Monday, June 11, 2018

MLP Episode 813: The Mean 6

So now we've come to the final episode of the first half of season eight! The first half (School Daze-Horse Play) turned out really good, but the second half (The Parent Map-Marks for Effort) was all over the place, ranging from great to terrible. Can The Mean 6 end the first half on a high note before we enter the mid-season hiatus?

I'm gonna say it; the episode sucked, and it's probably another candidate for one of season eight's worst episodes. But where do I begin with its problems?

The first problem is with the Mane Six themselves, plus Starlight. They've been hit with Steam Team Syndrome. Not that they've been made the core cast by isolating other characters (barring Starlight, they have been established as the leads since day one). No, I mean that they're practically interchangeable with one another; every time they encounter one of the Mean Six, there's a big conflict. You could have them swap places and the plot would be the same.

Case in point, Rarity and Starlight encountering Mean Applejack. Sure, Rarity said Mean Applejack looked a bit pale, and yet she didn't notice her cutie mark looked different? Not taking a look at Mean Applejack's flank makes both Rarity and Starlight look like idiots.

Adding to the stupidity is that no one knew Chrysalis was behind this scheme. Seriously, they try putting two and two together and yet they each somehow got different solutions! And once again, Twilight is an insufferable idiot by accusing Pinkie of hurting Fluttershy (at least Pinkie actually showed genuine concern for Fluttershy, which was surprising)! Do the new writers have some kind of hatred for Twilight?

Also, the way their fighting was resolved felt far too cheesy. Seriously, all the accusations, and yet it's suddenly resolved by a speech from Twilight. You could argue it's a half minute's worth, but keep in mind this is the climax of ten minutes' worth of misunderstandings (or, if you consider real time, at least a few hours)! On top of that, they're more or less in the same place they started, making the entire conflict pointless.

I'd point out the positives at this point, but... there isn't really a whole lot. There were some funny moments with the Mean Six, but they're painfully predictable. Sure, it was nice to see Chrysalis again, but it just feels anticlimactic. The Mean Six melting and turning back into trees? I'm kind of surprised they got away with that!

Final Thoughts
If you want this story done better, watch The Return of Harmony. There's a lot more character involved, there's a lesson to be learned by the end of the story, and most of all, the characters were in a different place than when they started. Heck, even To Where and Back Again got this right. The Mean 6 had no point whatsoever; it's the dictionary definition of anticlimactic.

At least Chrysalis stayed a villain by the end...

Rating: Terrible

Monday, June 4, 2018

MLP Episode 812: Marks for Effort

For once, we have an episode that wasn't leaked in December! Okay, technically, it aired in Finland early, but that's beside the point. And it's Nicole Dubuc's first solo episode as well! Can Marks for Effort prove that she's a good writer, or were her collaborations on Shadow Play and School Daze pure luck?

Honestly, it's still hard to say right now. It's not the strongest episode, but it isn't all that bad either. It was... fine.

One of the things which struck me was the synopsis; why would the Crusaders want to attend the School of Friendship when they're already at Cheerilee's school? Thankfully, they didn't have to deal with going to two different schools at once, and they become tutors at the School of Friendship in the end.

And then there's Cozy Glow. I don't really have too much to say about her at this point, but she looks cute and charming. Some are saying that she might be Queen Chrysalis in disguise, and whilst I don't usually comment on fandom speculation, that may actually be something the show never tackled before. Usually, when we meet an antagonist, we get the impression that they may not be one we want to mess with.

However, a downside to that is... Well, look at recent Disney villains like Hans from Frozen and Bellwether from Zootopia; their villainy comes out of nowhere and it raises questions as to how we - the audience and film's characters - were able to trust them at all.

And then we come to the comments that Diamond Tiara wasn't used in place of Cozy Glow. I genuinely believe that in Crusaders of the Lost Mark, Diamond Tiara was deliberately given a redemption just so they could write her out of future stories and push her into the background, likely because of how much the fandom hated her at the time. Considering what happened to Flash Sentry (someone who's never done anything bad), that's a possibility.

Back to the episode; this kind of raises questions in-universe as to how old the Crusaders are. We know Flurry Heart is a baby and that the Mane Six and Starlight are adults, but the Crusaders? They're still in school, and yet they act and sound like teenagers.

Also, Twilight's characterization this season is becoming more gratuitous. Why would she jump to the conclusion that the Crusaders deliberately caused Cozy Glow to fail? Yes, I get that she cares for her students having a good performance, but banning the Crusaders for a lie seems like overreaction on Twilight's end.

Getting back to Cozy Glow apparently being a secret antagonist, maybe lying about the Crusaders seems like the first sign? This should be interesting as the season progresses.

Final Thoughts
So far, this is probably Nicole Dubuc's weakest script, much of it is down to a thin plot and predictable outcome (I'm sensing a trend this season), but I'm hoping she comes to her own and improves as season eight carries on. It's nice to see a little more growth being implanted for the Crusaders, and this may be the first episode to hint at what's to come for the finale in autumn. Also, can we stop making Twilight look like an incompetent idiot when there's a serious issue at hand? Familiarity breeds contempt, and it already looks like she'll be worse than she was in season six.

Rating: Okay

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

MLP Episode 811: Molt Down

This review was held back in honor of Memorial Day.

A couple of years ago in her follow-up review on Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep, Lily Peet sarcastically commented that she was looking forward to how My Little Pony would handle puberty... and then Molt Down came around. Will it actually be good?

The short answer is... yes, surprisingly!

One of this episode's greatest strengths is that Spike feels relatable and not being constantly brought down to size; in the case of the "molt," it's an inconvenience and he never knew it happens to dragons. Of course, I'm pretty sure Smolder wasn't scaring him on purpose and was simply joking with him, but then again, she didn't grow up around ponies and wouldn't understand how he was feeling.

What was also nice was seeing Twilight show genuine concern for Spike when he gets stone scales around his face. After a couple of episodes where she came off as an incompetent idiot, this is definitely a breath of fresh air. Though wouldn't Spike have known by now Twilight wouldn't abandon him?

Rarity and Zecora were also great; the former's brief deafness problems are pretty amusing, and the latter's guidance roles make me appreciate how lucky Zecora is to be a side character. She works best when she's playing off another character in, for example, A Health of Information and Magic Duel. It's also why I'm glad Edward is moving to Wellsworth because chances are he'll never be poorly written again, but I've explained why already, so let's move on.

But now let's talk about the main takeaway of the episode; Spike getting his wings. Well, it would be a nice surprise if A) it wasn't leaked by greedy fans, and B) Hasbro didn't reveal that information in a teaser! In the case of the latter, this is practically Magical Mystery Cure all over again, only this time, fans weren't thrown into a tizzy about the show being "ruined".

Personally, I'm glad and disappointed that Spike got his wings; glad in that after eight seasons, we finally get to see him physically grow up, and it looks as though there's big plans for him later in the season.

The disappointment comes when you consider that Twilight got her own wings at the end of season three. In the last five years, fans have adjusted to this so much that we tend to forget that Twilight started out as a unicorn (or maybe they don't, I'm not sure). Heck, the Crusaders got their cutie marks in the middle of season five, and that was an afterthought. With Spike? By the time Generation 4 comes to an end, it'll be too little too late to get fully used to him having wings.

That being said, it was nice to see Spike standing up to the roc to save Rarity and Zecora from its clutches, and the ending, though predictable, was pretty satisfying. Though it does make you wonder how everyone else reacted to his wings...

Final Thoughts
After a brief slump in the middle of the first half, it looks like season eight is back on track again. Spike is definitely growing as a character (we can't call him a baby dragon anymore) and getting his wings shows that there's a bit more story potential for him. Maybe have him stand up to Garble one day?

