Movie Review: Equestria Girls – Friendship Games

A couple years ago, many fans of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, grew incensed that Hasbro was planning to do an iteration of the show, taking place in a humanized world.

The result was My Little Pony: Equestria Girls. While the first film was given a marginal pass by many based on it’s seemingly simplistic storyline, the vehemency of the MLP fandom seemed to largely die away when its sequel, Rainbow Rocks, took its characters and story to another level. The film introduced some catchy new songs by Daniel Ingram, and helped elevate the character of Sunset Shimmer to becoming the Twilight Sparkle of this world. But, as some saw at the end of Rocks, there is a Twilight Sparkle in this world…and she is curious about some strange powers emanating from Canterlot High School.

That final scene piqued many people’s interests, though in the lead-up to the third (and final?) installment of the Equestria Girls series, one had to wonder if Equestria Girls: Friendship Games, could carry on the momentum from the previous installments, and provide a third film that could stand on its own.

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Since the events of Rainbow Rocks, Sunset Shimmer, Applejack, Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, and Fluttershy, have seen their magical powers grow. Now, instead of materializing while just playing their musical instruments, the girls seem to have little control over when they ‘pony up.’

Principal Celestia and Vice-Principal Luna ask Sunset Shimmer to investigate why this is happening, with the goal to make sure that these unusual powers are repressed, in time for The Friendship Games.

The event pits Canterlot High School, against their cross-city rivals, Crystal Prep Academy. It occurs every 4 years, and since the beginning of the games, Crystal Prep has always won.

As Canterlot prepares, many are surprised when Twilight Sparkle shows up, though this is the human-world’s Twilight, who attends Crystal Prep. Being more of an isolated bookworm, Twilight is mainly entered into the games, at the behest of Crystal Prep’s Principal, Abacus Cinch.

Twilight hopes the time at Canterlot High can also help her learn more about the magic she’s found emanating from the school, but her curiosity soon leads to unexpected side-effects.

__________

I’m not sure what the deal is with Friendship Games, but even with plenty of previews, and word-of-mouth, it feels like the enthusiasm for the film and its story, has been a little more ‘dulled’ than the previous film.

The film is also the first one that shuts out pretty much all of the Friendship is Magic connections to the television series, with all of the film’s energy largely focused on just this world. Sunset Shimmer is seen attempting to contact Twilight a couple of times in Equestria, but her inquiries go un-answered, leaving her more frustrated as she attempts to solve the ‘pony up’ mystery on her own.

Unlike the previous two films, Games has a new writer at the helm. This time it’s Josh Haber, following his stint writing 4 episodes for the Friendship is Magic television series.

I do commend Mr Haber for pulling Rainbow Dash out of the ‘awesomely egotistical jerk’ mode that she found herself in from the first two Meghan McCarthy-written films. However, even with Rainbow getting a character ‘upgrade,’ it feels like the other girls in the group (sans Sunset) are just there out of ‘contractual obligation.’

Even certain areas of the story seem to suffer from logic holes. Several of the skills involved in the Friendship Games focus on sporting events, which it seems all of our ‘mane’ cast somehow have knowledge of…though when they found time to practice archery and motocross racing, is beyond me.

With an added stable of new characters from Crystal Prep, one would assume we’d get some more time to see just what they’re all about, character-wise. In the end, it seems that it doesn’t matter, since the majority of the student body are just snarky/snooty private schoolers. Twilight is supposedly the best student in this school academically, but every other student in the school just treats her as an inferior, to which I kept wondering, “why?”

The film is also the first that the bad guy isn’t on the same age level as the girls. In this case, the role of bad guy falls to Crystal Prep’s principal, Abacus Cinch (voiced by Iris Quinn). Her character is basically the standard ‘stick-in-the-mud’ who wants her institution to be the best. Fortunately, we’re saved from the usual ‘we’ve cheated for years’ subplot that would be obvious, though she doesn’t fail to use some blackmail to get Twilight to participate in the games. One would assume Cinch would want her participating students to be knowledgeable in a number of things, so they’d be better all-around in the games…but, we need to find some way to get human-world Twilight into them.

