For today's Wasted Wednesday I have decided to talk about the newest addition to the Disney Pixar library of films - Monsters University. This computer animated prequel is one that was highly anticipated, mostly because the last two films Pixar has released have been awful compared to their usual quality and because Monster Inc., like most Pixar films, is beloved by millions. With Toy Story revisiting it's characters twice and being successful, Pixar seemed to have nothing to lose by returning to the monster world since their last two films were flops. It seems this may become a pattern since Pixar is soon to release Finding Dory which revisits the world of Finding Nemo. I was a bit weary about this film since Pixar hasn't been doing as well as I usually expect from them but I found the film to be typical Pixar, which means it was an A+++++++++!
This post isn't a movie review. I save those for Thirsty Thursdays! But I do want to talk about the artistic elements that are seen in Monsters University, specifically focusing on Ring Composition, how well the film ties in with it's predecessor, character development, and why this film is getting Pixar out of their funk and symbolizes a bright future for the company. Warning, there may be a few spoilers!
Let's start of with ring composition. For those of you who don't yet know what ring composition is, just go ahead and read book series such as The Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, The Hunger Games, etc. Ring composition is a story-telling format that brings a story full circle. This style is more apparent in books although films use it all of the time. It is a form of narrative transformation. I've recently gotten into reading about narrative transformation and ring composition since working on the MuggleNet Academia podcast and I am suddenly noticing the two everywhere! Not only does this movie use ring composition but most Disney/Pixar films do as well (and of course regular Disney films use it too). Ring composition is apparent in this film when in the beginning we see Mike stepping onto the scare floor as a kid idolizing the "scarers" and then at the end we see Mike stepping onto the scare floor as an adult working with "scarers". Another example of ring composition is in the first quarter of the film we see Mike and Sully working separately but in the third quarter they are working together. Of course I could go on and on about the ring composition but...well I don't remember all of it, haha.
Pixar does an incredible job of tying this prequel back to it's predecessor, Monster's Inc. Prequel's are always challenging because it is difficult to avoid being cheesy when giving a character an almost forced back-story to conform to their original movie. Pixar, though, does not come across as forced. In fact they attack the challenge with ease! In this film we see how Mike doesn't become a "scarer" and there are hints at his future job as a comedian, how Sully and Mike form their morning routine that we see in the first film, why children's files are so important (and how they relate back to a monster's education), and what goes into making doors that lead to children's closets! It is all extremely well done. We also get a glimpse at some character's from the first film and while Randy Newman composed a brand new score, he and Pixar still included some original tracks from the first film! Another awesome attribute to the story is the relationship Mike and Sully have with Randal. That was especially well done in the film!
Mike and Sully both go on huge journey's in this film. Mike is the main focus. The audience sees him in his elementary years wanting to be a "scarer" someday and the goal of the film is to show how Mike came to realize his talents lay in other hidden places. He is very book smart and this shows throughout the story. Sully's story, while not necessarily the main focus, is very compelling as well. We learn that his father was a top "scarer" and this puts a lot of expectations on his shoulders. He goes on to start letting everyone down and learns to be his own monster instead of trying to live up to his family name.
Before I go into my last point, I just want to comment quickly on how accurate this film was in terms
of university. Pixar used this idea of having a college focused movie to their advantage by making a website to reflect an actual university website and having a trailer that actually reflects what a college advertisement would look like on TV. The films shows us stereotypes and portrays a very realistic atmosphere. Job well done Pixar!
Finally, I want to talk about why this is the film that will pull Pixar out of their funk. I haven't seen Cars or Cars 2, so I can't say much about that sequel. However, I have seen Brave. What makes Monsters University the savior that Brave could never be? Well for starters, it isn't forced. Brave was made to impress anti-Disney feminists by creating a characters with no love interest plot. Secondly, Brave was all over the place. It was trying to be a feminist film while also trying to be a mother daughter film while also trying to be a folklore film and it just couldn't do it. The only plot that was worth caring about was the mother daughter relationship so thank God there was character development in that area because there was none anywhere else. Lastly, Monsters University has no loose ends. It ties the movie up in a crisp fashion and leaves the audience satisfied.
So would I recommend Monsters University? It is OK! (Catch my reference???)