Rating: Excellent

Monday, May 21, 2018

MLP Episode 810: The Break Up Break Down

Season eight had a great start with School Daze, and the next five episodes were all really good for the most part, but then it faltered so suddenly with the last two episodes ranging from bad to terrible. Can The Break Up Break Down claw back some lost ground?

In some ways, it does. Others though? Not enough to be considered one of the best. This has a similar problem to The Parent Map; it primarily takes after a season seven episode (Hard to Say Anything) and three others from past seasons (Dungeons and Discords, All Bottled Up, and Hearts and Hooves Day).

However, unlike The Parent Map, The Break Up Break Down has some advantage over it. For one, the characters are actually entertaining, Discord and Spike especially. I definitely believe you could create gold with these two, and Confalone certainly did here (though, this may be down to having written Dungeons and Discords as well).

Another strong point is that it addressed a question a had since Hard to Say Anything aired; are Big Mac and Sugar Belle in a long distance relationship? As of this episode, we can see that she'll be closer to him by being an apprentice to Mrs. Cake.

The best character of the episode was, without a doubt, Big Macintosh. He's sensitive, he's slightly insecure, and even apologies when he takes his frustration out on those who didn't deserve it. Some may get some Ponyville Confidential vibes out of that, but it doesn't take longer than thirty seconds and like I said, he does apologize for yelling at Sweetie Belle. So let's park a bit of caution there, okay?

Speaking of which, the Crusaders' subplot felt useless and didn't have any impact on the main story. Sure, they helped Big Mac set up the barn, but that's it. It could easily be skipped over and you lose nothing.

The episode's theme was about jumping to conclusions... and communicating properly with others, which, actually, feels a lot more nuanced than what we've seen as of late in recent Thomas episodes like Engine of the Future. The fact that they used a few characters around that theme made it all the more better, though slightly anti-climactic since we know Sugar Belle wasn't going to break up with Big Mac.

Also, this is minor, but why do they keep saying "girl" in place of "mare"? There's nothing wrong with saying "coltfriend" and "marefriend", so use that!

Final Thoughts
It's a step in the right direction for season eight; despite the re-use of elements from certain episodes, the characters and theme more than make up for that, so it passes into "good" territory, though only just. That being said, I hope they come up with some more original stories for the rest of season eight and nine, plus the yet-to-be released Generation 5. Otherwise, it's a sign the series is creatively stagnant and should be put to bed.

Rating: Good

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

MLP Episode 809: Non-Compete Clause

After seven episodes since School Daze, we're back to the School of Friendship! There's one thing concerning this Non-Compete Clause; will it actually be good and prove The Parent Map was merely a fluke?

Last time, I was hoping the writers could do something fresh lest the show become stagnant. Their best response? An episode about teamwork, and one where Rainbow Dash and Applejack are at odds with each other... again.

However, to be fair, this was seven seasons after Fall Weather Friends, so it's a bit more forgivable here. And the fact they had the Young Six reacting to their antics added a little more nuance to the story.

But that is what really kills the episode for me. You'd have expected after eight years that Rainbow Dash and Applejack would've learned not to behave like children over little things. Episodes like this where the lead characters are rewritten to suit the story can potentially harm their reputation and make them unlikable. It also says a lot that the Young Six, characters who are meant to represent a younger generation, have more maturity than two characters who have been a staple of the show since 2010.

On top of that, the moral is incredibly hammered in. Sure, it's one that kids need to learn, but here's the thing; this is a lesson Rainbow Dash and Applejack should know by now! We've seen in past episodes that they've worked well together, even in this season alone! Why they can't do this now is beyond me. Hell, the episode's ending gave off the implication that they learned nothing from the experience.

Twilight's role wasn't much better either. Sure, she scolded Rainbow Dash and Applejack for their behavior (something we need to see more of), but she still lets them lead the field trip anyway, despite the fact that Yona almost drowned because of their petty bickering! And Rainbow Dash and Applejack did nothing to help her! Imagine what Rutherford would say if he found out!

Yeah, this episode is riddled with unfortunate implications; would any student want to be taught by a pair of teachers who are constantly at each other's throats during a field trip? The students wouldn't feel safe, and their parents/guardians wouldn't trust them! I know what message the kids want it to be, but as I've said, Rainbow Dash and Applejack should've learned this lesson by now! And when they got tied up, I thought that it served them right for being careless.

Like I've also said, the Young Six are really good throughout, Yona and Ocellus especially. The former's aquaphobia could be an interesting character study in the future, and the latter's transformations into a seapony and a fish are really fun to see.

Final Thoughts
I know it's too early to call, but this is so far a candidate for worst episode of the season. It completely ignores character development that had happened in the past seven seasons just for the plot to happen, the moral comes off as extremely forced, and the ending makes the whole endeavor pointless. The episode as a whole provides nothing new or interesting.

I really hope this doesn't become a constant problem for season eight; otherwise, I'll be left with little to discuss. The writers really need to pick up their game lest this season becomes worse than the sixth.

Rating: Terrible

Monday, May 14, 2018

MLP Episode 808: The Parent Map

So far, season eight has had a pretty solid start. Despite the odd blip here and there, the episode quality has been nothing short of wonderful. But then there's The Parent Map, and given what I saw with Uncommon Bond, I was left worried that it wouldn't be that great. Was I wrong?

I don't mind retreads just as long as the writers do something fresh with the previous plot. But here? This is pretty much a retreading of Parental Glideance, only it's more annoying. Maybe it's not a beat-for-beat retreading, but it does contain a similar trope of Starlight's father and Sunburst's mother being overdoting to their respective offspring. And boy, does it get frustrating after a while...

Not only that, this took on elements of The Perfect Pear (the conflict between the parents, which came from nowhere and ended rather suddenly), Triple Threat (a friendship problem being initiated by Starlight and Sunburst), and Uncommon Bond (a revisiting of their past). I've let the other six episodes off the hook as they added more nuance to their respective themes, but this... doesn't.

In addition to the unoriginality, there's a crapload of wasted potential to explore Starlight's past. How did her father react to Starlight becoming an antagonist? What was Sire's Hollow like when she was little? What happened to Sunburst's father (he doesn't show up in the present day)? Why were Stellar Flare and Firelight fighting at the start? Too many questions and too few answers just make the episode feel overall like a jumbled mess.

They do try making up for the lack of cohesive plot by adding in some humor with the ponyfolk of Sire's Hollow, and to be fair, there are a few actually funny moments with the baker pony and his rock bread. It's also funny that they have more humor and charm in this episode than Sunburst ever did since his debut.

Yeah, speaking of whom, I still don't like Sunburst. He's so boring that he makes Mudbriar look like Capper in comparison. If you aren't going to do anything interesting with Sunburst, then what was the point of creating him in the first place? At least Flash Sentry has (or rather, had) potential. Sunburst has absolutely nothing.

It says a lot that Starlight Glimmer, someone who's given tons of hate even after three years, actually has more character than Sunburst. And again, in fairness, she does what she can to give the episode some weight, and seeing her snap at her father for treating her like a baby was a good moment for her. Whilst Starlight reminding Twilight where she messed up was good, her scolding Firelight was great, and it holds more weight than Rainbow Dash being a bit petty with her parents (which, I'll admit, improves on Parental Glideance slightly). Same for Sunburst and Stellar Flare, surprisingly (even if I don't like the former). Heck, even Twilight and Spike had some great moments despite their small roles.

But there is a glaring issue with Starlight's role; how did she and Sunburst not know what the problem was earlier? Heck, the cold open pretty much shows a pile of Stellar Flare's letters to Sunburst, and you figure out the issue about ten to fifteen minutes before the pair do, making them feel stupid.

