29 September 2014

Rainbow Rocks Review

My review of Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks. Also up at my My Little Pony page.

I saw Rainbow Rocks at the first showing and I must say it was worth every pfennig (though I only have ten and they're not accepted as legal tender anywhere on Earth). I've written six pages of let's call it running commentary on the movie from memory, twelve hours after I saw it (so there might be a couple of mistakes). It's much more detailed than my normal reviews that I've just noticed I haven't been posting here very often. Well, here it is. Since the whole thing is outlined on MLP wiki and it's already up on Youtube I'm not too worried about spoilers. Just in case I'll put some arrow things, if y'all don't want to read it.
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Those short videos that have been released, the ones where Rarity and Fluttershy deal with the hamsters and Vinyl dances in the street, they appear nowhere in the movie. That was a surprise. The movie was short enough, only 75 minutes. They could have added the shorts to make it longer.

We begin as we have seen in the spoilers that have been officially released (I've done probably 80% of my best to avoid the unofficial spoilers) in the human world where Adagio Dazzle, Sonata Dusk (she's the adorable one), and Aria Blaze are in the shop feeding off of human misery when they spot the magic rainbow from the end of the first movie and Adagio conceives a plan to take over the world using the magic brought into this world with Twilight's crown (left over, after the crown was taken back).

For Realsies?

Cue the first song during the opening credits: "Rainbow Rocks". It's cool.

Sunset Shimmer is uncomfortable in the auditorium, being ostracized by the other students, and finds a little relief with the mane five, who are always, unintentionally, bringing up what she did in the past, leading to frequent repetition of "no offense," "none taken." Tia and Lulu arrive and mention the Fall Formal, making things worse.

One very nice thing about this movie is the directionality of the sound. They shift the channels depending on where the character is, so you can tell if someone is to the right or left, and when they move the sound moves with them.

We then see the mane five practice, under the name The Rainbooms. Cue second song: "Better than Ever". A tear nearly snuck out of my eye when they sang "we're the Wondercolts forever." The girls get pony features when they sing, and not just from friendship, but also from excellence, as we see RD start to develop features alone when she's acting like a total jerk. Flutters wants to sing the song she wrote, but RD is being an even bigger narcissistic, egotistical jerk than usual (and that's saying something) and is actually mean to Flutters. Rarity wants to pick out costumes for the band and AJ is also mean and dismissive, in an odd way. She had little problem with Rarity picking out the dresses for the Fall Formal, and she has to know that bands don't just wear anything, but the writers need to add the seed of conflict. Pinkie Pie doesn't like the arguing, but not because it's not productive or is totally unnecessary or is not what friendship is about, but because she's bored of it. Herein lies three of the main problems that will turn up again and again throughout the movie. They are a significant plot point, so pay attention.

Flash, aka Brad, aka waifu thief, bursts in looking for waifus to steal (he wants to know if Twi will be there). AJ says no and Flash leaves in dejection.

Brad Stealer of Waifus

Sunny is called by the principal to introduce the new students, who are the villains, to the school. More Sonatabetes.

Jump to the cafeteria, and the next song: "Battle of the Bands". We see that the mane five, plus Sunny, are the only ones immune to the villains' powers. It is a very sensual song, with a lot of curvy ladies moving about enticingly, from interesting angles, caressing people, and uncrossing their legs. The camera does seem to linger on certain things more than I expected. Hot damn, they're taking risks with this movie.

And all of this was spoiled. Officially. Almost the first fifteen minutes were revealed by Hasbro on the Internet. Nearly one fifth the whole movie was given away for free. This is simultaneously my biggest gripe and the very thing that led me to spend actual money on the movie. Had I not seen those clips, going off just the shorts that serve as a sort of prequel, I would have thought this would be terrible and never have gone. The official spoilers made me realise how awesome this was going to be.

Tia and Lulu are under the villain's hypno magic spell, so they turn to the last bit of magic they know: Sunny's book. She uses it to write letters to Celestia, like Twi, only without the need for a dragon. Of course we never learned of this before, but that's okay. They don't know if it will work, but it does, or the movie would end right there.

