Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Zootopia (2016)

So here we have the latest animated feature film (from Disney naturally, because they like...own everything now), aaand its yet another movie based on animals that can walk, talk and do just about everything humans can do, hurrah for originality! But wait! that's not all my fellow movie watching buccaneers. The so called original twist with this gimmicky kids flick is the fact they've basically made an all out, left wing, uber liberal, political message out of the entire thing, errr...hurrah?

The plot is so unbelievably simple even for a kids flick I am still finding it hard to understand why this has done so well. Our main protagonist is a bunny rabbit named Judy Hopps (ugh! Hopps, really?). Now Judy wants to be a cop when she grows up, but in this animal universe rabbits can't really be cops because reasons. Probably because they are small, weak, cutesy animals and wouldn't be able to handle dangerous city crime...I'm guessing is the stories reason. Although its bloody obvious the real reason is because the director wanted an easy plot device for his easy discrimination angle, because in this world it wouldn't really matter which animals could be cops if you think about it (surely the smaller animals would be just as valuable because they could do many things the larger ones couldn't). There is no real reason a rabbit can't be a cop, no real reason a rabbit can't be as good as a tiger or a rhino, but there is discrimination against smaller mammals, possibly even gender discrimination also.

So, Judy grows up and manages to become a cop, defying all her naysayers. Alas all is not well when she eventually gets to the mighty city of Zootopia because she is still being discriminated against by her chief, and fellow, bigger animal officers, who don't take her seriously. Low and behold she is assigned traffic duties. Whilst on her daily routines she manages to stop a petty criminal and in the process she inadvertently gets herself involved in a much bigger unsolved crime by mainly being at the right place at the right time. At the same time Judy has gotten to know a fox con artist named Nick and managed to basically blackmail him into helping her with the case (recorded him admitting to tax evasion). This presents a whole new set of issues for Judy as she herself is kinda prejudice against foxes because firstly she was bullied by one as a kid. Secondly because she's a rabbit and in this world, real world animal traits still exist apparently. So in other words animals like sheep, rabbits, mice etc...are basically 'racist' or 'specist'  against larger animals like foxes or badgers or whatever because they are predators. Anyway the major unsolved crime that the duo must unravel basically involves finding some missing animals, which of course involves double dealings, twists and is generally pretty stupid when you find out why.

So the first things I have to ask initially may sound rather picky and pointless down to the fact this is a kids movie, but nonetheless. Zootopia apparently has 12 ecosystems within the city limits? is that correct? Now I realise the irony of me pointing out how ridiculous that is in a movie about talking animals, but I'm still gonna point it out because its kinda daft really, but hey...its fantasy so whatever. Lets look at one of these presumed ecosystems (presumed because I have no idea what the full 12 are), Little Rodentia...for rodents of course. Now I did kinda like this miniature city within a city type situation, it was actually pretty sweet, but wouldn't it rather dangerous for these rodent citizens? Surely their entire district could be wiped out in an accident quite easily at any point, plus why are none of the buildings in this district actually fixed to the ground?? Judy almost topples an entire street over by accident so...are these fakes buildings or something? Do rodents actually live in fake rodent type abodes, like fancy cages that are mobile?

Another question that kinda leaped out at me was about the predators, what do they live on?? All the other animals (prey) have no worries at all but what about the huge hulking predators, what the feck do they eat? There are also various other real time nods (pop culture references) that don't really add up in this universe. Like the fact the animals apparently listen to animal versions of real music bands like the Fur Fighters, and they also have animal versions of real time movies like 'Wreck It-Rhino'. So what about films like 'The Jungle Book'? how would that work here? I realise these things are totally unimportant because these little references are only stuck in for fun generally, but I can't help but think into these things. For me its like planting a seed in my brain. You've created this little easter egg/hidden gem type thing but without real conviction, its just there, but I can't help thinking about further possibilities, the hows, the whys.

But lastly, what the hell is with these idiotic character names??! Holy pun much! Duke Weaselton the weasel, Emmett Otterton the otter, Leodore Lionheart the lion, Nick Wilde because he's a wild animal, Yax the yak, Dawn Bellwether the sheep (sheep bells), Benjamin Clawhauser the cheetah (claws), Mr Big the shrew (shrews are tiny), Flash the sloth because...do I even need to say? Oh and Shakira plays a gazelle...basically playing herself, because whatever.

The movie also includes various things that are contemporary but dubious at best. The 'Mammal Inclusion Initiative' program which is essentially affirmative action or positive discrimination for all you Brits out there. The movie is also seemingly trying to get rid of stereotypical stereotypes but fails miserably by reinforcing a whole tonne of stereotypical stereotypes such as fat, doughnut eating cops, Italian mobsters, weasels are bad, foxes are untrustworthy, people who work at the DMV are slow (sloths), southern redneck hicks, and basically certain types of people that are mere sheep and would jump off a bridge if someone told them to (kinda true I guess). Then you have the whole cringeworthy racism/sexism aspect that is summed up by Judy explaining why its not cool for another animal to call a bunny cute...K.

Its like the whole scene near the start when Judy stumbles in on Nick and his partner trying to scam a local business. At first the scene is clearly made out to be an insightful parody of our current society where some folks are being discriminated against by others in local businesses, they are getting refused service for whatever reasons (obviously the LGBT issues in real time). Now at first you the viewer doesn't realise its a scam, so the discrimination does come across as wrong, but then once you learn the fox was only trying to scam this local business owner, you just think, oh well never mind, I now feel a bit sorry for the business owner. Its like they have this setup with good intentions...and just blow it for a lame visual gag.

Now don't get me wrong, this isn't a bad film by any means, its certainly watchable, but even the lush visuals can't really save it in my opinion. Why? because even though it all looks great, the animation is awesome and Zootopia is a wonderful, candy coloured utopia with stunning views that I'd actually like to live in, none of that is a wow factor any more, for me at least. Movies these days generally look stunning, the CGI is usually of a high standard at the best of times. So a movie looking super glossy and beautiful is to be expected, anything less would be surprising, generally. So alas having glorious visuals can no longer bail a movie out of trouble completely.

So here's my beef with this movie, its pretty inane but thinks its really clever, oh and the evil baddies plan makes no sense whatsoever. But wait! everyone is going on about how clever this is because it teaches kids to be more tolerant, pff! Like kids will care anything about that, they will watch because its another Disney movie with big, bold, bright, colourful, funny characters doing zany things. While I commend the film for trying to raise awareness of certain things like racial awareness, sexism, class divisions etc...for kids, it seems to get some things right but then falls right into the old trap for other things. Its like, hello? did you not see what you just did there?! It almost feels like they tried so hard to make this a lesson on political correctness that they kinda forgot to add a decent plot, amongst other things.