Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The 3rd Year Anniversary Review

After 3 years, it's time to continue my suffering for you all.

It's October 4th, so you all know what that means! It's time for me to celebrate the creation of The Critical Order! Back when I was wide eyed and innocent, I never thought that this website would be going strong for 3 years. In the first month alone, I struggled to make over 100 views, but now the site is healthy, and I have you, the fans, to thank for it. It's your readership and confidence that allows me to keep at it, going through hell and high water to provide you with my honest opinion and to be upfront and honest about everything I write.

So let's talk about My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic some more.

Yes, we're going to dive back into the well of the Equestria Girls sub series of MLP, the movie franchise where there are human counterparts to the ponies going to high school and having girl problems. See, I was going to talk about last year's movie, The Friendship Games, for my two year anniversary, but a few things got in the way of me seeing it in time, plus I wanted to try something different for my 2 year anniversary. Looking back, I wished I had talked about it, because it was the one time where I actually could understand why the franchise was so popular. It made me understand the Bronies.

The Friendship Games centered around the real world version of Twilight Sparkle (still want to kill myself whenever I say that name) traveling to the school to investigate the magic from Equestria, only to end up stealing all of the magic and turning into a powerful monster that needed to be stopped by her soon-to-be friends. It was a character study of Twilight, and with some decent looking visuals, it was actually moderately okay. Granted, the writing and animation was still pretty shoddy and the songs were despair inducing, but if you were a fan of the series, it was an enjoyable enough film that gave you everything you could ever want, anthropomorphized ponies and all.

Thankfully I don't have to be so positive anymore, because The Legend of Everfree, the fourth My Little Pony: Equestria Girls movie I had the "pleasure" to review, is back to being insultingly simple and bizarrely disjointed, even for a kids movie.

Our story revolves around the "Mane Six" (I don't want to live on this planet anymore), traveling to Camp Everfree for a school trip. And... that's it! That's your whole plot. The group goes to a camp, does some activities, investigates some magic, and tries to build a dock in between going rock climbing, baking, and telling campfire stories. Oh, and trying to hit on green haired hippy teenage pretty boys named Timber. Cause that's a thing.

You know, while the first movie was a pretty painful piece of trash, at least the second and third movies made up for their failings by having a compelling villain and interesting character dynamics respectively. Here, all of our main characters, that's Twilight Sparkle, Sunset Shimmer, Applejack, Rarity, Rainbow Dash, why the hell am I legitimately listing these names, dear God what has my life become, Fluttershy, Rarity, and Pinkie Pie, are still defined by their basic roles as being smart, shy, adventurous, pretty, psychotic, etc, etc. Now there's nothing wrong with having stock characters, but stock characters work as well as they do because of the situations they're put into. No one gives a damn about Link, we like the adventures that Link goes on. Here, there is no adventure. It's a camp trip. I can guarantee you that those aren't high stakes.

We do have two new characters who make an appearance, the aforementioned Timber and his sister, Gloriosa Daisy, who both run Camp Everfree, but their arcs are shallow at best, idiotic at worst. Gloriosa always tries to do everything herself, making her painfully chipper, only becoming tolerable when she becomes insane and gains uncontrollable magic and entraps the entire camp in roots (oh, uh.... spoilers I guess... it's a My Little Pony movie, sorry for not being polite). I'll get into her descent into evil eventually, but until that point, she's just an annoying character that made me groan whenever she appeared. Oh, and Timber wants to do Twilight. That's his arc. Moving on.

I will say that the movie does have a good (singular) part in it, and that's when its dealing with the fallout from the last movie. To make a long story short, Horse Twilight isn't here, and Human Twilight is now the main character, but she's still coping with the fact that she became a magical demigod last movie, so she's worried that that evil is still inside of her. It's an interesting way to start the movie for sure, featuring a scene where every character in the movie is erased from existence, which I played on repeat for a good half hour just for gratification. The subplot even gets a song out of it, which lasts for barely a minute, but at least it still counts for something. Unfortunately by the time the movie reaches the halfway point, no one really cares about it anymore, so there goes that goodwill.

So yeah, the majority of the movie is pretty much watching the main cast go around a camp and have fun. There is literally no plot in this movie until the last 20 minutes, but even then it's nothing all that great. It's the revelation that Gloriosa is using magic to make the campers have a good time, and instead begins to use to magic to trap them all and cut off the camp from the outside world. So we have a villain that originally had altruistic motives, only becoming satanically evil as soon as she reaches full power, completely ignoring her original motives and aspirations. All Gloriosa wanted to do was to save the camper from being bought by a business man named Filthy Rich (weighing options now, how does arsenic taste?), so instead of doing anything logical like raise money or plan fundraisers, she's content with letting the camp be bought out and wants to make this group her last hurrah so to speak. Okay, then why try and kill them all at the end of the movie instead of Filthy Rich, the business tycoon that clearly doesn't give a damn about her camp or her?

