The Review: Part III
So, okay, there's a dozen or so iconic movies out there that furries like to claim as our own, whose characters are held up as examples of what an anthropomorphic animal is, and why we like them so much. But it's not often we get a movie with a premise that seems birthed from something on SoFurry. Zootopia is a film in which all mammals (excluding primates) have evolved. Kinda. They still look the same, including some species having eyes on either side of their head, or being friggin' tiny, but they can walk on two legs, and as children helpfully explain, don't eat each other anymore, and that's what's important.
Spoiler warning: This review does dwell a bit more into later plot developments than previous reviews.
This is the third review of Zootopia on Flayrah; please check out reviews by crossaffliction and Mister Twister! We invite all of our regular contributors (and maybe a few first timers) to share their opinions on this movie during the following month!
Even though the writers went to great lengths not to use the word "racism", or even anything like it, this is a movie about racism. And because this is the United States in 2016, Disney powered up its trusty propaganda machine and made the protagonist a sweet, well-meaning, lovable cop determined to change the system from the inside. Judy Hopps is the first bunny cop, and she graduated top of her class; affirmative action gets her a job with the Zootopia Police Department, but she's restricted to writing parking tickets while the interesting work of finding 14 missing predators goes to her giant, brutish coworkers. Determined to prove she's a "real" cop, Judy wreaks havoc in Little Rodentia and lets herself be duped out of 15 bucks. As she's about to be fired, the timing of a tearful wife desperate to find her husband the rest of the force seems to have given up on gives Judy a second chance: 48 hours to solve a case with no witnesses, no resources and no leads.
Even though the movie emphasizes that she graduated top of her class, the audience doesn't get to really see much in the way of her sleuthing skills; she just so happens to be the only one bothering to try. In fact, the red herrings she follows are all due to her own prejudices. Blackmailing a criminal to help you or having the rodent mafia threaten to "ice" witnesses doesn't make for a very good cop, either, but hey, police misconduct is okay if it's against bad guys, right?
When Judy finally cracks the case, she's finally recognized as a real cop, but it would appear the Academy doesn't give lessons on good PR, because her floundered attempt to discuss the case with the media turns into proof enough for the city's 90% prey population to vilify predatory animals, deposing their lion mayor and throwing the massive city into chaos and making it hard to investigate whomever's really framing predators.
Racial discrimination and how it affects everyone is the point of the film, but there is no real group or groups with power over another, nor is there a group or groups particularly worse off. A big deal is made about the "predator vs. prey" aspect, I don't think the two groups are black and white, unless elephants and rhinoceroses are considered "prey". Both predator and prey have their own societal disadvantages, upheld at a societal level even by the police. Both Nick and Judy have traumatic childhood experiences at the hands (paws?) of the other group. It doesn't work with real-world racism, and it doesn't really work with X-Men style discrimination, either.
The city of Zootopia is immersive and well-designed. The fragility of the buildings in Little Rodentia, the "furgonomics" of giraffe-owned cars and public transportation meant for any species, even the way different animals moved showed this was not just a world with animal people, but a functioning society for different species.
That being said, the character design left something to be desired. If you were a polar bear, you look exactly like every other polar bear in the world, unless it's funny for you to be different, or if we need to remember you later. The same is true for every other species we saw more than once. Hell, even the main characters looked pretty boring; Judy kind of looks like the fursona of Fix-It Felix, Jr.
Zootopia has one real song. It's not really a bad song, but it's never played at an appropriate time; the closest to good timing it gets is when Judy is entering Zootopia for the first time, but a song about continuing to try after a failure should probably happen after any failures or disappointments have occurred.
The other time they played it was at a Gazelle concert. There was no explanation of how or why they all went to a Gazelle concert, but I guess you can't make a dig at movies like Frozen for having the characters actually perform a musical number and then do the same thing.
According to the end credits, there was an entire musical score, but I don't remember hearing it at any point, not even a simple leitmotif. It must not have been anything special.
While Zootopia gives furries an entire cohesive setting to insert characters into and have fun with, it's just a spoonfed moral about prejudice with no real working parallels in the real world. There's enough in the film to appeal to non-furry adults, but don't go expecting an instant classic.