Cut to the only pony part of the whole movie. Ponyville is as it was after Tirek destroyed it, so weeks, maybe months have passed since the previous movie. The other copy of the book is now in Twi's possession. She reads that her human friends (and Sunny) are in trouble and has to think of a way to help. She reads up on the villains, who turn out to be sirens. Starswirl banished them to Earth (thanks a lot) a really long time ago, which means that even though they look like high school students they're really hundreds of years old, which means they're not jailbait, they're sexy grannies. It also means they are immortal.

Twi hooks the book up to the mirror, says some science-y bullshit, and then bypasses the thirty moons restriction. She tells her friends to stay behind, because it's not like we've had a ton of episodes where telling your friends to stay behind turned out to be a really bad idea. She goes through the portal with Spike and that's the last we ever see of ponies.

She enters human world and is met with a group hug that leaves poor Sunny high and dry. It's so sad how people treat her until the very end. That's a plot point, pay attention.

They figure they have to stop the villains quickly, so they barge into the auditorium and try to do their friendship beam but it doesn't work, because without the crown music is the only thing that can activate magic, for some reason. Now they have to enter the battle of the bands and use a musical "counter spell" to activate the friendship beam. The entire onus of the task is foisted upon Twi, who tries to tell everyone she can't do it alone, but they don't listen because they are preoccupied with previous plot points. These are all plot points, pay attention.

Lyra and Bon Bon are there, together.

Twi goes to sleep in the library, but Pinkie Pie insists she and everyone else, and Sunny, stay at her house. We get to see them all looking cute in their pyjamas (AJ's got feet!). AJ and RD are playing a Mane-iac video game, and just before AJ wins RD turns off the power, then taunts AJ. Dear Lord, RD has become a total jerkass by this point. Why would anyone EVER want to spend time with her?

When everyone is asleep Twi sneaks into the kitchen to write her song, when Sunny comes in and asks if she can help. She opens the refrigerizor to discover it is entirely full of whipped cream, which she eats off her fingers (it's getting hot in here?). They are interrupted by Maud (who is stunning in human form), who seems to have gone full retard, pouring crackers on a "hungry" Boulder, making a mess throughout the house as she walks away. Twi and Sunny almost get to the point where Twi asks for help, but she backs down at the last second.

Autism

The next day the song isn't working. They practice in AJ's barn. One of them says "at least we're better than the last time" and Big Mac walks past the window for the sole purpose of saying "nope." People cracked up over that one. Daft Punk reference. Well, without the spell they have to win the battle of the bands the old fashioned way, by being good singers. Those designated arguments start up again. Remember them? You were paying attention, weren't you?

At school Snips and Snails try to rap, badly, and lose right away though they think they're so cool. The mane six sing next, cue next song: "Shake Your Tail" (a different version than the one that was released months ago). Rarity is wearing a coat with metal dangly bits. For some reason Photo Finish uses magnets to sabotage her. AJ doesn't seem to care that it wasn't Rarity's fault. Snips and Snails chase Flutters with a spotlight, Pinkie's party cannon almost chokes Twi to death and something else happens that I don't remember. They argue some more, but they're good enough to move on.

Derpy has a band of what I can only assume are background ponies, and they all play strange quasi instruments: a cow bell and a triangle, and Derpy plays a saw. It's cool.

Cue montage. We're gonna' need a montage! Ooo it takes a montage! Show lots of things happening at once; remind everyone what's going on! To show it all would take too long. Even Rocky had a montage. While The Dazzlings sing "Under Our Spell" we see the progression of the contest. We see the CMC in their Show Stoppers outfits and flashing lights, Snowflake beats Lyra and Bon Bon (who are playing piano together, rubbing cheeks, almost adopting fannon completely) with a violin that is four sizes too small, the mane six beat Octy (who speaks one line, for the first time ever), and Brad's band beats someone, before themselves getting beaten (Brad, under the siren spell, hates Twi, and he made her cry).

LyraBon

The mane six play the Jerk's song about how she's the best person in the universe and everyone else sucks (seriously, what is magic again? I think I know why the friendship beam didn't work the first time). It rots, but RD is so in love with herself that she almost transforms. Sunny can't let the villains see her transform, so she tackles her and everyone gets pissed off. More pissed off.

