Remember the original teaser trailer for Cars 3? It had everyone hyped because it seemed that Pixar were going to take a massive gamble on the Cars franchise and give it a more grounded, darker tone, which is popular now with film audiences, and the audience responded with loud approval. Now the film is released, it unfortunately doesn’t uphold said promise from the beginning, but instead offers us an improvement on the Cars franchise, but let’s face it since the Cars 2 this film never had much of a bar to raise.
I’d better start off with what you already know, Cars 3 looks amazing. Pixar’s quality in 3D animation is unmatched and Cars 3 continues this lengthy reign. Next, Owen Wilson as Lightning McQueen brings the right amount of charisma to the role as the egotistical racer and having his ego matched by the new kids on the block in the form of Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer) provides a good motivator for a change in Lightning. Finally, for the fans who cover Pixar films frame by frame to find easter eggs won’t be disappointed as the film is filled with them, although they do seem more obvious than previous films.
Cars 3 is a film about growing old and staying relevant in an evolving and changing world, which if you get rid on the inclusion of Cars 2, makes the space in between the films timeline much more believable. Pixar have learned from their mistakes in this case and have brought to the table a film that stays true to its beginnings and feels like an actual sequel. There is even the cameo appearance of past characters although you’d have to be quite knowledgeable about Cars to know who these characters are.
Speaking of past characters, the film insists that we know more about the past life of Doc Hudson, Lightning McQueen’s mentor. I was quite taken back by this as I was not expecting the film to take this route but they did and it works for the story and characters. One scene where Lightning McQueen and his new protegé Cruz (Cristela Alonzo) visit Doc Hudson’s most iconic track is as refreshing as the scene’s environment. You often hear about locations being characters themselves, the team behind Cars 3 replicate this feeling to the track as the track is metaphorically Doc Hudson making the scene feel respected by both characters and audiences.
The film does feature a lot less Mater and treats him more as an additional character, which I think was a good move as Mater was essentially the main character in the sequel, so to demote him but without taking away what kids like about him is a move that puts him in his place and, if we get another Cars film, should stay there. Cruz was a decent addition to the long list of characters, although I do feel that her character became more important than what she should have been. I understand that what they do with her character fits with the entire theme of the film, it just that for future instalments I can’t see her being as memorable to the audience.
Cars does seem to be the least favourable of Pixar’s franchise, and while I disagree, I understand why people would think that way and it is Cars 3 that brought my understanding of other people’s view to life as the film does have quite a few problems. The first being that the narrative structure does feel all to familiar, despite the improvement on characters. The script has a go at humour that doesn’t quite tickle the audiences fancy and doesn’t even feel like the delivery of the funny dialogue was even supposed to be as funny as the director Brian Fee wanted it to be.
There is a moment where Lightning McQueen is watching a video reel of Doc Hudson’s big crash that put him into retirement and I remembered this being featured in the original Cars only on a newspaper clipping, I thought to myself, why has this just suddenly shown up? This is just one example of a semi decent script that does at times often forgets about the franchises past, for instance, watching the racing at the beginning we are given no context as to if this is a Piston Cup race or something else.
I’ll end by saying that Cars 3 is a kind of fun to watch, you’d have to be well invested in the Cars franchise i.e. grown up with it to truly finds entertainment. I can’t help but notice the odd scenes that are an attempt to cover the franchises tracks and make us all forget that Cars 2 even happened. The story fits much better to the creative idea of creating this world and there is an almost unmissable improvement on the characters themselves, but if Cars is looking to be a flagship of Pixar films, something must change whether that’s in tone or style, for now it’s acceptable but Pixar shouldn’t get to comfortable.
Now onto Pixar’s newest short film Lou which can be summarised as Pixar’s anti-bullying video. Whilst the charm gets more progressive, much like Cars 3 it does leave a rather forgettable impression. I’ve always seen Pixar Shorts as a showcase for advancements in 3D animation whilst also giving us a masterclass in storytelling. Lou is one of those films that works in concept but in practice lack that certain shine. Lou never tugs at the heartstrings and by the time is tries to do that, it’s already too late because of the lightheartedness at the beginning. The creativity in character design is the most impressive, without revealing too much, it is familiar to a child’s imagination and like how they can create stories about places that to adults are ordinary.