I’m on vacation, so of course that means getting more blogging done. What else am I supposed to do, really?
Movie adaptations of a TV show tend to lean in one of two directions: the Star Trek direction, where you streamline it into something which sacrifices some of the spirit of the original for the sake of roping in new fans, or the Star Trek direction where you just do the same thing, only bigger and louder.* The My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic movie belongs to the latter category. It’s a bloated mess which does little that the show hasn’t already done. But it’s nevertheless a completely fine and satisfying bloated mess.
So Princess Twilight Sparkle is putting together a little friendship shindig in Canterlot, when things are rudely interrupted by the arrival of an army led by the unicorn Tempest Shadow, who serves the brand-obsessed Storm King. While Canterlot and the other princesses are quickly conquered, Twilight and her friends are able to escape, and go on a quest in search of a mysterious Hippogriph queen who theoretically has the power to take down the Storm King.
I suppose I could explain, for those not familiar with the show, who Twilight is, what the setting is, who her friends are, etc. But the movie doesn’t dwell on this, so I’m not going to bother.
The plot’s a rather episodic affair: the ponies stumble into a new location, meet someone new, have a crisis, sing a song, and repeat this process until the fight finally gets taken to the Storm King himself. Lessons about friendship are learned; everybody gets a pat on the back and feels good at the end. It’s got a lot of Stuff going on with little in the way of connective tissue, and with some particularly lazy leaps in storytelling logic. Anything that happens in the second act in particular only ‘matters’ for about the space of ten minutes.
But said accumulation of Stuff is also what makes it a tad interesting: even if the TV crew don’t seem particularly adept at crafting a story that makes better use of the more expansive runtime afforded by a feature film, they understand how to make things more spectacular. The movie is very committed to showing us all sorts of New Stuff, from the more diverse character designs (it turns out that our heroes’ pony nation is situated in a much larger, anthro-furry world) to the more alien locales. Its visual imagination makes great use of the globetrotting adventure to give itself enough distinction to be worthwhile in its own right.
It’s also just pretty to look at, mostly. The jump from Flash to Toon Boom finally allows these characters to overcome the slight stiffness that always plagues them on the show. There’s an overall greater degree of expressivity that makes them a lot more fun to look at, and the series’ Art Noveau backdrops look particularly splendid with their newfound degree of detail. Actually, all throughout there’s just all this attention paid to the subtle details which really help the world of the show really come alive in a way it does not on TV. The one hiccup is some conspicuous CG which, while it isn’t bad per-se, comes perilously close at times to threatening the illusion that all of this is happening on a single plane.
The Storm King is a fun, campy, but sadly underutilized villain. That he seems to view his plans for world domination in terms of a business and merchandising venture appears to be a meta crack that yes, we’re all aware that this franchise is a glorified toy commercial (there’s a greater degree of Hasbro brand awareness throughout, so of course we get references to the likes of Transformers and Hungry Hungry Hippos, although it’s handled about as tastefully as it could be). Tempest is a stronger, more menacing but also more understandable villain, and so of course in true MLP fashion will learn the errors of her ways and join in on all the friendship platitudes. Again, it’s been done before, just not in so splashy a a fashion.
Daniel Ingram’s songs continue to be earwormy, and the whole thing qua musical feels very much in line with 90s Disney/Bluth stuff, which is fun. There’s no reason for Sia’s character to be here aside from having Sia sing a pop ballad, but it’s decent enough stuff.
That’s pretty much it. It’s a fluffy affair all around, but sometimes you just want fluff. And, more importantly, it’s my kind of fluff, and can go sit beside the likes of Valerian in delivering those empty calories to me.