written by Tessa Jerz
SPOILER WARNINGS ARE IN EFFECT
So about a month or so ago I wrote an article about the Equestria Girls movie, how it might have the potential to be pretty good and that all the freaking out over it might wind up being for nothing. The movie finally hit theaters for the first screening this morning (screenings at least so far are very limited, with only one showing each day it screens and those days are spread apart quite a bit), and I got a chance to attend the showing.
I came to the conclusion that it was actually pretty good and all the freaking out was for nothing.
Will It Satisfy the Bronies?
Okay, so here’s the thing. Opinions have been pretty strongly divided over this movie among the fanbase. Things almost seem split in half about the whole thing, with one side being anywhere from mildly interested to excited for the movie, and the other still adamantly opposed to its existence. I’ve actually seen people say that the worst case scenario for them is this movie actually being decent and doing well, they’re that opposed to the concept of its existence.
If you’re in the latter group, I honestly don’t know if the movie will win you over. In fact, I’d say it probably won’t. This is very much a situation where, at least to an extent, you’ll get out of it what you bring into it. The movie isn’t perfect. There are definite flaws. If you go in expecting (or wanting) it to be bad and looking for things to hate, well, chances are you’ll find enough to take issue with to back up that viewpoint. If, however, you’re going in open to the idea that this whole thing could work, there’s a ton there that makes the movie incredibly entertaining the entire way through.
Is It Worth Seeing In Theaters?
The theater in particular that I went to, while not full, was pretty well seated, with a very healthy mix of age ranges and genders. I honestly don’t know what the actual percentages came down to and it was difficult to judge at a glance, but I’d say it was close to a half and half split between bronies of various ages (male and female), and young kids (mostly girls) with pony plushies and toys. It was something I was very happy to see. I was a little worried coming into the screening that the viewing would be dominated by bronies, for something that was, in the end, really made for the audience of young girls that were there. But overall from what I could tell, both were in fairly equal showing, and the bronies were mostly well behaved (I only caught one F-bomb during the lead-up to the movie starting, which was still incredibly embarrassing, but it could have been so much worse).
The experience of the theater filled with people very into what was going on was ridiculously fun. The movie itself was delayed about fifteen minutes past the screening time, and in the meantime about half the theater started sing-a-longs of songs from the show (which I took part in, screw off, it was fun). The jokes all got lots of laughter from the audience, and the crowd burst into full applause at various points of the movie (usually when characters showed up). The entire thing was so much more fun being able to hear everyone else’s reactions, and I’d strongly recommend finding the opportunity to see a showing in theaters if you’re interested in seeing the movie at all.
What Was Great
The movie’s strongest points are really what the show’s strongest points have been. As stated before, the people involved with this movie are the same people working on the show, so it wasn’t surprising at all that the movie followed similar patterns.
Once Twilight Sparkle reaches the human world, the story effectively breaks down into three plot threads: a fish-out-of-water storyline where Twilight has to come to terms with this unfamiliar world and what she’s become; a somewhat déjà vu experience of her becoming acquainted with the alternate-universe versions of her Ponyville friends and helping them reunite; and the “main” plotline of attempting to get her crown back, which leads to a struggle to win the election of the Princess Of the Fall Formal and her conflict with Sunset Shimmer, the movie’s villain. These threads aren’t completely separate, and all of them weave together fairly well, but for the sake of critique they’re going to be looked at separately.
Of the three, the fish-out-of-water plotline is easily the best. They hold onto the concept of her being completely out of touch and uncomfortable with what she is for a good chunk of the way through the movie, and her confusion over how to act and fit in made for some of the more amusing and interesting story beats. This is a good place to bring up Spike (who is the only other Ponyville resident aside from Twilight and Sunset to cross over into the human world), who plays a fairly large role in trying to help Twilight adjust. While I’ve discussed the idea of him becoming a dog being a fairly odd choice, in practice it actually seems to work very well. His relationship with Twilight doesn’t change in the slightest, although he has to take pains to keep from talking around other people, both adding to Twilight’s awkwardness in her new setting as well as giving him a bit of his own.
There are cameos galore in the movie, and playing “find the background pony” is going to be an enjoyable way to re-watch it at some point. One of the best lines in the movie actually comes from a character I totally didn’t expect to see, and while it was a one-off joke that had nothing to do with the story, it was one of my favorite moments in the movie. Almost every notable pony character from the series has a human counterpart hidden somewhere in the movie, and while I was hunting for as many as I could find, I’m sure I still wound up missing some.
As is the case with the show, the best moments were really involving the characters themselves, particularly the Mane Six. Pinkie Pie arguably steals the show in every scene she’s in (both her human version and the pony we’re familiar with for the brief time she’s in it), but all of the characters are very faithful to their show personalities (again, not surprising, considering it’s the same writers and VAs), and watching them interact and just be themselves is just as entertaining and fun as it’s always been.
What Was Good
The idea of re-introducing Twilight to alternate versions of her friends works well overall, and makes for some great character moments. Although it could be accused of retreading a bit on the original opening of the show for its story, I found it to be a fun re-imagining of Twilight’s first encounters with the friends she’s become so familiar with, combining her familiarity with their personalities with her complete bewilderment at the very unfamiliar forms they’re taking. The plotline involves a ton of direct throwbacks to moments from the show re-playing themselves out in slightly different ways, and was very enjoyable to watch. The only thing keeping it from working quite as well as it could is that the mini-conflict the plotline presents is resolved incredibly fast, to the point that it’s almost a little unbelievable the problem tackled even existed to the extent it did in the first place if it’s overcome so easily.
The human designs for the characters have grown on me significantly since they were first introduced, and overall I found them really enjoyable to watch. The characters actually did seem to translate well to the new designs, to the point that it didn’t really feel awkward at all to see these characters like this. It wasn’t a total hit (the theater let out a collective “ew” at seeing Celestia’s human counterpart), but at least minus her and Luna, overall it seemed to work well.
The songs are standard Daniel Ingram fare, and are incredibly catchy. If you like the song work in Friendship Is Magic and Littlest Pet Shop overall, this is very much on the same wavelength (again, same guy doing it, so yeah). The songs take a very tweeny pop angle, which I personally loved, but it may not work as well for other people as the larger variety of songs the show boasts does.
What Was Bad
The Fall Formal plotline is incredibly standard for this kind of story. It’s easily the weakest of the three sub-plots, and the movie suffers the most when the focus swings back around to it. While some of this probably comes down to running time, Twilight goes far too quickly from being the laughing stock outcast of the school to suddenly gaining everyone’s vote and winning by a landslide. Events towards the end at least make slightly more sense as far as winning people over than her first real successful attempt (which pretty much boils down to “she has her friends back and suddenly it’s easy”), and the story does set up Sunset as being popular through intimidation rather than people actually liking her, but in the end it still falls into place way too easily.
Along with this storyline, we get the introduction of Flash Sentry, the love interest who was teased in the trailer. This is one of the most uncomfortable bits of the movie for me, and was honestly the bit I was dreading the most. There’s very little time devoted to building Flash as much of a character, and it follows a very cliché and shallow “awkward clumsy girl runs into cute boy repeatedly” line, with nothing really forming a real basis for a relationship to happen there (Twilight also is incredibly quick to develop romantic feelings for what to her should be a strange alien creature she still is only barely used to seeing). Overall, this was the biggest disappointment to me for the movie, although to its credit it takes up very little of the overall running time. Despite the movie seeming to imply that the relationship is going to carry over from the movie and become something in the show, it’s been confirmed that Flash is not going to be a character in Season Four, so at the very least this part of the plot can be ignored.
The movie’s antagonist, Sunset Shimmer, also falls a little short. Her character is enjoyable, but very two-dimensional, and the climax of the movie as a whole sort of flops, both with the ultimate confrontation with her and the resolution of that confrontation. I don’t want to give too much away, but I will say that the half-pony forms from the original marketing pics aren’t entirely absent in the movie (thankfully they’re only onscreen for a handful of minutes).
The Good Outweighs the Bad
While the movie definitely has flaws, overall I found it incredibly enjoyable. The story has more hits than it does misses, and the number of shout-outs, callbacks, and Easter eggs within the movie make up enough of a reason to see it even if you’re completely uninterested in the main story. The humor is great, the characters are just as enjoyable as always, and there’s definitely plenty there to keep you fully entertained throughout if you’re willing to just have fun with it and slide past a few groans and winces. It may not rank anywhere close to the best thing G4 has brought to us, but I think it’s well worth a shot. I’d be willing to bet any pony fan will find themselves with a smile on their face at least once during the movie.
Also stay for the credits. Seriously.
Tessa can be reached on Twitter @_SugarCrash.