Nope, instead the Mane Six team up to fight her with new magical powers that they gained... somehow. Yeah, while they're staying at the camp, they get new magic powers that relate to their personalities, yet it's never really explained what it is. It's apparently only because they're within the camp and so close to Gloriosa's magic, but all of them start developing powers before Gloriosa obtains supreme magical power. So what gives?

Oh who gives a damn really, because I can nitpick the plot of this movie for days. I hear the same old adage all of the time that "it's for kids" equals "it doesn't have to be good as long as they're entertained". I'm sorry, but has anyone ever really analyzed that statement? That's pretty much saying that even is a product is utter garbage, if your kid likes it, then that's all that matters. Kids don't know what they want! Kids try and stick forks into electrical sockets, but we know that they shouldn't do that in the first place.

Try and put that phrase onto any other genre or demographic, and you'll realize how repugnant a phrase "It's for kids" really is. That's pretty similar to blaxploitation films in the 70's, an entire genre dedicated to low quality action films that had extensive stereotyping, but "it's for black people", so you can get away with the low quality as long as they're entertained. I'm sorry, but that's just wrong. A movie should aim to be a good movie no matter what demographic you're shooting for. If you're making a movie just to cash in on a trend, or a group of people, that's fine, but don't be coy about it and say you're doing anything else with it. Further more, don't defend crappy movies. Your kids are watching this stuff! Would you let your kids watch Norm of the North if they wanted to? Would you be fine with showing them Norm of the North, knowing it was a stinker? Would you want your kids to be quoting Norm of the North to you, believing it was a good movie? Would you want a copy of Norm of the North in your house for your kids to watch at anytime because they think it's good?

Where was I? Oh yeah, how bad The Legend of Everfree is. I've been scavenging it's 73 minute runtime for anything else that I can talk about, but when so much of the movie is just the same old characters running around and acting like they have in the previous three movies as well as the six seasons of the TV show, what can I say? Pinkie Pie is giddy and happy, Fluttershy is socially awkward, rinse and repeat. They sing songs about friendship and sing as a band. It's rainbow coated white noise.

What's worse is that for the low bar that was already set for this series, Everfree doesn't even clear that bar because of how directionless it is. If you're a fan of the show, more power to you. It probably has more continuity and direction than this film series, and I can't say for sure whether or not the TV show has progressed more with character development than this sub series has. But even if you're someone that fiercely defends the series and its characters, I'm sure there are dozens of episodes wherever just relaxes and has a good time without any major conflict until the very end. That's The Legend of Everfree in a nut shell; warm fuzziness leading into a sudden villain reveal matched only by a sudden villain defeat with no superpowers.

And you know what, I wouldn't even mind if it was just a movie about the girls having fun in the woods, but the animation hasn't changed in over three years. The animation here is just as complex as it was back in 2013, which even then was a step up from the original show's animation in 2010. So really, has it progressed as much when compared to the original show. I'm petty sure that Steven Universe manages to look more impressive on a weekly basis than this movie franchise does ever year.

Whenever I talk about movies like Equestria Girls: The Legend of Everfree, people usually say "you should have known that a movie is going to be bad just by looking at it! Why are you complaining so thoroughly about hating a movie?" Because I don't like reviewing bad movies! Do you think I want to sit down and watch bad movies to get enjoyment out of it? I watch movies that I know are bad so I can learn from them. Why is this movie bad and what makes it bad? That way, maybe, just maybe, other people can learn to identify tropes and themes that are prevalent in bad movies and eventually not go see them. Instead people, can learn to go see good and/or great movies! And if one person has to sit down and watch a bad movie so no one else has to see it, then so be it. Even if the movie is so bad and obscure that no one is going to see it, maybe my reaction to it can provide more entertainment than the original movie did. At least, that's what I think anyway.

Equestria Girls: The Legend of Everfree is a slog of a movie, but surprisingly because nothing happens in it. The other movies had interesting villains and scenarios that at least made them worth some attention, but Everfree has none of it. I saw it, I saw the characters be happy, my soul died a bit, and I stood looking listening to "The Sound of Silence" contemplating what kind of world we live in where empty joy is perceived as entertainment. The Legend of Everfree came out on Netflix last weekend, so do yourself a favor and just watch Luke Cage instead. That's a much better way to spend an evening than watching this.

I would be more mad at Equestria Girls: The Legend of Everfree, but it isn't vitriolic. When I finished watching it, I wasn't seething with rage, wishing the go directly to Hasbro and force every executive to watch it like A Clockwork Orange. Instead, I shrugged my shoulders. I don't fight every bad movie I see. I pick my battles. Fant4stic is a battle. 50 Shades of Grey is a battle. Equestria Girls: The Legend of Everfree doesn't deserve my hatred. It's not nearly that offensive, but my God does it still deserve a place underneath a broken table leg. Maybe then it'll be worth something.


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