Greetings, fellow bronies and pegasisters! It's been quite a long while since my last visit here, but ol' Hoagiebot is back to review something My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic
-related again! For those of you who have been Furtopia members long enough to remember my text-walling review reign of terror back from when I reviewed every single episode but one from the series's second season here
, expect more of the same from this review, including all of the great text-walling glory that you fondly remember. For those of you reading this who are new since then, get ready to read, and read, and then read some more, but hopefully you'll feel glad that you did by the time that you reach the end! Well, hopefully!
I originally wrote this review for the website movietickets.com because I bought my advance tickets to see the film through that website, and they "invited" me to write a review for the film after I saw it. So I wrote the lengthy review for Rainbow Rocks
that you see below on their website's form and spent hours working on it, trying to make it the best review that I could make it. However, when I went to actually submit my review I then discovered that to actually post it I had to sign in to Facebook first. Being one of those few remaining stalwart curmudgeons that refuses to get a Facebook account for any reason, that meant that I couldn't sign in to Facebook and therefore couldn't contribute my review to the movietickets.com website.
This did not a happy Hoagiebot make, but then I remembered how much I enjoyed posting my old MLP:FiM episode reviews here, so movietickets.com's loss is your gain-- the first place that my My Little Pony: Equestria Girls - Rainbow Rocks
review is getting posted online is here! With that said, since I did originally write this review for the movietickets.com website instead of for here my usual geeky fan-boyish over-analysis of everything and the revelation of spoilers has been kept to a bare minimum with this review. So if you haven't seen the movie yet, this review likely won't spoil too
much for you because everything that I mention in the review below was pretty much covered in the film's official trailers or its official synopses. At the same time though, since I have seen the film, the film has been out for a while now, and because what fun would it be to discuss it without you know, actually discussing it,
if people want to talk about heavy spoilers in the comments that they post to this thread I am absolutely all for it! Anyway, on to the review:
First of all, for those who don't want to read a lengthy review and just want to stop reading here, I'll some up my feelings about "My Little Pony: Equestria Girls - Rainbow Rocks
" with a single sentence: After the pleasant surprise that the first "Equestria Girls" movie was, the follow-up "Rainbow Rocks" fell slightly flat.
Before I go into a more detailed review and explain why I buck the trend of the majority of the positive feedback surrounding the movie and feel that way, I will let you know a bit about my own background so that you know the perspective that I am coming from. As you might have guessed, I am a "Brony," a.k.a. an adult male fan of the "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic
" animated television series, and have been since the television series's first season. I've gone to MLP:FiM conventions, and am an artist that draws MLP:FiM fan artwork. So I am critiquing the Rainbow Rocks feature from the prospective of a devoted fan from a periphery demographic, and not from the perspective of someone from the targeted demographic or as a parent of someone from the targeted demographic. When you are talking about the "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" television series itself this isn't much of a problem-- what makes the television series so great (and why it is so popular amongst males and adults in general) is because the show includes a little bit of something for everybody. Naturally, there is a lot of saccharine cutesy-wootsy technicolored-ponies that talk all about the magic of rainbows and friendship in the TV show, but there are also so much more than that, including intriguing villains, Dungeons & Dragons-type monsters, plenty of action scenes, great music, and humorous references to everything from "Star Wars" to "The Big Lebowski." It's those things, plus the show's overall great writing and high-production values, that fans of both sexes and all-ages pick up on, and why the TV show has become so incredibly popular and an Internet sensation with an active and loyal fanbase.