Twilight and Sunset seem to be the focus of the story, but it just feels that it’s held up largely with a lot of flimsy storytelling to make the entire thing seem important. It feels to me that there could have been a more meaningful way to get the story’s message across, rather than making a lot of the supporting players just ‘being there,’ or seem moreso another excuse to make lots of toy dolls to sell in stores.

On a positive note, Daniel Ingram returns to this world, with some more catchy songs. Whereas the last film went all out with its Rock-n-Roll angle, it feels like he’s channeling a mixture of High School Musical and Wicked here, with a teeny-tiny hint of Daft Punk thrown in.

One thing that’s eye-catching, is that the animation has taken another step forward. Walk cycles, character models, and much more have been improved on. The characters also have a better range of emotional movement, with human-world Twilight benefiting the most for her characterization as a mousey over-achiever.

Third films in a trilogy can often be problematic. More times than not, they will end on a low note. Friendship Games tries to somehow balance itself as a final entity, but draws energy and scenarios from its previous films, and that might be hard to ignore for some people. Those previous scenarios will probably leave many with a combined reaction of “wow,” and “aww, a-gain!?”

Final Grade: B- (Friendship Games becomes a middle-of-the-road trilogy-capper for the “Equestria Girls” movie series. Its title almost hints about making friends with your rivals, but instead, seems to focus moreso on following the thread that was started at the end of “Rainbow Rocks.” The revelation regarding this world’s Twilight Sparkle will surely draw people in, but it doesn’t feel enough to balance out the lackadaisical games subplot of the film’s title. Even so, Daniel Ingram’s music will give you at least a track or two to bop along to, and the continuing character development of Sunset Shimmer, makes one almost want to see more of her after the film is over…though we still are left to wonder where her ‘human-world’ counterpart is)

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About MWH1980

Growing up in the state of Iowa, one would assume I'd be enamored with pigs and corn. Well, I wasn't. Instead, I grew fascinated by many things that were entertainment-related. Things like movies, animation, toys, books, and many more kept my attention. This blog I hope to use to express myself regarding my varied obsessions. (P.S. There's no Photoshop involved in that Gravatar-I really am holding an Oscar)

2 responses to “Movie Review: Equestria Girls – Friendship Games”

  1. Francois says :

    Uh… Sorry if I am rude, but here I have to disagree with this film… The problem is that this fill is just a step by step recycled plot of the first movie… Let’s analyse it, so you an better understand me.

    1) A MAGICAL IS STOLEN: In the First Movie Sunset steals Twilight’s crown. In the Friendships Games: Human Twilight (or Sci-Twi as fans call her) is stealing the Magic of the Mane 5 and the Magic of the Portal. I know there is not magic item stole but magic is stolen non the less

    2) PROBLEMS IN ADAPTING TO A NEW ADAPTATION: In the First Movie, Pony Twilight is getting a hard time in fitting in the Human World and Culture. In Friendship Games, Human Twilight is getting a hard time fitting in with her Team Mates. Something that is reasonable and could have work, but not in a movie where is already done.

    3) HIGH-SCHOOL CLICHE THEME: In the First Movie, It centres on Twilight wanting to become Prom Queen to get her crown. Friendship Games, It’s a High-School competition with no real meaning behind it, unlike the first movie. This show of more desperation and laziness from the movie Creators, since High-School themes are always easily predicted and now days are terribly built, like here. But I will give them credit that they did not go with the One High-School cheats all the time.

    4) THE OUT OF PLACE BULLIES: In The First Film, we have Snips and Snails, who apparently just stop bullying out of nowhere after Sunset was defeated which I really doubt. In the Friendship games we have Principal Cinch and Sweat Sour, bot come out of nowhere and just stated themselves as bullies, and disappear never to be seen again.

    5) ANTAGONIST BECOMES A MAGICAL DEMONIC VERSION OF THEMSELVES: In the First Film we have Sunset Shimmer, who after threatening to break the portal if she does not get the crown, and after doing so transforms into a Hideous Demon Version of Herself. In Friendship Games, Human Twilight is forced to turn into a demon after giving into peer-pressure from her Team Mates and her Principal.