Here's what I could've done to fix the episode; have Sunburst go to Sire's Hollow where he learns about what happened to his father whilst making amends with Stellar Flare. And while you're at it, have Starlight be there to provide some moral support whilst thinking about her checkered relationship with Firelight. And on top of providing more insight into their past, you give the audience more of a reason to care for their plight. It's basic on paper, but I'm sure it'd be a lot better than what we were given.

A number of people are bringing this up, and damned if I didn't; the Cutie Map can randomly call up anyone now. That sends off some catastrophic implications if it were to call up a villain...!

Final Thoughts
In answering the question I started off this review with; no. I wasn't wrong. It's unoriginal as hell and  has loads of wasted potential; by far, it's my least favorite of season eight and it's a great shame that it had been great up to this point. I just hope that the next episode can bring forth something new; otherwise, it may not just be Equestria Girls that's reaching the end of the line...

Rating: Bad

Sunday, May 13, 2018

MLP Episode 807: Horse Play

Happy Mother's Day! To celebrate, here's my views on Horse Play.

Prior to Celestial Advice, there have been complaints that Luna had received far more screentime than Celestia did, and the latter was fairly prominent during season one whilst the former... wasn't. Even though it took them seven seasons to do it, at least the writers have addressed the issue. So how does this one stack up?

Well, it's not as good as A Royal Problem, but it is definitely within the range. Celestia is an absolute delight throughout the entire episode, especially when she has her "squee" moment over being the lead in a play, as well as her bad acting.

Twilight's role... was a mixed bag. I understand why she doesn't want to upset her former mentor, but this is the fourth time in the last year alone (the first three being Shadow Play, The Movie, and School Daze) that she ignored her friends' advice! Does she suddenly not trust her friends? You'd think after eight years she'd have learned to trust her friends by now.

Another issue was with Pinkie Pie; her antics were more annoying than funny, and she didn't get any consequences for making problems worse for Twilight. There is more to her character than the writers seem to be letting on, and you don't need to watch just The Movie to understand that!

However, everyone else in the episode more than makes up for that. Applejack being the voice of reason was nice (at least she learned something from a past experience!), the return of the Method Mares from season five was pretty serviceable, but the standout was Fluttershy, no question. She looks absolutely cute dressed as Celestia.

Besides the theme about being honest with your criticisms, there was a nice theme about working with the problems you've landed in in regards to the final play. I dunno if that was the intention or my interpretation of it, but that was a nice touch.

Final Thoughts
So far, no episode has been able to match School Daze, but Horse Play has come pretty close. It's mostly down to the issues with Twilight and Pinkie's characterization, but despite this issue, it's a solid episode featuring Celestia as a major player.

Rating: Excellent

Saturday, May 12, 2018

MLP Episode 806: Surf and/or Turf

Ever since The Movie, I was hoping we'd get to see the hippogriffs again, especially Princess Skystar. And when this episode was announced, I was excited. But how does Surf and/or Turf fare?

Actually, I'd have been more excited if stupid, greedy people that call themselves "fans" didn't leak this episode (and a few others) in an unfinished state and spoiling the surprises for the true fans because they've nothing better to do with their lives... But whatever.

Regardless, it's yet another episode I really enjoy, and I liked Terramar a lot. He is incredibly sympathetic and relatable, and there's the subtle allegory with his parents Sky Beak (a hippogriff) and Ocean Flow (a seapony) being divorced, and yet they're still friendly with one another. That is a bold move for MLP, and one that I'm sure kids with divorced parents will relate to. Though it does make one wonder how Silverstream is handling this...!

Seeing Scootaloo swim around as a seapony is just adorably charming. It's almost like she's finally achieved her goal to sort of "fly", even if she was underwater. And no, Apple Bloom exaggerating the story of the Storm King's invasion doesn't bug me; most likely she's exaggerating just to make it sound exciting.

That being said, the conflict between Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle felt rather shoehorned. Sure, they had their disagreements on where Terramar should live in, but it more or less comes from nowhere and is dropped just as soon as it starts.

Although this doesn't affect my views on the episode, I'll mention it anyway; why on earth is Madeleine Peters not singing? I mean, she's sung fairly well as Scootaloo in the past (the last time was in The Fault in Our Cutie Marks back in season six), and yet here, her singing voice is done by Arielle Tuliao. So... why the change?

Final Thoughts
Sometimes, the best episodes are those that give me little to talk about, and despite the problem with the leaks in December, this was yet another highlight to season seven. Though I was pretty disappointed that Skystar didn't make an appearance, much less receive a mention, it didn't ruin the viewing experience for me. It was fine the way it is.

Rating: Excellent

Friday, May 11, 2018

MLP Episode 805: Grannies Gone Wild

Don't fret, people; there's nothing pornographic about this episode, especially if you watch it, though there is a problem I have in regards to a certain reference, but more on that later. Anyway, here are my views on Grannies Gone Wild.

I'll start off with a question; when you think of Rainbow Dash episodes, who would be the first character on your mind to play off against her? I'm sure most of you wouldn't think up Granny Smith, am I right? You'd think, "Rainbow Dash and one of the grannies of Equestria? That's too ridiculous even by the show's standards!" And you'd probably be right.

But did Gillian Berrow pull that off? Absolutely. The fact that she even wrote it in Las Vegas might've helped.

What makes it better is Rainbow Dash. Lately, she's been treated as a butt monkey at best, and an unbearable idiot at worst. Whilst there are instances of her being insensitive, she at least has a reason to act this way; she wants to ride the Wild Blue Yonder roller coaster like Wonderbolts past have done before it closes down.

However, she's forced to look after Granny Smith, Apple Rose, Goldie Delicious, and Auntie Applesauce, with strict instructions from Applejack. And seeing poor Rainbow constantly bugged by an imaginary Applejack head was really funny and added to her paranoia. The grannies' antics didn't make Rainbow's behavior much better, but it was still funny to see.

Speaking of humor, the episode is remembered for a particularly awkward reason; not because of the characters, the story, or even the themes (which I'll get to in a bit), but because of this screenshot:


Two things:
  1. It's blatantly obvious that this is pandering to the adult fans. Seriously, how many kids are expected to know what Rick and Morty is?
  2. The R&M fanbase are making a huge deal over a one-second shot of a 22-minute episode. ONE SHOT that you could easily overlook if you were a casual viewer!
I won't go on about this, but the bottom line is, stop raising hell over small things! The world's already a toxic dumpster fire as it is, so think about your own damn lives for at least a minute!

Okay, getting back to the episode, and I like that there are two themes here; think about others' needs (it's not entirely new for the show, but I digress), and that people can have fun regardless of age (which is surprisingly new for the show). They are both lessons Rainbow Dash needed to learn, and the ride she got at the end on the coaster was pretty satisfying.

Final Thoughts
Need a bit of a laugh for twenty minutes? This episode is for you. It felt like it was an improvement over Somepony to Watch Over Me (after all, old people need a lot of attention) and the whole conflict all felt believable and relatable. It's practically the MLP equivalent to Dowager Hatt's Busy Day. Although, can we stop throwing in references that only older fans will get? Because the more you do it, the less you focus on your target audience.

Rating: Excellent

Thursday, May 10, 2018

MLP Episode 804: Fake It 'Til You Make It

So School Daze was an amazing premiere, and yet The Maud Couple was a slightly disappointing follow-up to that episode. Let's see how Fake It 'Til You Make It holds up in comparison.

When was the last time Fluttershy and Rarity got an episode together? Season one? Wow, it feels like ages since that last happened, and it definitely feels more special compared to an annual Maud Pie episode. It's nice to get something like this once in a while rather than once a season.

