Film Review: Equestria Girls
The announcement that Hasbro was coming out with a My Little Pony movie with human-shaped ponies shocked many of the fans of the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic series. Although many thought they hated the idea, defenders of it were quick to point out that what they said about this premise was exactly what neigh-sayers (anti-bronies) say about MLP.
Personally, I reacted negatively to this news at first. I mean, the character designs shown to us looked unrealistically tall and thin, like most dolls, and had large heads and eyes, again, like dolls. So to me, this wasn't a movie so much as a gimmicky way to cram the pony style into a Barbie or Bratz mold. And I didn't want anything to do with it. At first.
However, like a good academic type, I wanted to make sure to refrain from judgement until gathering all the possible relevant data. That is, until I saw the film, I was not going to decide whether or not to like it.
Plot Summary (Spoiler Warning!)
Twilight Sparkle is adjusting to her new life as a princess in Canterlot, as per the ending of Season 3 of Friendship is Magic. So the wings are a bit awkward and new, and she doesn't know what duties Princess Celestia might assign for her now that she is a princess. She goes to bed in a palace in Canterlot and is about to go to sleep when a mysterious mare breaks in and steals her crown. The "mane six" and Twilight chase her, but she gets a way in a mysterious magical portal that looks like a mirror. Celestia comes in with the exposition as usual, explaining to Twilight that she must go through the portal and retrieve her crown, since it's also one of the six Elements of Harmony. Cadence and Luna also assure her that as a princess, she will be expected to go and face this danger alone.
And then she goes through the portal, becoming a human. Spike goes along too, turning into a dog. Hilarity ensues as Twiley has trouble figuring out the basics of being a human, from walking to writing with a pen in her hand instead of in her mouth. It also comes as a shock to her that this world is devoid of magic, and she no longer has her unicorn horn. At the high school, Canterlot High, she encounters other-world, human versions of every pony. Photo finish, Vinyl Scratch/DJ Pon3, Diamond Tiara, Silver Spoon, Trixie, the Cutie Mark Crusaders, and many other ponies show up in this world as humans, including Twilight's 5 main friends as well as Celestia and Luna, who are the Principal and Vice-Principal, respectively.
But when Twilight finds her old pony buds, everything isn't all rainbows right away. It turns out, the antagonist who stole Twilight's crown, Sunset Shimmer, has also been secretly manipulating Fluttershy, Apple Jack, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, and Pinkie Pie, so that they all hate each other. Or at least, are no longer on speaking terms. Twilight is able to fix this with relative ease, but still has only 3 days to get back her crown, which she must win by being crowned the princess of the Fall Formal dance. Sunset Shimmer has repeatedly won this contest, and this year was expecting to be unopposed. Yet Twilight knows she has to compete, for the fate of Equestria, and...
Doing that somehow entails all the girls putting on these adorable yellow pony ears and dancing around in the school cafeteria. Hey, it was cute! Over time, the mane 6 work together to get around Sunset Shimmer's nasty tricks and get Twilight voted as princess. However, when she's onstage accepting her crown, Snips and Snails (now under Shimmer's control instead of Trixie's) steal Spike, creating a dramatic, intense standoff where Shimmer threatens to destroy the portal if Twilight doesn't relinquish her crown. However, Twilight is not threatened so easily and, once Spike is safe, refuses to let go of her crown. Her experience taught her that her friends, which are the most important thing to her, exist in any world.
Then Snips, Snails, Shimmer, the mane 6, and Twilight get into a tussle over the crown, but eventually, it winds up on Shimmer's brow.
Sunset Shimmer, originally a unicorn and student of Celestia before Twilight (who was jealous of Twilight's praise and accomplishments), transforms into a red, winged, demon-like creature using the power of the crown. This was a totally cool and unexpected twist. Anyway, then Shimmer terrorizes the entire school with her freaky powers, but is defeated when Twilight rises up against her, saying that the "magic of friendship" exists in all worlds. So of course, friendship saves the day, Twilight saves Equestria, and gets to rock out to a bit more bad pop music before going home to live as a 4-legged animal again. Phew.
What I liked about it:
- Cuteness factor: everything about this movie was funny and adorable, well, except the villain. It was also just as upbeat and positive as any other MLP episode.
- They don't gloss over the awkward, uncomfortable transition from pony to human. Some shows and movies act like being human when you've been something else comes naturally, but it shouldn't. The writers definitely captured most of the difficulties associated with being human, even given the short time frame they could work with.
- The opening was neat. I think it's time MLP got a new opening, and at any rate I was really happy with this one.
- Costumes were cool and crowd scenes were interesting. Every scene was very lively and interesting.
- Good story overall.
- Also, it's kind of funny how the name Twilight Sparkle is synonymous with the name of the villain, Sunset Shimmer.
What I disliked about it:
- The romantic subplot was unnecessary and seemed hastily thrown in at the last minute, plus there's the squick factor because of how much this unspecified human resembles Twilight's brother, Shining Armor, in human form (he's actually just a different member of the royal pony guard, but still, enough resemblance there to make the viewer cringe). On top of that problem, the boy in question isn't an interesting character. He can be summarized simply as "cool dude who can play guitar" a character too flat and infantile even for say, a Sims game, let alone for a character-driven show like MLP.
- It is just a shameless hack's way to sell you dolls. (I've posted the pictures of the doll designs below, from a German website called fashion doll world) However, the dolls themselves actually look kind of cool, because this movie had some very cool costumes. But just as MLP:FiM is a great series for a plastic toy commercial, Equestria Girls is a good movie above and beyond being a doll commercial (it's better than any Barbie flick I've seen, definitely).
- The music was lame, in my opinion. It had none of the musical theater-esque or Disney-esque charm of the typical MLP song. What it was was what I'd call Disney-channel or teenie-bop pop, and it sucked. I mean, the songs still had good choreography and cheerful animation, but they sounded bland and generic.
- There's a few logical problems, such as how did Principal Celestia know about the world of Equestria, as is revealed in the end? And if she knew all along, why not simply give the crown back and not make Twilight go through the rigamarole of getting it back the hard way? I hate that she knew about the truth all along, because that means that she (and her hoofed counterpart back in Canterlot) were sending Twilight on an unnecessary snipe hunt just to "test" her, which is irksome. There's also a big logical problem I had with the show: If there are already human versions of every pony in the human world, why doesn't Twilight encounter the parallel world version of herself? Is she possessing the body of someone who normally inhabits the world as a normal human? Is the real Twilight locked in an underground cave? What happened to the real human version of Twilight? Or the real human version of Sunset Shimmer?
- Some things are not very well explained. For instance, it's revealed that, in a new world, a single Element of Harmony can have tremendous power, even by itself. First of all this makes no sense (because the Elements only work in Equestria when all six are combined in, well, harmony), and second of all, the powers it gives are vaguely described. The villain's past and motivation aren't really explained much, either, except that it's said that she was once Celestia's student. The how and why of her fall from good to bad is not explored whatsoever.