Saturday, July 2, 2011

Cars 2

As far as animation companies go, Pixar is possibly the most highly acclaimed. Their films are unique, well written and true examples of films for all ages. At its best, Pixar is sublime and meaningful, with powerful messages, beautiful and inspiring animation, and great casts of characters. At its worst, it's still entertaining and fun, with great animation with likeable characters. If that's the worst you can do, it's still pretty impressive.

Admittingly, I was disappointed when I heard that they were making a new Cars film. Pixar has only made sequels to one film of theirs, while it seemed like every single other studio was milking their franchises for all they were worth. I didn't want to see Pixar join in. I'm sick to death of sequels and adaptations. I want to see original films. However, with a Monsters Inc sequel in the makings, and even a possible Toy Story 4, it appears that Pixar is joining in the parade of endless sequels. And it's a real shame. Pixar has made it clear that you don't need to constantly make sequels to make money.

Let's be honest here, Cars 2 is not the greatest film ever made by Pixar. Not even close. That doesn't mean it's a bad film though. The idea of a world entirely inhabited by cars and other vehicles is ridiculous, and raises some horrifying questions if you think too much about it, questions that are never addressed of course. Absolutely nothing would change if the characters were humans rather than cars. It’s made even more ridiculous when international politics and espionage is introduced into the mix. It is a good marketing ploy though, and it’s hard to deny that Cars has made a bunch of money through merchandising, possibly only topped by Toy Story. In terms of making money, Cars 2 was a good idea. Of course, if there’s anything reviewers and critics hate, its obvious ploys to make money. Because, you know, people shouldn’t try to make money out of movies, especially when they do it for a living. And that’s what Cars 2 feels like.

Out of all the obvious ploys to make money however, Cars 2 is probably one of the most enjoyable. Yeah, it’s not the most intelligent movie out there, but it knows that. It’s not trying to be. It’s an affectionate parody of spy films, and you really get the feel that everyone involved was having fun making the film. The villains are at their hammiest, overplaying the stereotypical villains, and the British agents are every secret agent stereotype imaginable, down to the ridiculous array of hidden weapons and technology decades ahead of its time. I can imagine how they came up with this movie:
“So let’s make a second Cars movie. It’ll make a lot of money. In fact, we already know it’ll be a box office hit, so let’s do whatever the hell we want. What do you guys wanna do?”
“Well, I loved James Bond when I was a kid, let’s make something like that.”
“Dude, James Bond is freaking rad! Do it!”
It really does feel like everyone involved is just having a blast, and when everyone involved is obviously having so much fun, it’s hard not to enjoy it along with them.

The greatest thing about this movie is definitely the animation. One of the greatest strengths of the original Cars was how beautifully they depicted the American Southwest, and this sequel takes it beyond that. The international setting allows the animators to pull out all the stops, and the backgrounds are lush and gorgeous, filled not only with famous landmarks, and lovely details. Porto Cosso is a beautiful depiction of the Italian countryside, with its crumbling buildings and their architectural details, and probably the loveliest setting of the film. Japan is a dizzyingly crowded and bright, full of neon lights, posters with big eyed cars, saturated in technology but with a tinge of the traditional, with the kabuki theater and geisha girls. Buckingham Palace is beautifully rendered, and the brief time spent in the Radiator Springs and France is lovely as well. The background is endlessly great to look at, beautiful and even breathtaking.

It may be one of the weakest of Pixar films, but it’s still a great film. The backgrounds are filled with eye candy for anyone who loves rural settings, ancient architecture, urban landmarks and futuristic modern architecture. It’s apparent that despite being a money making ploy, everyone involved really did put effort into it, and enjoyed every minute of working on the film. And that kind of obvious effort and enjoyment is hard not to respect or like. It’s a great ride, and a fun film that is worth the time.

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