And this "once in a while" episode turned out surprisingly good given that Josh Hamilton wrote this. Parental Glideance and Triple Threat were okay, but Secrets and Pies was downright awful, one of MLP's worst episodes to date. Fake It 'Til You Make It was undoubtedly his diamond in the rough, though it's not much of a surprise given that this was a Fluttershy episode.

For once, the humor was actually quite funny and rarely comes off as forced. Seeing Fluttershy constantly changing into her vain, hipster, and goth personalities is so over-the-top that I find it impossible not to enjoy. And hey, where else do you hear her do a Rarity impression?

I also like the roles the raccoons had in assisting Fluttershy, and their interactions with Spike were quite fun; has he been taking lessons from the not-so-introverted-as-we'd-like-to-think pegasus?

But you can't outrun all the criticisms; for one thing, the rest of the Mane Six (barring Rarity of course) felt kind of useless. Sure, they helped Fluttershy get back to normal, but Rarity could've done it by herself as well and the plot wouldn't change. That being said, the moral about being yourself is a good one, but the fact it's overused does not bother me here...

No, the real problem is that it could've worked just as well with Coco Pommel, maybe better. She has a similar persona to Fluttershy, and we've yet to see her display a little more character. Heck, they don't even mention her at any point, which is a great shame.

Final Thoughts
Despite the missed opportunities and a rather awkward ending, it's still one of Josh Hamilton's better efforts - no, scratch that - his best effort so far. Although the lesson is nothing new, it was definitely one Fluttershy needed to learn, as well as being one that can resonate with kids. It's an improvement over The Maud Couple, but still not quite as good as School Daze; and believe me when I say it'll take a lot to beat that one.

Rating: Good

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

MLP Episode 803: The Maud Couple

Well, we're finally here! I could've posted this earlier, but I first wanted to get the video review for School Daze done for The Emotions' Corner on YouTube. Now that it's done, I can finally catch up on the rest of the season eight episodes that have aired by the time of posting. Starting with The Maud Couple.

I don't think this was as good as School Daze, but I do think that it has a very strong message within its context, and I will get to that in a bit.

The first complaint I have is that this is the third season in a row where Maud Pie is at the center stage near the start of a season. That was a complaint I had with Emily in the Middle feeling way too similar to Love Me Tender; however, unlike the aforementioned Donald and Douglas episodes, the Maud Pie episodes are actually very different story wise:
  • The Gift of the Maud Pie is about Pinkie trying to get her sister a gift whilst in Manehattan.
  • Rock Solid Friendship is about Maud moving to Ponyville and making a new friend in Starlight Glimmer.
  • The Maud Couple is about Maud getting a boyfriend and Pinkie's reaction to it.
As long as each episode featuring a certain character is different, that's okay in my books. Just... don't have a Maud Pie episode near the start of every future season, okay? After all, familiarity breeds contempt. (I'm looking at you, Forgotten Friendship!)

Another problem is one that plagues Nick Confalone's writing; the plot is quite thin, and it almost felt like a few gags were being prolonged deliberately just to fill up 22 minutes. I mean, Pinkie reintroduces herself to Mudbriar three times. What do I think of him as a character? Well... I can honestly take him or leave him, but how often does he have to say "technically" and then over-correct a lot that Pinkie says? This can become annoying after a while.

Oh, and two more points where the plot feels thin; Maud Pie's stand-up comedy act and Pinkie's Opposite Day fantasy with the rest of the Mane Six. They're both funny in their own right, but they add nothing to the plot.

Now, the episode as a whole isn't terrible; one thing that actually stood out to me was that it looked like Limestone and Marble Pie seem to finally be gaining a bit more character. Limestone can be wise and helpful when she wants to be, and Marble even showed disapproval at Limestone cutting off Pinkie's explanation. That was really good! Can we have more of this, please?

Even more so was the theme, which raises my views on the episode a bit. It's what's inside that's most important. Not as strong as the theme of inclusivity in School Daze, but like the aforementioned theme, it's a big one for today's society as people will judge one another by skin color rather than looking past that.

Final Thoughts
It was a step down from School Daze, but The Maud Couple is still a good episode in its own right; just not as good as it could've been. Had it not been for the theme, it would've gotten a worse rating. Also, can we not have Pinkie acting like a spoiled child whenever she's with Maud? It's writing choices like that which can taint a character's likability and eventually lead to flanderization.

Rating: Good

Friday, April 13, 2018

Equestria Girls: Forgotten Friendship

I originally wasn't going to write a review for this, mostly because I felt Equestria Girls has gone on for way too long, and that was due to stagnation in the writing. But these thoughts have been haunting my mind for so long that I simply could not ignore them anymore, and so I've decided to sit down and give Forgotten Friendship a proper review. Oh joy...(!)

I'm going to start by saying the story for this "special" is terrible. It suffers from Sharon Miller Syndrome. I don't mean that the story uses the three-strikes formula and has constant rhyming and alliteration that makes you want to chop your ears off. No, I mean that the story very much follows the same generic Equestria Girls plotline we've seen post-Rainbow Rocks:
After last week's crisis, everything is doing great for Sunset, Sci-Twi and company, except that there's a new personal conflict among friends and a new generic female villain on the loose. After a whole lot of fluff in the middle, the villain reveals herself and everybody else is useless in stopping the bad girl of the week, and it's only Sunset or Sci-Twi that gives them the boost to save the day and forgive the villain for her misdemeanors. All is forgiven. Roll end credits and include generic pop song.
Let's use Legend of Everfree as an example: Following the Friendship Games, things are relatively okay for Sci-Twi and her new friends, but Sci-Twi has shell shock from Midnight Sparkle and Gloriosa Daisy is causing trouble at Camp Everfree. She transforms into Gaea Everfree and the Human Six struggle to beat her until Sci-Twi comes in to save the day. Gloriosa is forgiven for her actions, and raises enough money to save Camp Everfree before the end credits roll.

And then there's Mirror Magic: The post-production for the Daring Do movie has completed, and things are great for the Rainbooms, except Sunset is worried about Equestrian magic in the human world and Juniper Montage is bitter for her humiliation. She becomes a fifteen-foot giantess and traps the Rainbooms in a magic mirror, only to be talked down by a visiting Starlight Glimmer. Juniper is forgiven and all is well; cue the end credits.

(Yes, I know Dance Magic and Movie Magic don't follow the exact formula to the letter, but they're still incredibly generic and boring in and of themselves.)

I don't know if this was intentional or not, but if you strip the stories down to the basic elements, they are more or less the same, and each has gimmicks sprinkled on top to try and distract the audience from the fact that it's the same story they've seen before. You can change a couple of ingredients to bake a pizza, and it will still look and taste like a pizza.

And that is the biggest problem with Forgotten Friendship; they replace Gloriosa Daisy/Juniper Montage with Wallflower Blush, the shell shocked Sci-Twi/stressed out Sunset with Sunset realizing her friends don't remember her being their friend, the geodes/mirror with some stupid rock, and yet Nick Confalone (the writer/editor of this crapfest) expects us to think this is new?! I'm sorry, but most of us aren't stupid, Hasbro! The only difference is that Wallflower Blush doesn't transform at the climax.

Oh, yes. Wallflower Blush. I absolutely deplore this stupid, stupid brat!! I never thought there'd be a character who angered me more than Timber Spruce, but I found them. Nothing about her is likable or sympathetic in the slightest! Before you comment that I should like her because she's "cute," appearances do not factor into my views on a character because they're a default setting, not a freak accident. Wallflower is not cute! Not in the slightest!

