About a year ago I reviewed the first Equestria Girls movie and I was noticeably guarded through the whole thing. Not surprisingly: this was the first movie and it was also doing something risky by introducing a human world. It sort of connected to the main series but in a way that ultimately wasn’t important so the two could coincide and not require one or the other. Indeed, season 4 made no mention at all of Twilight’s adventures through the magic mirror portal. Well, it’s been barely a year and the sequel is here, now sub-sub-titled Rainbow Rocks.
Now, I have to start by saying after the first EG movie I was not particularly interested in a sequel. To recap, my overall opinion of the first EG movie was this:
It’s not the big cinematic experience a lot of fans were probably hoping for (and so will continue hoping) but it’s far from the disaster some thought it might be after first hearing that it was going to take place in a high school with humanized teen versions of the cast. It looks good (mostly) and it sounds good (mostly) and it’s funny and enjoyable enough. It is good. Not great, not terrible, just good.
When the teasers started coming out around February this year I was really put off by the whole girl band thing with the weird outfits that looked straight out of Jem (which happens to be an old Hasbro series). It looked like things were deteriorating on the movie front and any hope we had of a good theatrical MLP presence was slipping away. Oh well, there’s always the ol’ televised series which started it all that we can rely on, right? After season 4 was such a rollercoaster of weird/great I was seriously worrying that maybe this whole phenomenon thing was going to implode after a few more seasons/movies. Not to reopen the “Faust vs. McCarthy” wound, but… yeah.
Then the Rainbow Rocks “exclusive shorts” started releasing, typically showcasing one of the humane six in a short vignette showing how they get their instrument and do the whole anthro-magical-girl-transformation when they get “swept up in the music”. Many of them were humorous, even cute, but I kept feeling like it was leading up to a movie that was going to be a really cringey High School Musical thing or something. Whatever it was, it was looking less and less appealing as the months rolled on. I stopped paying attention around this summer.
And so, when I got
asked begged to go to the premiere last weekend I put off ordering tickets till the night before because I kept forgetting about it. I really didn’t care that much and the only reason I agreed was because it was on a Saturday and the tickets were super cheap (only six bux each). Fine, whatever.
Turns out, Rainbow Rocks is pretty damn awesome.
So, yeah, apparently DHX learned how to movie. The animation is vastly improved, the pacing is much better, the scope fits the movie-feel better, the writing is tighter, funnier, and more moving. How did this happen? No, not so much how did they get better, but just… how did this movie end up being so good when every indication previously was that it was going to be worse? The teaser’s weird outfits and their performance of “Shake Your Tail”? None of that is in the actual movie. Those shorts showing them get their instruments? Apparently those were stand-alone prequel-ish things; the movie begins with them already in a band together with their respective instruments. The DJ Pon-3 short is referenced in the background. In the short she’s buying treats at the bakery and then walks out doing the whole dubstep thing; in the movie, you can briefly see her in the background ordering as the girls discuss stuff at the same bakery. Other than that, only the last short released just two months before the premiere, “Battle of the Bands”, is actually a scene taken unedited straight from the actual movie. Apparently the sneak peaks and the trailers released in the weeks leading up are the only things from the actual movie but I had long stopped checking on RR updates by then.
I should probably backup and give a brief synopsis especially considering a lot of the early coverage (if it was all you saw like me) doesn’t really tell you what the movie is really like. Yes, there are instruments and a band and music. Three girls using what appears to be dark magic start instigating arguments, feuds, rifts, and general bad vibes in everyone at the school, seemingly feeding off the negative energy. Humane six notice, manage to get Equestria Twilight Sparkle to come back to help stop what clearly seems to be a non-human world danger, and the group saves the day at the end. Obviously, I am heavily condensing and avoiding spoilers here but that’s the basic gist.
