Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Good Dinosaur Review

Two Pixar movies in one year??? It's too good to be true.

The Good Dinosaur has the best animation I've ever seen in a movie.

It may have taken me awhile to reach that point if I wrote this review traditionally, but I couldn't help starting out by saying there were several times in this kids movie that I drooled over how breathtaking it looked. The grass looks like grass, the water looks like water, and the trees are so good that I though they were photorealistic. If it wasn't for the cartoon dinosaurs walking around, then I would have been certain you were showing me an actual forest and actual mountains. Holy crap does this movie look like a true work of art.

Anyway, this is the first time that we've ever gotten two Pixar movies in one year. Usually they reserve one Pixar movie each year so that Disney Animation could maybe get another animated feature out. That hasn't always been the case, but it certain feels like it. But when there were no Pixar movies at all last year, it made sense that we would get two this year, and it's even more impressive that this is Disney's big Thanksgiving movie, with its last honor going to Frozen, the monster franchise that decimated the Hollywood landscape and made everyone its bitch. I never had high expectations going into The Good Dinosaur, mostly cause I didn't know what to expect from it, and sadly, it isn't much. It's still good, but it's not another Pixar masterpiece.

Arlo is a... dinosaur (I'm not familiar on my dinosaur species. Brachiosaurus?) Who is always afraid of things. He screams a lot and is trying so hard to prove that he's not afraid. One day, while he's working on his family's farm, a human, who are wild animals in this world, appears on the farm and Arlo chases it to prove he's not afraid of it. He falls into a river near his farm and gets swept away. He wakes up near the end of the river, teams up with the human he names Spot, goes on an adventure to get home, insert Finding Nemo, Inside Out, and Toy Story mismatched adventure here.

For a movie about sentient dinosaurs that are living in what's essentially cowboys times, this movie just has no bite to it. Arlo travels the countryside meeting T-Rex cowboys, raptor rustlers, and crazy pterodactyl cultists, and yet none of it feel like it's amounting to anything. I don't feel like I'm meeting interesting characters or a part of an emotional journey with Arlo and Spot. I just feel like I'm going through the Pixar motions.

Even with the overall message of the movie, it's a message that I've seen countless times in Pixar movies. Be strong and conquer your fears, but it's presented as blandly as possible. The big T-Rex, Butch, tells Arlo halfway through that he needs to accept that things may scare him, but that he shouldn't be afraid to conquer them. It just rings of other much better Pixar movies, especially ones that came out earlier in the year that have the exact same message but are executed infinitely better and have much sadder yet more effective undertones to them.

Hmmmm, what movie was that again? I can't quite remember...

Even though I just saw this movie not even 24 hours ago, I'm pressed to remember thing one about the movie. I remember the stunning, and I mean stunning animation, plus the fun interactions between Arlo and Spot, but that's about it. The rest is like animated Styrofoam: it fills out space, but doesn't do anything or make you feel anything.

I don't mean to completely harp on this movie though. Again, this is probably the best animation I've ever seen Pixar produce, and that is saying a lot. Pixar is known for its beautiful animation, and while I wish that the rest of the movie had more bite to it, the animation is hands down the best thing about the entire movie.

I even liked Spot as a character. He has no lines of dialogue, but through body language alone, he instantly adhered to me and made me root for him. I'm actually tempted now to do a Top 10 Characters of 2015 list just to talk about why I enjoy each character so much. Whether it's through his expressive animation, how he walks, or even his reactions to some of Arlo's comments, Spot is just too much fun for me to hate.

There's even the obligatory sad Pixar scene that will make the tears start to flow, and I thought that The Good Dinosaur did that better than Inside Out did. Inside Out's sad scene with Bing-Bong and accepting sadness into a person's life was brilliant on a psychological and emotional level, but one could argue that they weren't as sad as other Pixar moments. Here, with only a few lines of dialogue, Arlo and Spot are able to convey the same sense of sadness, loss, and grief and mourn together in a surprisingly powerful moment of solidarity. I mean, it's for like two minutes, but a moment is still a moment in my eyes.

Actually, if we're being perfectly frank here, I think that the short before this movie, Sanjay's Super Team, is even better than the actual movie it's shown before. The premise is about a little boy named Sanjay imagining the Hindu Gods as a team of superheroes fighting against an Asura. I didn't think it was possible, but the animation here is even better than The Good Dinosaur and made me thrust the seat in front of me uncontrollably. It was visually stunning, had great character designs, animated perfectly, talked about a culture that really deserves more animated interpretations, and was just plain fun. If I could, I would want this to be extended and made into the full feature film. Seeing a boy imagine these divine beings as superheroes is the kind of idea that I wish was made into a full movie and not the safe movie about a dinosaur going home.

It makes sense though that I didn't really adore the movie. It's playing things too safe for Pixar. Pixar works on the different levels and each movie is going to be one of the three. One is their passion project where their creativity is presented in new and fresh ways, even though they may have a few of their tropes in there (Inside Out, The Incredible). The second one is a movie where they embrace all of their tropes just to make a movie that will show off their animation talent, but it isn't cynically made (Bug's Life, Brave). The final one is the shameless sequel that doesn't expand upon anything done in the original, but they made it because it's an easy paycheck (Cars 2, Monster's University). It's worrying that most of Pixar's new movies look like they're going to be the third option, with the only one that may be interesting is Coco, but we know next to nothing about it.

The Good Dinosaur is a movie that doesn't feel like it had any purpose to its existence, but I still had an alright time watching it. It's sad that a company as good as Pixar can make a movie that is simply alright, but it's also a testament that even at half mast, Pixar is still one of the best animation companies in the world, and The Good Dinosaur is still a phenomenally animated feature.



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