little Pony season 5 (Amending Fences) | The Reviewers Unite!

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