Think about her "goals" for a moment; she feels neglected around her peers and wants to be noticed. Fair enough, it's something that's a little more grounded, but that's where the story takes a rifle to the chest. She erased awkward memories with the Memory Stone and for no reason blames it all Sunset! Seriously! What had she done to Wallflower to deserve it? Nothing! Sure, she turned off the lights with Wallflower still in the room, but that was hardly the worst thing you can do to someone! Juniper Montage had better motivations than this! I'm not even kidding.

Why is Wallflower targeting Sunset when she could've targeted literally anybody at CHS? What was she hoping to accomplish with this, and how would erasing everyone's memories of Sunset make her feel better? All this would do is make things worse for Wallflower, and she'll have no personal gain from this! Her motivations are petty at best, and outright stupid and malicious at worst!

Also, did anyone notice that her inclusion in the flashbacks of first three movies was contrived? They (along with Legend of Everfree and the 2017 specials) never acknowledged she existed prior to this, and she'll most likely never be used again, making her role completely pointless! This would've been a good way to bring the Dazzlings back, and as much as I'd be okay with them not returning, it would make a hell of a lot more sense as their grudge against Sunset and co. would be a lot stronger.

And yes, I'm going to talk about her redemption at the end; I HATE that godforsaken cliche! What's even more insulting is that it felt like Wallflower was being given the happy ending she didn't deserve! This was a moment where adults should've been involved to give her a punishment, but they dropped the ball here by implying that people will accept you after you emotionally traumatized one of their friends. Seriously, that is legitimately what Wallflower did to Sunset!

And that brings me onto the Rainbooms; whilst Sunset is written fine, the others are once again caricatures of their pony counterparts! This is a problem with the Rainbooms which has been brewing since... Rainbow Rocks, actually. The writers have to make the Rainbooms look as weak and helpless as possible whilst making Sunset (except in Everfree and Mirror Magic, when it was Sci-Twi and Starlight, respectively) the big hero in the end. It made sense in Rainbow Rocks, but everything after?

A while back, I spoke with someone on DeviantArt finding Sunset an overrated character and that she's a spotlight stealer, and honestly? I don't blame her, and I can see where she's going with this. And yet fans accuse Starlight Glimmer for stealing the spotlight, and her character has gotten better since To Where and Back Again (though it's debatable at best). Sunset? Praised to high hell. I imagine some of you are going to call me a hater and a hypocrite, but calm down; I don't hate Sunset Shimmer. I never did, not even in 2013. But sometimes, it helps to look at both sides of the coin, and as much as I'll always love Sunset, it pains me to say that it feels like she's for EG what fans are saying about Starlight for FiM; over-glorified by the writers.

It's a special kind of sad that the Human Six actually have potential to be as well-rounded as their pony counterparts, but are constantly dumbed down to a few traits; seriously, why does Pinkie Pie have to make some stupid food related jokes every few minutes? It wasn't funny in Movie Magic, and it's definitely not funny here! Until they're allowed to have deeper personalities on a consistent basis, and within a longer timeframe, this will not improve.

Also, this is a nitpick, but I'm gonna complain about it anyway. Why the hell did Sunset not remind her friends of the time they made a music video together and then showed it to them? Heck, why didn't she ask Spike to confirm she's their friend? I know this doesn't have a huge effect on the story, but it's a prime example of cherry-picking continuity. They show flashbacks of the first four movies, and yet they ignore the events of the 2017 specials! Either reference all the events that had happened, or not at all. This is another of many plot holes of the special; there's so many that Swiss cheese feels whole by comparison!

Then there's the swimsuits of the Rainbooms; they're fine for what they are, but let's look at them from a marketing standpoint. Minis of them were revealed long before the special came out, and that tells me that this special was made just to sell toys! I get that MLP started as a toy franchise, but come on! They should be a byproduct of the show, not the other way around! It feels like a gimmicky distraction from the lackluster story. They could be hanging out at the mall in regular clothing and the plot wouldn't change.

Back to legitimate issues; there's the two signature scenes, and the first being the one many fans wanted - Princess Celestia and Sunset reuniting. And it was absolutely anti-climactic. Seriously, that was the biggest slap in the face since the ending of Crusaders of the Lost Mark! It could've been great, except they have Twilight (the Princess, that is) acting like an idiot trying to lighten the situation, therefore making the tone feel confused as to what it should be - comedic or heartwarming? It can't be both! They should've made that an entire special on its own, but it feels like it was shoehorned as an afterthought and has little effect on the story, as well as payoff that's unsatisfying on so many levels. It's just another way to distract the audience from the fact that the story is lackluster, almost like Big Mickey's reveal in New Crane on the Dock, in fact!

Speaking of the ponies, was Equestria even necessary to the story? The reason Wallflower found the Memory Stone was because Clover the Clever (male or female; I don't care at this point) banished it to the human world instead of, oh, I don't know, destroying it in the first place?! Yes, I get that you wouldn't have a story in the first place, but I counter with my comments on Legend of Everfree's ending; if the solution to a problem is that simple, then the story is pointless.

And now we come to the climax, and again, it's very anti-climactic and just laughably stupid (not in a good way either). First off, Sunset gets her memories of the human world taken from her. I would agree that it's dramatic... if it wasn't for the fact that past experience showed me that she and her friends are unlikely to get killed off by now! We got the message in Mirror Magic; they're the main characters and cannot be killed off. With that knowledge in mind, it makes the story even more pointless than it is! Oh, and why did they have to transform just to destroy that damned Stone? They could've simply took it from Wallflower and smashed it to the ground!

But the things I hate most about Forgotten Friendship is that it feels like it was padded out to fill the runtime (and that is a huge problem with Nick Confalone as a writer) and the wasted potential. I'm serious; this is what I'd have done:
  1. Change the title to Sunset's True Friends and reduce the runtime to 22 minutes.
  2. Make Trixie the antagonist and have her spread rumors about Sunset among the school. Yes, it's kind of petty and cliche, but at least it's not as bad as what we got.
  3. A few select students - maybe a few background humans? - believe Sunset is bullying them behind their backs, but the rest are willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.
  4. Remember Flash Sentry's cameo near the end? Have him be the co-star alongside Sunset and we delve a little more into their past.
  5. During all this, have Sunset worry she might not be as good as friendship as she thinks and she expresses her concerns to Princess Twilight.
  6. The more rumors spread, the more Sunset worries and is on the verge of depression. This paranoia is only affirmed when her best friends slowly turn on her one by one.
  7. Trixie is confronted in the hallway, and she reveals her intentions in front of a lot of students, resulting in Flash calling her out for her petty behavior, even to the point of calling her a complete, utter blowhard.
  8. Principal Celestia has Trixie put in detention for the rest of the year, and the latter gets a very humiliating photo in the yearbook.
  9. As gratitude for Flash helping her, Sunset decides he and Princess Twilight need closure, and writes to her friend about it, and then lets the two talk things out.
  10. Don't worry, I didn't forget the Princess Celestia bits; have that its own individual special called Celestial Sunset, and it's built up by Flash asking if there's any others she hasn't had closure yet, which surprises Sunset. In the next special, she returns to Equestria and by the end, has full closure with Princess Celestia. (I'll let you work out what happens in between.)
Seriously, it takes a lot of effort to create something astonishing like A Royal Problem. If they had gone for something similar to what I've suggested, this could've been one of the best of the Equestria Girls spinoff! But as Forgotten Friendship stands, it's a trainwreck from top to bottom, and the worst thing to come out of Generation 4.

