Review Notes: Cars

Backstory: The story of our (my wife and I) Cars viewing began with our desire to see Pirates Part II. We had gone to see Pirates but it was housefull. So we went and saw Cars instead. The shocker was the price of an admissions ticket: Rs 190 each! Whaaaat? I gave a Rs500 note and got back measely change. And suddenly, for an animation movie, it seemed too much. Looking back, I found myself strangely still believing that it must cost less to see animation than a live action feature-film. This mindset has plagued the animation industry in India, and I know logically it doesn’t make sense. But still somewhere the mindset continued. Anyway, we trudged to see the movie half telling ourselves that the movie would be good on the big-screen.

And it was. Cinematically, as I think about it, Cars was a good movie, with many interesting ideas. We really enjoyed watching it, and I revelled in the detail, the characters and the action. Most of the times I was engaged with the story. However, even as I found myself liking the movie I also eventually compared it to others. The following is the highlight of certain cinematic moments in relation to other CG films.

> The opening when Olsen’s character wants to “focus” in the beginning of the movie he imagines the track. There is a combination of silence and hard action. Some of the visuals were nice. But now if I were to go back to Incredibles’ opening tv interview footage; there we see a similar silent motif… and then the hard action. The Incredibles contrast was better and more fulfilling (and also more relevant to the plot)

> The best part of the movie, and of course sentimentality comes into play, was the ending. It was different, and even uplifting. In fact I would rate it as one of the better CG animated endings, simply on the basis of what was being portrayed. Of all the CG movies… I think Finding Nemo’s “just keep swimming” climax tops Cars. (Hmmm, let me think more about this in more detail) Monsters’ Inc had too much action. Incredibles’ fight in the city was good, but not as good as what a fight in the jungle with all the Incredibles had promised. A Bugs Life had the ‘Bird on Fire’… yes, that was good; probably up with the best. Toy Story… dead toys to life… that was cool. Toy Story 2… fight in the airplane field… ok. Shrek 2… good “i want a hero” soundtrack. Shark Tale?… the sit-down and the car wash fight… ya, ok. OK… so best CG endings in my opinion…
1. Finding Nemo
2. Bugs Life
3. Cars

> The animated world of Cars as some reviewers remind us, is a world without human beings (a first for Pixar). Is this world convincing? I thought so, though of course the parallels between the human world and car world were so stark that we were often just looking at humans with different shapes. This is probably intentional, but the “carness” of the world is not consistent with the reality of a Car-filled world… ie pollution, smog, petrol shortage. Of course these are negative visions, but the idea that the real tragedy in life is being “bypassed” is realistic, but more in lines with economy driven mankind rather than fuel driven cars. Of course the Carness of the world was there; there was the Rust angle (which was not dealt with enough), the Nascar angle (being one of the most important event for Cars… though in Cars not enough b/c not everyone knows about it which is like Indians not knowing about cricket!) Also the idea of fixing the road is important, thought not pushed to its philosophical conclusion (that a fixed road brings Car customers… and allows people to leave as well). Plus, the Cars seemed indestructible (too easily repaired) and capable of doing anything… stretching the demands for viewers to connect. The Car-bugs were an abberation, seemingly played only for laughs. Of course this world was much better than Robots, a painful movie to watch. But because a movie set in an alternative universe without humans is scarce, there is not much to compare with. This is not to say that such alternative unverses should not be done. Rather the movie would have benefited with a bit more authenticity to the carness of Cars.

> Visually, I’m not a fan of the American outback. And so while they did an excellent job of reproducing the life on the wild-American side, still, it didn’t grab me as much as it could an “american”. And I guess it is difficult to top the visuals of Finding Nemo and Incredibles. I find myself wishing that Pixar would move towards the multi-ethnic story telling of the Disney 2D animation school (eg. Beauty and the Beast=France, Alladin=Arabia, Lion King=Africa, Lilo and Stich=Hawaii etc). Of course Pixar knows that the context is a character of its own, but somehow I find myself wanting more than the American context. One of the best regional movements was seen Marlin/Dorry travel to Sidney, Australia, and the accents of the ‘birds/fish’ change. Excellent, more please.

> Some cinematic moments like showing the backstory through an animated map of how Route 66(?) was bypassed was neither inspiring and played too long. In my opinion, the best backstory recollection was in the 2D animated Prince of Egypt… with the Egyptian hieroglyphics.

> Characters… Cars was excellent in this department. Pixar drew the Cars well, both in art and personality. I can imagine a long range of products resembling the characters coming out, but the cars were definitely fun to watch. Was it the best characterisation?… hmmm… I think Toy Story tops all films in characterisation. It’s almost impossible to view the toys as toys anymore… simply because they are so alive in our (my) imagination. The cars in Cars have today diminished from my memory… only LarryTheCableGuy’s car and a few others here and there stick.

> The romantic relationships in the movie was ok, the idea of “going for a drive” was a nice touch. But the Best Romantic Relationship in CG animation goes to Shrek. (Incredibles beats Shrek 2 in post-marital romance)

> Other relationships were also nice… but because of the number of characters, they were not entirely convincing. The army guy and the organic fuel guy were cliches. While the “friend” idea between Larry the Cable Guy’s character and Olson’s was quite nice. The Best on-screen Friendship… Finding Nemo between Marlin and Dorry. (Second place, Shrek and Donkey in Shrek 1)

Result: So evidently, while Cars was a fun movie (and I really enjoyed seeing it) even at its best it does stand on its own in comparison with the other CG classics. Ultimately, while I would recommend Cars anyday, but I would also say that if money is an issue, it’s ok to wait for the DVD or VCD.


2 Responses to “Review Notes: Cars”

  1. 1 ooosvn June 13, 2007 at 5:23 pm

    can u tel me the climax of the movie???

    and can u make it clear whats the difference between climax and turning points of a movie… give examples from cars itself… plzzzzzzz!!!!

  2. 2 NAyK June 13, 2007 at 9:10 pm

    To ooosvn: Turning points vs climax?

    Think of turning points as a spiral, or even a slingshot effect and propels the story forward into a new dimension.

    If you break a story in mini episodes (or scenes), you get the first few scenes of the race and the tie! But the slingshot, or the turning point, is when Lightening get’s lost. The event clearly changes the mood and tone of the story, and needs something like that to shift gears. Hence, turning point.

    The climax on the other hand can be thought of as the highest point of the movie, where all the loose ends reach their most tense situation.

    Hence, the climax in this movie is not only whether Lightening can win the final race (because he’s distracted with the past), but more of the tension of whether his character has changed any from the past experience. The race is a test of character and the climax is the emotional highpoint to show that he has.

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