With that said, the "Equestria Girls" series of films loses much of that charm and cross-demographic appeal. As Hasbro's answer to Mattel's highly successful "Monster High" franchise, "Equestria Girls" takes the "Mane Six" characters out of their fantasy world of magic and adventure and places them in... an average high school. *snore*
There is no doubt that this series of movies is targeted directly at female tweens and teens, and unlike the TV show, which made it a point to make sure that there was a little bit for fans of all ages in it, the Equestria Girls movies are much more narrowly focused towards their target demographic. This means that most of the content and references that made the TV series so appealing to fans like me is largely absent in the "Equestria Girls" film series. Sure, there are still some brief glimpses here or there of magic and mystical creatures, but it is so much more toned down here. In addition, the references to older 80's and 90's pop culture that used to be snuck in here and there in the television series to throw a bone to older fans seem to be lacking completely in the Equestria Girls films. The new high-school setting also serves to cut down on most of the toony zaniness and slapstick of the MLP:FiM TV series because there is just so much less toon-craziness that you can get away with in a more realistic high-school human teen setting than you can with squashy and squishy age-ambiguous cartoon ponies from a fantastic magical world.
Even with some of those fun elements removed and the Equestria Girls movies more narrowly focused to a particular audience, the one thing that can definitely be said about them is that they are better than they ought to be.
I had dismal expectations for the first "Equestria Girls" movie, and I was actually pleasantly surprised by it. The plot of the first Equestria Girls movie, while filled with examples of plot convenience, was better than expected, Daniel Ingram's music was fantastic (in fact, the song "Equestria Girls," a.k.a. the "Cafeteria Song,"
is one of my all-time favorite MLP songs ever), Twilight Sparkle's "fish out of water" story opened up many opportunities for great gags and humor, and since the world of "Canterlot High" was new to fans of the show, many bronies had great fun "pony spotting," or trying to find their favorite pony characters from the TV series in human-form in the Equestria Girls universe. There were also plenty of funny inside jokes to be had for fans of the MLP:FiM series in the first "Equestria Girls" feature, and overall watching it in the movie theater with one of my brony friends turned out to be a really good time. So overall the first film really exceeded my expectations, and if I had to give it a letter grade I would give it a B,
which is really high for me because I am a pretty tough grader.
After enjoying the first film, my bar was set much higher for the Equestria Girls sequel, "Rainbow Rocks." With those higher expectations in place, I have to admit that the movie didn't really rock my world. It was certainly not bad by any means, but it wasn't anything that was epic or fantastic either. Instead of exceeding my expectations it was kind of exactly what I expected it to be. The movie's story starts off not too long after the last film left off, with the movie's three new villains, the "Dazzlings," three banished magical creatures (and an evil version of the TVTrope "Comic Trio"
) that have amulets that can feed off of negative feelings and dissent, notice the Equestrian magic left behind by Twilight Sparkle in the first film and come up with a plan to steal it and use it to conquer the Equestria Girls world. Since the Dazzlings are actually a bunch of banished creatures called "sirens" from Equestria, they have the power to manipulate people into doing their bidding through the use of their dark-magic-powered enchanted singing. They follow the trail of the magic that they want to steal to its source at Canterlot High, and through their powers of manipulation create a "battle of the bands" event to create an environment of fierce rivalry, friction, and division across the school's student body. This allows The Dazzlings to both feed off of that negative energy being given off by the students to increase their powers, and it gives them a convenient venue to utilize their mind-controlling singing to enslave the entire student body at once. It also leads to what was in my opinion the movie's strongest song, The Dazzling's song "Battle,"
which coincidentally was once again performed in the school's cafeteria. The reformed villain from the first Equestria Girl's movie, Sunset Shimmer,
realizes that their is something sinister about the Dazzlings, and raises the alarm to the Mane 5 to have them call Twilight Sparkle from Equestria for help. This leads to Twilight Sparkle to return to Canterlot High from Equestria, and to try and find a way to both win the battle of the bands with her friends (who have formed their own rival musical act, "The Rainbooms"), defeat the Dazzlings and their evil scheme, and free the other students from the mind-controlling grip of the Dazzling's dark magical powers.
The plot, like with the first Equestria Girls movie plot, had a lot of plot convenience but was still O.K. enough. Most elements of the plot were really strongly foreshadowed as the events went along, so there were really no plot points that you'll find to be surprising or unexpected. Every character arc gets setup fairly blatantly in pretty much textbook fashion, so you'll know exactly who will be the character that will be saving the other characters at the "all is lost" point at the end of the film's second act, and will again make the difference in the final showdown in the third act. There was a series of "Rainbow Rocks" animated shorts that were released to the Internet in the months leading up to the theatrical release of this film, and sadly, one plot twist in this film makes much more sense had you seen these animated shorts beforehand. Personally, because of that I wish that Hasbro had chosen to play all of those shorts before the main feature in the theatrical release of Rainbow Rocks, but they didn't so you'll be missing out on a tiny little bit if you hadn't seen them.