The voice acting is serviceable, but I feel really bad for the cast having their talents being wasted on terrible concepts for the spinoff, especially Rebecca Shoichet and Vincent Tong (even if he didn't voice in this special). The former has always done a fantastic job as Sunset Shimmer, so to never see her character show up on the actual show is just sad, even if she does a great job voicing Sugar Belle. As for Vincent Tong? Flash is never given a chance to shine, and it's sad as unlike Juniper Montage and Wallflower Blush, who are merely toy ploys, he has potential as a character. But since Sandbar from season eight is voiced by Vincent, at least he's given a chance to voice more often, though I doubt it means Flash will turn up again in the actual show...

The animation, once again, is fine. But apart from the beach scenes and the scenes in Equestria, there wasn't a whole lot where it stood out on its own. It's not terrible, but not as grand as it could be.

And then there's the music; the instrumental themes are quite generic and forgettable, but the songs are just plain awful. Wallflower's song tries way too hard to make you sympathize with her, and its generic pop sound makes it sound worse than it already is. "Open Up Your Eyes" handled this way better in The Movie, mostly because we were being shown what was happening instead of just being told. The fact that there was orchestral music made it sound grander than it did. The opening song is extremely forgettable; in one ear, out the other.

Final Thoughts
I'll be honest; when the description for A Friendship to Remember came out (it's the novelization of the special) and then it was revealed it'd be in animated form, I knew it was going to be awful, and watching it proved my point. It's a piece of garbage from start to finish, and there is no redeeming quality about it. There are so many plot holes throughout that it almost feels like Nick Confalone is half-assing his way to tie up some loose threads in the series. And that's not even mentioning that it actually could've worked as two specials.

And I know people are gonna say, "But it's the best thing ever! Sunset and Celestia reunited!" Open your eyes, people! My Little Pony was a success because of the writing first and foremost! Everything else is purely secondary, and the gimmicks should be stone dead last or not there at all. Stories should work around characters and not the reverse. The music, voice acting, and animation are there to help the story being told. Hell, even season six, much as I'm not a fan of it, got that right. And on top of that, the characters were written to be relatable. With Friendship Games and all EG productions afterward, I didn't feel any of them were relatable at all, and even when they do try with the likes of Wallflower Blush (I assume they tried to make her represent autistic people, but I'd take Theo from Journey Beyond Sodor every single time), they fail spectacularly.

Let's take a look at the Toy Story franchise for a bit, shall we? All three movies, even if they have similar tropes, each feel different to each other. The 1995 original was about Woody feeling jealous of Buzz and then both get separated accidentally from Andy, so they have to work together to get home. The 1999 sequel had Woody being stolen by a greedy toy collector, and so Buzz and several other toys head out to save him. And then in the 2010 threequel, all of Andy's remaining toys get trapped in a daycare run by a tyrannical teddy bear and so they plan to break out and return home.

The reason I bring up the Toy Story trilogy is because that the two sequels at least try evolving and taking risks in their storytelling. Equestria Girls is constantly spinning in its wheels, and it's become stagnant to the point it leaves me wondering how people are willing to accept the same story repackaged slightly every time; it's the Hasbro equivalent to the Thomas Creator Collective. They need to stop reusing the same story over and over again, try new things, cut the gimmicks, and for the love of God, stop using the baddie redemption trope!

If you liked the special - as well as EG in general these days - good for you; you're in the majority. This special as it stands just isn't for me, and I'm absolutely baffled it's still going on even to this day!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

My Little Pony: The Movie (2017)

It's time for the big one, the review many of you have been waiting for since October; my thoughts and views on My Little Pony: The Movie from 2017.

A few things before I get started:
  1. Because the movie was being produced as early as 2013/2014, and since we weren't to know about what happened in seasons 5-7 before the film came out, I won't let certain things bother me as I'm reviewing the film.
  2. I will not let the critics' reviews on the film affect my own; most likely they're people who don't give a crap about the series or the themes behind it.
  3. Unlike my more recent MLP reviews, I'll be talking about each plot element as I go along to see what the story gets right and wrong. And since the songs are integral to the story, they'll be discussed along the story as well. Oh, and it'll be split into sections, much like on the DVD.
2016 had been a disappointing year for MLP; season six's writing quality was inconsistent throughout, and Legend of Everfree was quite possibly the worst thing to come out of the franchise. 2017 had a lot to prove to make up for that, so imagine my surprise when season seven turned out to be really good, but the Magic trilogy for Equestria Girls left a lot to be desired. Could The Movie capitalize on the success of season seven, or was it a sign the show was on borrowed time?

Plot
The Four Princesses
We're introduced to a redesigned Canterlot (I'll get to that in the animation section) where the ponies are preparing the city for a Friendship Festival whilst others come from everywhere from Saddle Arabia to Manehattan, all to Rachel Platten's version of "We Got the Beat". Yeah, about that; it may not be the most ideal way to kick off a movie, but then, it's a really nice subtle nod to the fact that the franchise all began back in the 1980s. That being said, I do wish they'd release a longer version.

Spike shows up at Canterlot Castle to find that Princess Twilight Sparkle, not for the first time but surely not the last, is freaking out. And just why is our Princess of Friendship freaking out? Because she's in charge of the Friendship Festival, and Songbird Serenade will be performing there. Given her (Songbird's) celebrity status, you can understand why Twilight is so worried about making things perfect for her.

Of course, Twilight asks for the help of the other three Princesses - Celestia, Luna, and Cadance - to set up the stage for Songbird, but Celestia reminds her that she has all the magic needed to make the Festival a success. Twilight, of course, takes it as a "no". Oh, and have I mentioned that Celestia has been a fantastic character as of late?

We Got This Together
Outside the castle, Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy, Applejack, and Rarity are making preparations of their own; clearing the weather, setting up the balloons, preparing the music, handing out cider, and decorating the stage respectively. From those two minutes, if you're a casual moviegoer, you kind of get a basic idea as to what their characters are like. Rainbow Dash is brash, Rarity is a bit of a perfectionist, Applejack is honest, Pinkie is fun-loving, and Fluttershy is a bit... well, shy. At least what they display in the movie is way more than what their human counterparts do in the godawful slog known as Forgotten Friendship. Or any Equestria Girls product from Friendship Games onward.

This is perhaps the biggest issue with the movie as a whole; it feels like it was made for the fans and not a general audience. Diehard fans will know of the events from Sonic Rainboom, Magical Mystery Cure, and The Return of Harmony, but what about everybody else? Most likely they'll dismiss it as a girl's show without giving it a proper chance.

Honestly, I think it'd work a bit better if there was a five minute prologue at the start where Twilight narrates what had happened in the seven seasons. Sure, it would bog the film's pacing a bit, but at least you're giving those who aren't familiar with the show an idea as to how they got to this point so they might end up interested in seeing the first three seasons.

Anyway, after Twilight's disappointment, the rest of the Mane Six brighten her spirits with a song; it's pretty decent, but not what I'd call one of the most memorable of the entire show. That said, it does show how everypony is getting ready for the Festival, and we have a great foray of characters who turn up like Big Macintosh, Moon Dancer, Starlight Glimmer, Cheese Sandwich, DJ P0N-3, etc. And before anyone questions why the likes of Ember and Thorax aren't there, keep in mind, again, that this was produced long before season six and whilst it was airing. Most likely they had other things to worry about.

And no, I'm not that bothered about Discord not being involved in the story. Most likely it'd end very quickly, and let's consider that John de Lancie is a busy guy. Besides, he's in the end credits, so it's not like Discord wasn't featured in some capacity.

Enter Tempest Shadow
Songbird Serenade shows up just after a giant cake lands on Twilight. And... if I'm honest, she's pretty much my least favorite of the characters introduced in the film. I don't necessarily hate her - she's no Juniper Montage - but Songbird Serenade, as a character, is pretty flat. She's all style and no substance, and I genuinely believe she was featured so Sia could have a song for the film (I'll get to that later). She does not appear to be bothered about little things like buttercream is splattered onto her, and... that's it. She's a character that just exists. It's especially disappointing when you consider that most other guest stars of the show have some backstory and character to them; Songbird has neither.

