Review: 'My Little Pony: The Movie' (2017)
"I guess I just sort of ... grew up."
— Ask Jappleack
It's been seven years to the day since My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic was first aired, and the geek world changed that day.
So let's talk about the 2017 movie. As far as the story goes, it's pretty bog-standard at this point for MLP:FiM. Bad guy appears (the Storm King, voiced by Liev Schreiber), three of the four magical alicorn princesses prove themselves worthless by getting instantly captured, so it's up to the fourth princess and series protagonist, Twilight Sparkle (voiced by Tara Strong), with her six friends - Applejack (voiced by Ashleigh Ball), Fluttershy (voiced by Andrea Libman), Pinkie Pie (also voiced by Libman), Rainbow Dash (also voiced by Ball), Rarity (voiced by Tabitha St. Germain) and Spike (voiced by Cathy Weseluck) - to save the land of Equestria with the magic of friendship. Which they used to be able to straight-up shoot people with, but they lost that ability back in season four.
The Storm King isn't a very hands-on villain at first. He sends an army of minions with his underling, Tempest (voiced by Emily Blunt) - a unicorn with a broken horn, facial scar and general bad attitude (but sick soccer skills!) - to capture the princesses and steal their magic. Twilight is led to believe the hippogriffs are her only chance to save the already-captured princesses, so after an escape, the team heads south across a desert that just kind of inexplicably appears. Not that geography was ever the show's strong point.
Along the way, the team meets new friends, because of course they do. I mean, it's kind of the point. There's a crew of pirate parrots and the sea ponies. And since they're traveling south of Equestria in unfriendly territory, some of these new friends may not be very trustworthy at first. Like a con-man cat-man named Capper (voiced by Taye Diggs). Just another talking cartoon animal in a cartoon about talking animals, right? But when you stop and think about it, isn't he hands-down the furriest thing to ever appear in any My Little Pony show?
So we've got a lot of characters, and fans might be disappointed that a lot of the supporting cast are relegated to background cameos. A few "back at the ranch" scenes of occupied Equestria featuring them wouldn't have been out of place. Although some of them might've been able to fight off the Storm King's army on their own, or at least warn Tempest that the plan wouldn't work.
Of course, since we've got seven main cast members, we're already pretty high on the character count from the get-go. In the show, characters can take turns in the lead spot. In the movie, Fluttershy is basically useless. I don't mean useless as she was in the show's early run, but she just doesn't get to do much. Applejack has her rope, Rainbow Dash can fly and sing about pirates, and Rarity gets to be comic relief. Yes, Rarity, because Pinkie Pie gets to be the voice of reason/heart of the team, and that's a choice. A choice that works surprisingly well, but it's still a choice. (I would've picked Applejack).
Twilight, meanwhile, as the protagonist, has got to have a story arc, despite the fact that she really should be better at this since she's seen Equestria in serious trouble about once a year for the last six years. I get that she needs to have an arc for dramatic reasons, but at this point she's earned an over-confident rather than an under-confident arc for once.
The new supporting characters seem to trust the ponies a little too easily. Despite being a cynical hustler, Capper the cat joins up because Rarity gives him some shiny coat buttons. To be fair, all he originally thought he had to do was to lie to Tempest, saying "They went that way!" when they went the other. But then Tempest takes him hostage. And the pirates get their airship crashed while the ponies sneak out the back. How does this endear the ponies to them, exactly?
I realize I'm being more negative than I want to be, but I was a bit disappointed. This film was supposed to be a masterpiece, but mostly it's just okay. That includes the songs, which weren't distracting, but they weren't very memorable, either. And the animation, which got a major bump over the regular show, also featured some really obvious CG objects shoved into the 2D animation, and that was kind of annoying. I had more fun with the Equestria Girls movie, despite the fact that that movie's basic concept felt like a slap to the face of what the franchise was about.
But here's the thing, I wasn't the only one when I went to see Equestria Girls. I saw it in a crowded theater full to the brim with excited bronies, generally amused little girls, a couple of slightly panicked-looking parents, and my brother who I'd dragged along. I saw this new 2017 movie in the exact same theater, but there was only one other guy on opening night (technically Thursday night "previews", but whatever). At one point in the movie, the villain exclaims he's totally "over this cute pony thing", and I guess we all are.
Glass half-full. I mean, it's still an okay movie. I still liked being able to watch it. And that in itself is kind of a miracle. The show it's based on is actually really good, though. It's so good, that for the new My Little Pony: The Movie, being okay is nowhere near good enough.