This was written six months ago; I recently discovered it and realized it had never been published. So. for the little it’s worth:
When I went to see Kung Fu Panda 2, I walked away thoroughly satisfied. The movie had fully risen to the low-level of my expectation for a Dreamworks sequel. I didn’t expect much from it, and I received slightly more than I had hoped from a humorous and action packed storyline that was poorly held together by flashbacks and eastern mysticism.
Cars 2 was a totally different story. Even though it was a superior movie to the panda on every single aspect of film making, it was a major disappointment. Because in the things that counted, story and character design, it was below the high standards that Pixar has set for itself.
Before I go into the negative too much, let me give some positive notes: if you or anyone you know was thinking about going to see Cars 2, do it! It is as addictively enjoyable as the best in it’s genre. The humor is clean and continuous, and it is brim filled with spoofy spy-movie style action and espionage that would make James Bond wish he were a car. And above and beyond that, the animation and design are completely mind-bloggling: from Tokyo to ocean-based oil rigs to quaint Italian villages right on to Buckingham Palace, this is one big gorgeous visual treat that makes you want to travel the world. And to top it all, the culminating point in the film wraps up with a joyous and blasting loud playing of Rule Britannia. That’s something we all have to love.
For eleven consecutive films, Pixar has exemplified the age-old truth that quality storytelling and character design wins out over all else, and they are best complimented with groundbreaking technology that leaves the latest DreamWorks movie years behind like an iPhone leaves behind a Samsung Galaxy. Who knew that we would ever be able to care about a lost clownfish, or an old man with a dream, a house, and a lot of balloons, or a rat who dreamed of being a chef, or a little trash robot seeking a soul -erm- processor mate? But it has worked every time.
So why exactly did they see the need to gut the storyline of this film by taking the predecessors main supporting character, Mater the Tow Truck, and swapping roles with the main character Lightning McQueen for a spy flick that in which the antagonist are (ready?) disgruntled Lemons? (the automotive kind). The character of Mater in this film, and the feel-good message “accept your friends as they are”, are the epitome of too much of a good thing. It is crystal clear that rather than pursue good story goals, Pixar has at last sold out to the temptation of grabbing at what’s popular and milking it till dry.
(On another positive note, the film is blatantly anti-big oil. Just thought I’d throw that in there.)