Suddenly, some dark clouds begin to loom over Canterlot, and a giant airship lands. Out comes Sonic the Hedgehog's overweight cousin, Grubber, who introduces us (and the ponies) to the Storm King's lieutenant Tempest Shadow; she's a unicorn whose horn is broken. (Hey! No laughing there!) That's a really dramatic moment there, especially for a kid's movie. You don't know what's going to happen, and you get the idea that Tempest Shadow is bad news to everypony.

It's shown more so when she demands the four Princesss surrender, and when they refuse, an army of Storm Creatures attack Canterlot, and Celestia, Luna and Cadance get petrified. And can I just say how sweet that is that Celestia tells Luna to seek help from the Queen of...? We'll come to that later, but it's nice to see that Celestia trusts her younger sister, especially if you consider the events of A Royal Problem. And before she gets petrified herself, Twilight escapes with Spike and the rest of the Mane Six but take a dive into a waterfall to their doom...

Tempest and The Storm King
...except that it isn't. Realizing they can't return to Canterlot, Twilight decides to head south to find what she thinks is the Queen of the Hippos. The others are scared at first, especially because they don't know what's beyond Equestria, but they choose to stick by their friend, no matter what. It's a bit of a breather scene, especially since they barely escaped with their lives, and it's also really heartwarming that they're willing to go with Twilight despite the dangers of what's beyond Equestria.

Back in Canterlot, the three Princesses have been taken to the throne room, and everypony else outside has been captured and put in chains. It's really sad to see them like this, especially as they were just about to prepare for their Festival, something which Tempest sees as a waste of time and magic.

She communicates to her boss, the Storm King, via potion spell, and we learn that she's working for him so he can restore her horn. Because Tempest has only captured three Princesses, the Storm King gives Tempest three days so he can prepare for his arrival. It's a tense moment there, but it's also very subtle as you don't know what the Storm King would do when he doesn't get his way. That being said, his actual arrival is... a bit anti-climactic, we'll come to that later.

I also like how the dynamic between Tempest and Grubber plays out in the film; although the latter's backstory is unknown, you get the feeling that she won't tolerate his crap when he thinks about food instead of taking over the world. The way she shocks him (and the spongecake he's holding but still eats anyway) is also quite funny to see.

I'm the Friend You Need
The Mane Six and Spike are now in the middle of the desert, with Pinkie on the verge of delirium. It's nothing we haven't seen in other films about getting lost, though it does serve to lead them the main characters to Klugetown.

Understandably, the look of Klugetown is creepy and dangerous, and it's also a good way to show kids that you should never approach anyone suspicious, something Twilight points out to Pinkie Pie.

They get noticed by an anthropomorphic cat by the name of Capper, who cons the creatures living in Klugetown by claiming they're infected with pastelus coloritis. He then offers to lead them to the Hippos, but Twilight is wary about trusting him.

Capper charms his new friends with an Aladdin-influenced song that he can help them through the city. It's brilliant, charismatic, and it shows off Taye Diggs' vocal performance really well, and I'd never even heard of the guy before! (Fun fact: He was in Hedwig and the Angry Inch along with Lena Hall, and married to Queen Elsa's voice actress for some time.) And as the song comes to a close, he sends a creature to tell someone named Verko to come here to settle his debt.

Escape from Klugetown
Tempest Shadow and Grubber show up in Klugetown to find Twilight and friends. Tempest is assumed to be an accomplice to Capper by a large fish creature, but she beats him down and asks for information. Once again, you can tell she's not a pony to be messed with.

Twilight and friends are at Capper's house. As thanks for earlier, Rarity fixes up Capper's coat, which has a lasting effect on him we'll come to in a bit. Twilight discovers that they need to find the Queen of the Hippogriffs - Celestia was unable to finish her sentence earlier.

And that's when Capper's initial intentions unravel to the Mane Six; he was going to sell them to Verko, a naked mole rat crime boss, to settle a debt! The ponies and Spike are angered by this, and Capper is horrified at what he'd just done. The problem here is that Verko and his relationship with Capper are never brought up again, almost as if it were an afterthought. I doubt it'll be an episode of the actual series, but you have to tie up all loose ends, something that Equestria Girls fails to notice these days.

By convenience, Tempest and Grubber turn up, and whilst Verko is distracted, Spike and the Mane Six make their escape to the docks and onto an airship. That scene is pretty over the top, but then again, this is My Little Pony; what else do we expect? It also shows more than ever how determined the Mane Six are to find help. The ship they land on is filled with... more on that later.

Time to Be Awesome
I really feel for Capper here; you can tell that he feels terrible for betraying the Mane Six by almost selling them for money, so he makes up for this by deliberately misguiding Tempest that they're headed to Black Skull Island instead. With a name like that, I don't think I'd want to go there! Or Klugetown, for that matter, which, again, is never mentioned after this, making the scenes there feel kinda pointless... except Capper would've come from nowhere.

It turns out that the Mane Six are stuck on an airship run by anthropomorphic parrots, led by Captain Celaeno. On first glance, she looks quite intimidating, but we learn that she and her crew used to be sky pirates before being taken over by the Storm King, becoming delivery parrots. It's also not personal, but they don't want to help the Mane Six unless they suffer the Storm King's wrath.

This causes Rainbow Dash to encourage them to go against the Storm King's orders through song - and another great one at that! - which they do... pretty easily. But then, it must've been the final straw in getting them to rebel, and you get the impression that they've been doing this for years, against their will. Oh, and that crazy parrot with the lazy eye - who lets a guy like that on board a ship?! (That's not criticism; that's actually quite funny.)

Another Awesome Escape
To celebrate Celaeno and crew's return to glory, Rainbow Dash performs a Sonic Rainboom catching the attention of Tempest Shadow, glaring at Capper for deceiving her, and attacks Celaeno's ship. Twilight and friends hastily duck below deck, and you can see Twilight is not happy with Rainbow Dash for blowing their cover; it's also a great build up to Twilight's pot boiling over.

Thinking up a way to get out of this jam, Twilight brings together a crate, a Storm King flag, and a bit of rope to MacGyver a hot air balloon to fly to Mount Aris. It's a great way to show how you can improvise your way out of a bad situation, as well as a good showcase of Twilight's ingenuity, especially with using Spike as a blower.

Where's the Hippogriffs?
Back on Celaneo's airship, Grubber shows Tempest a map that the Mane Six left behind, and out of anger for betrayal, Tempest destroys the ship with Celaneo, her crew, and Capper on board. The way the scene ends implies that they've all been killed, but, as we'll see later, that's not the case. Still quite dramatic though, don't get me wrong.

Back to the Mane Six and Spike, and I can definitely understand how frustrating it was for poor Rarity to climb up the mountain. Only, in my case, I once had to travel to my local library after school whilst snow was blowing, and it left me physically drained for about three hours (true story!)

They finally make it to the Hippogriff Kingdom... except there's nopony there. Just as they feel the journey had been for absolutely nothing, they hear a voice coming from an underground pond and end up sucked down a whirlpool. Thankfully, they don't drown, so they're able to breathe with magic air bubbles, courtesy of...

One Small Thing
I'll say this right now; I have not loved a character this instantly since Quibble Pants in Stranger Than Fan Fiction. I'll talk more about her in the New Characters section, but Princess Skystar is adorable, through and through.