    6) CLIMAX IS NOTHING MORE THAN A FRIENDSHIP-EX-MACHINA.
    In the First Film Pony Twilight reveals true magic which is the Magic of Friendship, and thus the main cast transform themselves into pony versions of themselves and defeat the Demon Being. In Friendship Games, Sunset Shimmer use the same Tactic thus becoming an Alicorn version of Herself. But here I will give credit again since the defeating of the evil guy is way more heart warming and touching.

    So there you have it, a complete copy paste of the first film. And also I have to mention the Plot holes:

    – What kind of High-School lets a competition event use Motorcycles? I don’t know if some High-Schools allow such competition events since I do not live in the U.S. (which is clearly that this movie takes place), but if they do, that would be so irresponsible and way to dangerous.

    – Why is only UNTIL NOW that rifts between the two worlds begin to appear? In the First film they should have started since Sunset Shimmer stole the very manifestation of Magic. In the Second Film it should have started wit the constant power up of the Mane 5 and the Sirens constant use of their own Magic, and the use of those Astral Projections at the end of the Second Movie. But you are telling that only after Sci-Twi began stealing some magic that it actually started to happened? You could say that it is because magic was in disharmony or that to much magic concentrated in one are could have cause it, but then again why it did not happened in the last films. Sunset’s Corruption of the Element of Magic should have cause major gearings between the worlds, and the Dazzlings practically used Magic of Disharmony. So then again this plot hole happens because the writers do not longer know what to do with the story.

    – Human World Spike can Talk?! Why does this happened, I know Spike enter through one of the rifts and now has magic, but still it does not explain why he can now talk since he is not magical by birth and in the Human World magic does not work the same way. And also this means that the Dragon Spike after entering the human world in the First Movie shouldn’t have been able to talk since there is no magic there.

    – How did Human Twilight could create such device? As we know Human Twilight does not know that the strange anomalies in Canterlot High is because of Magic, so how did she know how to create a device that could scan such energy when she has never analyse it nor even come in contact with. And how in the world those this machine back fires that instead of analysing magic it steals and collect?

    – How can no one in the entire city does not know about Magic and do something about it? I mean the Second Film is clearly visible the use of Magic by Twilight and Friends through out the skies, as the Dazzlings can clearly see it. Also at the end of the same film, there is a gigantic Astral Projection of an Alicorn in the sky that basically shoots rainbows. And now in the third film is people actually noticing the Magic? That is just extreme bad writing there.

    – There are not Friendship games. Well there is more than the Equestria Games, that is for sure, but still the Friendships Games are just a background plot which is really confusing as the movie is not called “My Little Pony, Equestria girls: Dealing with Magic.” So basically this movie has become Cars 2, where the actual race does not matter and it’s an excuse for the car characters to go to different locations and in the end the race story does not even matter.

    So you see, the movie is extremely bad made (not in animation but in story) and extremely bad organised. As it makes more questions that it actually answers, and to really on an extreme cliche theme and to basically rehash the first movie. So this movie does not deserve a B-… It Deserves a D-.

    The moral was heart touching, some of the events were fun and all. but still the Plot holes and mistakes I just mention are just too much and it is a shame cause this movie could have actually been the golden opportunity for the writers.

    They could have made Sci-Twi accidentally traveled to the world of Equestria and to be mistaken by the Princess and thus being captured by an actual bad guy. This would lead to Sunset and the Human Five to travel to Equestria and to join forces with the Mane Six. Which could have been a more interesting plot, a chance to see how would the ponies react to their human versions and how their human version react to the Pony World, and to actually make a story that would have been more touching, more exciting and specially a more My Little Pony worthy.

    All I can say is that, this movie is a shame, a big shame. Since it would have been more but instead decides to play Cliche and to rehash instead of actually doing something worthy.

    Like

    • MWH1980 says :

      Actually, in truth, I think ‘Cars 2’s’ “World Grand Prix” actually worked better as a plot device than the Friendship Games. At least more was done in those games than this.

      You do make many of the same points as in my review, though I do agree that it feels like a let-down after what we saw in ‘Rainbow Rocks.’ Though I feel many will have their reviews blown out-of-proportion by the ‘magical girl redemption’ ending of this one. It’s like how many just assume ‘The Last Roundup’ was amazing because of Derpy talking.

      Like

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