For a movie completely based around a musical theme, musical villains, and a battle of the bands, I actually didn't find much of the music in the film all that impressive or enthralling. None of the music was bad by any means, but none of it really stood out to me as amazing like the Equestria Girl's "Equestria Girls" song did from the first film, or songs like "Winter Wrap Up," "At the Gala," "Smile Song," or "A True True Friend" from the MLP:FiM animated series did. This makes me almost wonder if Hasbro is finally wearing the very talented Daniel Ingram a little bit too thin-- with a film that contained so much music, maybe Daniel Ingram had too much on his plate to be able to take the time to make any one song really special. Also, for a movie that revolved around a battle of the bands, I wish that I could have heard more music from more of the bands, or more complete songs, especially during the film's final showdown.
Like with the first "Equestria Girls" movie, "Rainbow Rocks" had a lot of inside jokes and references to MLP:FiM for fans of the MLP:FiM animated series. Some of these inside gags really worked, and some of them not so much. Fluttershy's interaction with a spotlight was particularly funny. Most of my laughs from the "Rainbow Rocks" movie came from these inside gags-- other than them there really wasn't too much going for this movie comedy-wise. While the first "Equestria Girls" movie had Twilight Sparkle's "fish out of water" plot to draw upon for humor, that wasn't available as a source of gags for this film, and it shows. The brony pastime of "pony spotting" for this film wasn't much of a thing to kill time with while watching this sequel either, because we had already seen what the pony characters looked like as "Equestria Girls" human characters in the first film, so there wasn't a huge amount that was new here.
Leaving the theater with my friend I felt fairly entertained by the feature and was glad that I saw "Rainbow Rocks," but upon a second viewing of the feature I was downright bored at times, so I wouldn't say that Rainbow Rocks has a high level of rewatchability, and it grows tired rather quickly. All things considered, if I had to give "Rainbow Rocks" a letter grade then it would be a "C.
" The film is not bad. The film is not amazing. The film is certainly better than "passable," but not by a dramatically huge amount. If you're a brony like me, watch it once or twice just to say that you did, enjoy the funny tidbits and references that are in the movie just for you, and then go back to looking forward to when season 5 of the fantastic MLP:FiM animated series debuts. If you're a parent that is bringing your child to see this movie then don't worry-- this film is fairly well done and its production values are good, so you certainly won't find yourself being bored to tears or hating your own existence while watching it. It's no all-ages Disney or Pixar animated classic by any means, but it still has its charm and you just might find yourself really liking some of it.
Hasbro has left themselves open to make still more Equestria Girls sequels, and being the hopeless brony that I am I will probably still make my pilgrimage to a theater that is showing them to go see them on the big screen, but so far the Equestria Girls movies have turned out to be a weaker side-show to the wonderful MLP:FiM animated series, and are definitely not strong enough to be a main event in their own right. On one hand, these films are definitely so very much more than just toy commercials that are disguised as movies, but at the same time they also aren't masterpieces of the animation genre. As I already mentioned above, the one thing that really rings true about the Equestria Girls movies are that they far better than they ought to be. Heck, they are far better than they deserve
to be, with a lot of real talent going into the making of them. The people making these movies definitely aren't "phoning it in" and are putting some real effort into it. That is definitely not something that could be said about every animated film released by a toy company, so there is something really to be said about that.
So those were the thoughts that I tried to share with the visitors to movietickets.com. Was I fair? Was I too harsh? Was I not harsh enough? Now that you know my general impressions, I would love to know yours. With season 5 not starting until sometime next year, Rainbow Rocks is really all that we have to pick through and chew over until then, so lets breath a little bit of life back into the MLP sub-forum and get a discussion going over this!