Trixie plays a song "Tricks up My Sleeve". It is... interesting. And kind of long, and kind of like a filler song. Trixie plays the role of minor villain. This is a plot point, pay attention. Trixie is better, but the villains hypnotise Tia, who lets the mane six win. Trixie gets pissed and the next day, when the mane six are about to perform, she opens a trap door and traps them beneath the stage. Since the mane six can't be found Trixie takes their spot and performs again.

Beneath the stage everyone is fighting even more. This allows the villains to suck up their magic and they use it to transform themselves into anthros (pony ears, tails, and bat wings) with glowing red eyes. It's a very cool transformation. Sunny jumps in and saves the day. She points out the obvious, that all those plot points I told you to remember are the reason they can't make the magic work. Everyone atones. AJ accepts Rarity's outfits, and RD accepts Flutters' song. That door RD had been banging on for hours opens up. Turns out it opens in, not out. Spike brought Vinyl to help. Her headphones cancel out the siren spell. She also has a car that transforms into an amp.

The villains are singing their song and are just about ready to take over when the heroes sing back. The villains release their siren forms (which look like sea ponies) to physically do battle with the mane six, who have transformed into their anthro forms as well, and they almost win, but Twi finally asks Sunny for help and she picks up the mic and starts to sing. She takes her coat off, so you know this shit's just got real, revealing a nice backless top she never wore before. She transforms too, into good mode this time. Together their singing creates a giant alicorn of light which destroys the villains' pendants and busts them down to normal. They try to sing, to regain control of the crowd, but now their singing sucks and they run away in shame.

Shit Just Got Real

Brad hugs Twi, and Sunny reveals she's a totally awesome guitar player and she's now a permanent part of the band. Twi leaves. Sometime in the future Sunny is writing to Twi through the magic book, which allows the portal to be opened at any time. It's really sweet.

There is no pony bit at the end like last time. We go straight to the credits, and they are lovely. Last time there were just scrolling words, with Derpy at the very end, but this time there are a series of very lovely drawings of many of the characters. The song "Shine Like Rainbows" plays.

Credits

At the very end, after the credits, we see someone looking over a wall of pictures and charts centered around Canterlot High. It is human Twilight with her real dog Spike (first alluded to by Pinkie Pie in the previous movie). She is certain that something profoundly unusual is going on there.

Human Twilight

They took a lot more risks with this movie than the last one, which was mostly bronybait. Sunny actually says she transformed into a demon and in the final song battle the word soul is used. In this fundamaterialistic naytheist progressive age anything that even remotely resembles religion is strictly forbidden, no matter how non-specific, so that was something to see. Adagio calls her comrades idiots, and in this progressive age where words don't mean things anymore anything that sounds like shaming people who are not "neurotypical" (a bullshit, made up word for normal people) is strictly forbidden. Lyrabon shipping. This one actually has nothing to do with progressivism, it has to do with how fandoms work. Shippers will go down with their ships, and anytime one particular ship is even hinted at officially it is going to piss a lot of people off. Lastly, there is a whole lot of sexy movement and camera angles. That is what surprised me most. It was nothing compared to actual high school (which would have to have a lot of stuff cut just to get an R rating), but for My Little Pony, I never expected that.

But none of that bothered me. They were the good kind of surprises (not the bad kind, like IRS surprises). There were three things I didn't like: 1. the movie was really short, 2. Maud, who is writing her PhD dissertation on geology, can't be so retarded that she would dump crackers on Boulder expecting him to really eat them, and 3. RD has turned into a total jerkass for no evident reason. I can't imagine how RD could have gone from where she was at the end of the first movie, at most a couple months earlier, to being a complete jerk, who is so unbelievably mean to all her friends that she makes the rumors Sunny spread in the first movie look small in comparison. Seriousry? She's Gilda bad. Her jerkness was the only thing that turned me off, and the only thing that deducted points from an otherwise perfect movie.

My final rating is 94/100. I can't possibly recommend seeing this in person enough (or at least buying the Blu-ray when it comes out 28 October).

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