The best part about all of this? Twilight isn’t the main character, Sunset Shimmer is. Seriously, she gets way more screen time and is the one with the character progression and payoff at the end. Twilight doesn’t even really show up until practically halfway through the movie. Sunset is re-integrating into school life and trying to turn a new leaf (remember the ending to the last one? Don’t worry, you’ll get reminded plenty by the movie) and she is still dealing with her bad reputation but sincerely seems to want to build trust and make friends. Her growth and portrayal is dealt with fairly well and it’s good that they chose this over a more standard Twilight saves the day thing.
The movie format also finally allows them the do the big “epic villain” storyline some better justice. Usually the biggest complaints of season premieres and finales involve the weak and rushed villain. Sombra is barely there and then he’s gone; Chrysalis is basically just a cackling evil queen cliché; Tirek shows up out of nowhere, breaks things, and has a DBZ showdown with Twilight, and then he’s gone before you can blink — you get the idea. The TV show doesn’t have the time, scope, or budget to do these kinds of stories especially considering they do slice-of-life moral lessons for 95% of their running time. Fortunately, the big movie scope and budget helps them pull this off way better this time.
This time around they also wisely decided to start in the human world and spend little to no time in the pony world. Some may see that as a negative but I think it helps the pacing and feel immensely. Part of EG’s problem was that it took over ten minutes for things to get started in an already short-ish run-time. There was a lot of exposition dumping in Canterlot before finally getting to the real fish-out-of-water human world thing. This time around it starts immediately by setting up the conflict and keeps its focus on that, allowing for a much more natural three-act flow than the really awkward jumbled mess in the first movie.
As for the bad, well… this one isn’t without problems, sure. As usual, the villains are an improvement for MLP standards but are still kinda just there. They have a much better mythology behind them and fit the world building and all but they’re still just a bunch of walking villain tropes. Plus they look like rejects from Monster High, which is even worse because Mattel’s MH is basically what Hasbro seems to be directly competing against with EG. At least they get to be purely villains, whereas Sunset Shimmer was kind of a half-assed villain who, as a result and not surprisingly, reforms in the end. Some may also have a problem with the movie’s stronger focus on comedy and fanservice (not that the first one wasn’t chock full of it), as they really up the ante and it’s more in your face. There’s no doubt this movie was made for bronies and not actually kids. Hell, at the theater I was at I think I counted maybe a half-dozen kids in the whole full theater auditorium and most of them seemed to be there with their brony parents. Honestly, though, I don’t mind this and I kinda prefer that they went more with the silly and spectacular. The whole high school thing is meh so it benefits from just finding ways to have fun with all of the established characters and even a lot of fan headcanons. If the EG movie series is the way the writers get all of the fun, weird, and silly stuff out of their system, to do something different for a change, so be it. I will join them on their weird ride any time from now on.
Other than the simplistic easily figured out plot I don’t know if there are really any truly bad points. Mostly it’ll come down to a lot of personal preference.
- Do you really like Twilight and want her to be the main character?
- Do you hate Sunset Shimmer? (Do you still hate her after seeing this movie, though?)
- Do you prefer the moral-driven slice-of-life stories of the series over flashy fanservice-heavy fluff?
- Do you not like the primarily girl-pop soundtrack or the weirdly multi-colored humans shtick?
If so, maybe you’ll have more problems with this thing, and I totally understand. For me Rainbow Rocks was a ton of fun, even if I did have to endure the obnoxious commentary and shouting from the crowd of bronies in the theater I went to.
Missed its brief and very limited theatrical release? Relax, I believe it’ll be out on disc in late October and will probably also be aired on The Hub thereabouts. There’s also bound to be illegal rips of it on YouTube before long (if not already, knowing most typically morally gray-area bronies).
Also, if you do see the movie, be sure to stick around for a post-credits teaser (everyone is doing it these days). Hopefully you haven’t had it spoiled for you yet because it pretty excellently sets things up for a third movie. Everyone in the theater went ballistic. Plus the ending credits themselves are really well done with some fantastic sketch artwork of the characters.
Since I don’t have a digital copy of the movie I can’t really take any screenshots for this review like I normally do. All of the images here now are just taken from the various official stuff Hasbro has released. Also, here’s some more Pinkie because wut: