Cars 3 (2017)

4:52 PM

It's not over until lightning strikes. 
This review contains Spoilers.
 Cars 3 is the directorial debut from Brian Fee who previously worked in the art department for most Pixar releases. The film features the voices of Owen Wilson (Midnight in Paris, Marley & Me), Armie Hammer (The Man from U.N.C.L.E, The Lone Ranger), Larry the Cable Guy (Cars) and introduces Cristela Alonzo to mainstream audiences. "Lightning McQueen sets out to prove to a new generation of racers that he's still the best race car in the world". The Cars series is almost unanimously seen as Pixar's worst, can Cars 3 elevate the franchise?

The Cars films have never been to the standard of Pixar's greatest - the first was good, the second was critically panned (I thought it was dumb but fun) and the third? Well, I believe it's to the standard of the first. This is Pixar's first major release of the year and it definitely doesn't have a patch on Inside Out or Finding Dory which are previous summer releases for the studio. Let's just hope Coco is better received than The Good Dinosaur! Cars 3 is a pleasant and enjoyable film that kids are going to love - I can't remember a film where the audience were more interactive! There are some themes and jokes that will satisfy older audiences but this is still skews quite young, despite what the trailers may have suggested. 

In comparison to other Pixar flicks, what Cars 3 lacks is originality. It's just more of the same - cars compete to win races. The first film could have easily been left as one solo outing without any sequels or spinoffs but why do we keep getting them? Merchandise. The Cars brand is one of the strongest brands out there, believe it or not. I think it's also no coincidence that the Cars are stylised to look like toys and don't feel that realistic - their aesthetic is so appealing to young children because they can picture what they see on screen in a toy shop. It's also no accident that the film features on whole scene on the powers of branding and merchandise - Cars 3 is actually quite self-aware and definitely knows its strengths...

This is a Pixar film, of course the animation is good. The film was bright, shiny and squeaky clean. I really liked the wide shots of different landscapes and locations - they were pretty beautiful. The design of the stadium in Orlando was also very impressive! I also enjoyed the racing scenes - they were thrilled and well executed. I especially liked the POV shots which heightened the fun and thrill. 

The plot of Cars 3 isn't exactly what the trailers marketed it as. The crash that was shocking and powerful in the first teaser is as shocking and powerful in the film itself. However, it occurs very early on into the film and actually isn't a big part of it. All of its impact is lost when the film flash forwards 4 months - where is all the struggle and recovery? That is what I wanted to see in Cars 3, a true comeback story but instead I got a more fluffy take on the comeback story. So if you're wanting to see this film to see the end of Lightening McQueen, this isn't the film for you. However, the story that is told isn't bad, it is still about a revival but just a much lighter version. I did find it odd and irritating that the public (within the film) were not excited about McQueen's return - they actually were very negative and nobody seemed to care. 

McQueen has to learn the moral 'evolve or die' if he wants to continue his racing career. That's the main message for the first half of the film anyway. McQueen is introduced to all the new training technologies but isn't too keen on them. The one thing he does get excited by- the simulator - he actually doesn't know how to work. Side-note - that simulator is screaming for a theme park attraction and I would love to ride it! I did like all of the new technology though and thought that it was an extremely modern and realistic take on the racing industry.  The film then takes a different route and flips its message on its head to 'old is better than new' when McQueen goes back to his routes and unites with Doc's friends. I thought all of the callbacks to Doc didn't really work and didn't elicit the feels that Pixar were likely intending. Then with the film's conclusion, the message returns to 'new is better' when Cruz takes over from Lightening McQueen and wins the race - the message is way too muddled and inconsistent for it to be powerful and well received! Which is better - old or new?!

Another message in the film is that we are in control of our lives and we decide when we're done. I like the message, I just don't think its executed in the slickest of ways. Lightening McQueen very suddenly decides he's done mid-race. He basically gives up! This was very out of character and his motivations were not clear enough. However, it also painted McQueen in quite an honourable light as he gave Cruz Ramirez the chance to shine and she ended up winning! This ridiculous twist ending came across very absurd and senseless at first but as the film continued, I started to like it more. However, I still don't really think that the rules would allow for this type of thing to happen - two completely different cars but all because they are sporting the same number, it's ok?! I'll keep in mind that this is a children's film and won't waste my time thinking of this crazy twist but Pixar are usually quite sophisticated with their ideas and everything is usually well thought out. I would have preferred for Lightning to win the race and then retire. 

Cruz Ramirez is a nice addition to the series. Unlike the new characters that were introduced in Cars 2 (and never mentioned again), Cruz is a character I wouldn't mind seeing more of. Some may see the character as a Mary Sue but I believe it makes sense why she can win a race first time - she's a trainer! She uses all of the equipment the professional racers use on a day-to-day basis. She also trains alongside professionals and will likely learn new skills along the way. The only thing that didn't make much sense was how she was able to replicate Doc's famous flip. I guess miracles are a thing. This did impress younger viewers though as I heard applauds and gasps when Cruz pulled off the move. I would actually compare this plot twist to The Force Awakens - everybody though Finn was the Jedi until Rey woke the force; everybody thought Lightning would win up until he pulled out and Cruz was the real winner. Other things I liked about the character were that she was Latina- she added some diversity to the cast and I also don't think she was an over-the-tope racial stereotype. The character was quite nuanced and didn't show the typical traits that latinos are usually represented with. However, what I didn't like is that the racing terms had to be translated into cute and fluffy terms for Cruz to listen - e.g. the cloud or rainbow. This is a female trainer, she would be able to understand real racing lingo! This was the only thing that hurt Cruz from being a strong, female character - her gender started to become too important. Feminism and equality is at its best when we look past gender, race or sexuality and focus on the character's personality and traits. 

Pixar made an unusual creative choice with the score for Cars 3. It had much more of a classical feel to it. I don't really know how to feel about it though- my opinion is very mixed. On one hand, I can see that it was an attempt to elevate the material and make the whole film feel much more sophisticated but on the other, it just felt very out of place and off-brand. The score wasn't poorly composed, I'm just not sure if it was right for this film. 

Finally, the voice acting. I thought that the cast did a good job. Owen Wilson really has become Lightning McQueen over the years and this is definitely a career highlight for him. One thing about Lightning McQueen that I didn't like was his new paint job at the end - a little too cringey and on the nose for me. Cristela Alonzo was good as Cruz and Armie Hammer was good as Jackson Storm. Even though I think more could have been done with Jackson Storm as a character/villain, they were both perfectly fine. All of the returning cast were no different to their previous performances- it was nice to see all the gang and Radiator Springs back. Finally, Larry the Cable Guy's Mater was definitely toned down and didn't really have many scenes at all. Disney definitely wanted to keep the stench of Cars 2 away from this film. It's a shame as I actually felt sorry for Mater as he is a harmless and fun small doses. 

Cars 3 isn't Pixar's greatest and definitely finds itself towards the bottom of the leaderboard but it's by no means bad. Cars 3 is a pleasant and uplifting flick that will satisfy younger audiences and has the potential to please older fans. The marketing is a little misleading but the plot we actually got is still engaging, even if it has a ridiculous ending. The animation is pretty beautiful but the score feels a little out of place. Cars 3 ends the franchise on one of its strongest notes but Pixar, you really don't need to revisit this IP. 


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