Movie Review: “Cars 3”
Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) has been the number one racer for a long time, and while he never assumed he would stay on the top forever, he soon discovers that the end of his days on top may come to an end far sooner than he imagined. One day, a new breed of race car has emerged in the form of Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer). Jackson Storm suddenly made his presence known by defeating Lightning McQueen, but the concerning part was the ease in which he was able to do so. Jackson Storm is much younger, moves much faster, and proves to be more than Lightning McQueen can handle.
As if one race car like Jackson Storm was not enough. Others have learned from the effectiveness of Jackson Storm, and with every race, more new breed cars begin replacing the older models. This starts discussion of Lightning McQueen's retirement which naturally bothers the race car who was not so long ago at the top of the mountain. The idea of him becoming obsolete was one that came so quickly. Refusing to accept defeat, McQueen pushes himself to the limit and suffers a tragic accident as a result. This is when he meets Cruz Ramirez (Christela Alonzo) who becomes his new trainer as he tries to make a comeback. However, even if he can recover, does Lightning McQueen have any hope of defeating Jackson Storm and the countless new breed model cars just like him?
The Pros & Cons
The Plot (+8pts)
Visual Effects (+3pts)
The Climax (-3pts)
Cruz Ramirez (+5pts)
Pro: The Plot (+8pts)
I really enjoyed the plot for most of this movie as it hit a theme that I did not expect from an animated movie such as this one. In Cars 3, Lightning McQueen struggled with the concepts of old age and mortality. He simply was not fast enough to keep up with the younger, more powerful cars and it was a fact that hit Lightning McQueen very hard. He had been the fastest car ever since he debuted, and in one sudden moment a new car forced him to think about retirement. Lightning McQueen was also introduced to a younger car named Cruz Ramirez and he became her mentor (of sorts), all while she help him on his road to coming back. This was a well written story that dealt with real life issues (such as forced retirement and mortality), but in the context of a kids movie. I went into this movie expecting a typical kids movie, but I thought the plot was far more compelling than I thought it would be.
Con: Demographic (-3pts)
Who was this movie for? It was an animated kids movie, so obviously should have been geared at kids. The plot, however, was definitely an adult plot. Will kids understand it on a basic level? Sure, but I do not think kids will be able to connect with Lightning McQueen's story on a deeper level. They understand the idea of getting old, but I think the concept of mortality is one that few kids in the audience will truly be able to comprehend. This was especially confusing when you consider the fact that Lightning McQueen did not look any older or more worn down than he did in the previous movies.
I felt like this movie tried to do what Toy Story 3 did, by making its story with more "adult" concepts since its demographic from the first movies have now grown up. However, the adult themes in Toy Story 3 were not the focal point of the movie. It was what the entire plot was about, but the filmmakers kept the focus on the toys and their adventures. With Cars 3, the filmmakers made Lightning McQueen's mortality the focal point of the movie, and there were stretches of the movie that worked dramatically, but I think kids will find it slow and will not really be invested in it. Was there still plenty for kids to enjoy about this movie? Definitely, but I thought the filmmakers focused on the adult themes a little too much, and I think kids will find these scenes boring because the concept of mortality will go way over their heads.
Pro: Visual Effects (+3pts)
I very much enjoyed the visual effects in this movie. The background and scenery looked very realistic and impressive. The movie balanced a very real looking background with cartoon-styled characters and I thought the combination actually worked really well visually. My only visual complaints were that the cars' headlights looked like stickers rather than functional headlights and I thought that Lightning McQueen looked no older than he did in previous movies, even though the plot focused heavily on his age. I thought the filmmakers should have spent a little more time on these two things, but they were honestly very minor visual issues. The filmmakers combined cartoon looking characters, with an incredibly realistic setting (although entirely CGI), and it made for a unique visual style that I enjoyed.
Con: The Climax (-3pts)
The plot of this movie was very well written right up until the climax of the movie. At that point, a decision was made by Lightning McQueen that was made at a completely random time. My issue was not with the decision itself, but more with when that decision was made. It utilized a rule that had not previously been setup, which made the moment feel like a lazy plot device. The decision also interrupted the flow of the climax of the story. In other words, the movie's finale was going well, the audience was invested, then Lightning McQueen made a decision that interrupted the climax to give more rising action that then built to another climax.
I am sure this sounds weird if you have not seen the movie. Basically what I am saying is that the filmmakers built toward a climax, then right when that climax was about to happen, the filmmakers interrupted the pacing of the story, to swap this climax out with another, one that required additional rising action. I just did not see any reason for the bait and switch, and think the movie would have been better off if the filmmakers just setup the real climax from the beginning and built toward that properly. Doing it that way would not interrupt the flow of the story at such a crucial point in the movie.
Pro: Cruz Ramirez (+5pts)
This was the secondary storyline of the movie, and I thought it complemented the main storyline well. Lightning McQueen was a champion race car being forced into retirement, but decided to train like the young cars in an attempt to save his career. Cruz Ramirez was a young car, trainer of young race cars, and was a wannabe race car herself. Then the two met and their storylines developed together very naturally. Cruz Ramirez saw Lightning McQueen as a mentor, even though she was tasked with helping him train. Lightning McQueen also saw a lot of himself in her, and I just thought it made for an interesting pairing that worked really well for this story.
Con: Cluttered (-4pts)
Cars 3 introduced a handful of new characters such as Jackson Storm, Cruz Ramirez, Sterling, and Smokey (just to name a few). The filmmakers also tried to keep all of the side characters from the previous movies. The result was way too many characters, and the filmmakers clearly struggled to juggle all of them in one movie. Jackson Storm, the primary antagonist, got little to no development in this movie. He basically could have been a nameless faceless new car and the movie would have been no different. Adding new characters is fine, but if you to juggle too many, all of the characters can suffer, and that was what happened here. The new characters felt generic and underdeveloped, and the old characters felt unnecessarily forced into this story.
Grade: B- (81pts)
I thought Cars 3 was a decent movie. It had an interesting plot with two storylines that complemented each other pretty well. The visual effects were impressive, as they combined animated characters in very realistic looking environments. However, the movie did have its problems. The most obvious was the demographic issue.
The movie had a well written plot that I think adults will get, but will not have much of an impact with kids. Additionally, the climax of this movie was a bit of a mess, and there were so many side characters that all of them ended up suffering. It was by no means a bad movie. I had some issues with it, but it was still a decent kids movie. There were some issues, and there were some scenes that I think will bore kids watching it, but there was a decent story here with plenty to keep kids entertained along the way.