You also get what her relationship with her mother Queen Novo is like; Skystar has this habit of going against her mother's wishes, even if Novo wants to keep her people safe from the Storm King. We also learn why they're seaponies (by the way, good mythology gag about Generation 1) - they were transformed from Hippogriffs and hid Novo's pearl to protect it from the Storm King; how's he expected to get their magic if he can't last more than two minutes underwater?

I really felt sad for Skystar when the Mane Six and a pufferfish Spike couldn't stay; they have friends and family on the surface, and you also understand that Skystar wants a friend to play with. I just wanted to reach out and give the poor girl a hug!

Whilst Skystar mopes, Pinkie turns up to sing "One Small Thing" - a really cute, innocent song - offering to have fun before they leave, eventually resulting in even Novo to get swept up in the celebration as well! It looks like they're about to become allies...

...except Twilight suggested this as a distraction to steal the pearl. Novo is furious and banishes all seven to the surface. The whole scene is handled brilliantly with the right emotions. No complaints there.

Friendship Fallout
The rest of the Mane Six are angry at Twilight for attempted theft, but Twilight is angry at them for their methods not being good enough. This is perhaps the most contentious scene of the film, but let's take it apart, shall we?

Remember the confrontation scene in the first part of A Canterlot Wedding when Twilight's friends abandoned her? Twilight was suspicious about Cadance not acting like the Cadance she knew in her foalhood, but nopony really listened to her because they were more concerned with how the wedding would go. Yet many fans would rather believe that it was "mean-spirited and cruel towards Twilight" and take their anger out on many of its issues than actually analyze the situation!

From Twilight's view, her home has been under invasion and she was blinded by stress and trying to follow Celestia's orders, all whilst completely failing to notice her friends gaining allies as they head to Mount Aris; what didn't help her case was that she thought her friends weren't taking the mission seriously.

On top of that, making this scene even more dramatic is when Pinkie Pie, of all ponies, calls Twilight out for her stubbornness. This is quite possibly Pinkie's best moment as a character. We usually expect her to be a party-throwing goofball, not someone who calls you out for doing something incredibly stupid. That is when you know you've messed up big time.

And then comes the breaking point; Twilight says she'd be better off without them. Her friends leave her, making Twilight realized she spoke without thinking, and how much she screwed up. It's far more powerful than any scene in Legend of Everfree where Sci-Twi mopes. You don't care that Sci-Twi is suffering because it's practically shoved down your throat to the point you'd be forgiven for thinking it's her only character trait. Here, though, Twilight realizes where she went wrong and feels like she's failed altogether, and you relate to that.

Open Up Your Eyes
Suddenly, as if from nowhere, Twilight gets kidnapped by Tempest Shadow. It's there we learn Tempest's backstory; she lost part of her horn in an Ursa minor attack, which caused her magic to become unstable and dangerous, and her friends shunned her out of fear.

This is perhaps another contentious scene in the film, especially with my gripes over the "villain redemption" trope (which we'll get to later), and how overused it's become - Forgotten Friendship being the nadir of that cliche. Yet, for Tempest, her backstory... actually makes sense. An accident like that can be harmful to young children, both physically and emotionally. With Starlight's backstory (yes, I'm going there again), it feels weak that she'd just give up after one friend got a cutie mark. With Tempest's, I figure that if she tried making more friends, it wouldn't last long because of her disability. And it's a damn sight more believable than Wallflower Blush's backstory, which made the green-haired abomination look like a complete dumbass!

As for the song itself? I love it. It's probably the best bad guy song MLP has ever made. The flashback is also very effective, especially with the instrumental; they don't tell you what happened, and instead, they expect you to fill in the gaps. That was really great!

Return to Canterlot
Back with the rest of the Mane Six, they decide to speak with Twilight, but Spike tells them that Twilight has been captured. Just as all hope seems to be lost, Capper suddenly turns up alive and well, and even gives them an uplifting speech. I'm a bit disappointed he didn't apologize to them for almost selling them into slavery, but given what they had to focus on, I'm assuming he apologized off-screen.

And no, I didn't forget Calaneo and her crew; they too join the Mane Six to join the battle, but it's Princess Skystar who's the real highlight of the scene. She's willing to risk getting into trouble with her mother for sneaking off just to help her friends. Definitely not your average princess, is she?

Finally, we return to Canterlot, and you can see how much depression the Storm King has caused among the ponies; seriously, the poor Crusaders are stuck in a cage! If that doesn't show how heartless he is, then what does?

We finally see him in person at the throne room, and it's... pretty anti-climactic overall. Seriously, he turns up like seventy-three minutes into the film, and has about ten to fifteen minutes of screen time, tops. You'd expect he'd be a dangerous foe like Lord Tirek or King Sombra, right? Nope! Instead, the Storm King's pretty much a clown occasionally throwing a temper tantrum when things don't go his way. He feels like a complete joke of a villain; even Starlight Glimmer was a more threatening villain, and her backstory was badly handled.

The Siege to Canterlot Castle
Whilst the Storm King fools around with his newfound powers in his staff, Capper turns up carrying a big cake with the Mane Five pulling it (and with Spike as a candle). I dunno if the Storm Creatures are that easily fooled, and it feels a bit cliched itself, but it's still a fun little scene.

Speaking of which, things fall into predictable territory when the pirate crew and Skystar jump out of the Trojan cake, but again, it's still really fun to watch. And who would dare question Pinkie Pie using cupcakes as a weapon against a Storm Creature? Oh, and the bit where Fluttershy comforts a crying Storm Creature? Equally sweet and hilarious. But I don't think you can get cooler than Capper using Spike as a flamethrower.

Frustrated and sickened, the Storm King uses the staff to create a bigger storm over Canterlot, where Pinkie Pie has an idea of getting to the castle...

The Storm King's Last Stand
When Tempest reminds the Storm King of their deal, he refuses to fulfill his end of the bargain. He used her just for his own ends - ouch. And this is why Tempest Shadow is a far more effective antagonist than Wallflower; Tempest believed someone she shouldn't have trusted could restore her horn, but the Storm King was merely using her as a pawn to his plan, and so you feel more for her. Meanwhile, Wallflower erased awkward memories using the Memory Stone and blamed Sunset Shimmer for her own problems!

And even though Tempest caused her some grief in the last few days, I actually don't mind Twilight saving and forgiving Tempest this time, especially after the betrayal Tempest had been given from the Storm King. Just as he's about to finish them off, he's stopped by the rest of Twilight's friends with the party cannon from earlier. Her and Pinkie apologizing did feel a bit like it was glossed over, but then again, they nearly lost Twilight forever, so maybe that puts things into perspective for them.

That being said, it was probably the fifth time in the film alone that Twilight nearly got herself killed. We got the message by now; she's the main character and she can't be killed. Did that have to be shoved down our throats multiple times in the film? This is followed by Tempest sacrificing herself to save them and killing the Storm King by shattering to pieces! (Which, I should find, is pretty satisfying, especially with all the bad guy redemptions we've had as of late.) And of course, the Princesses (and Derpy) are de-petrified, the ponies freed, and Canterlot's restored to normal. All that in about a minute which feels a bit anti-climactic overall.

Rainbow/Off to See the World
Finally, the Friendship Festival begins. As Songbird Serenade sings "Rainbow", Twilight offers Tempest to live in Equestria, but she's still upset about her broken horn, but Twilight says it can still be useful, so Tempest makes some fireworks with her broken horn. And she reveals that her true name is Fizzlepop Berrytwist. Really? Who gives a (formerly) dangerous character a name like that? That being said, Pinkie's reaction to it is hilarious.

"Rainbow" is an absolutely beautiful song. I can't tell you how many times I've heard it; it gets better every time. "Off to See the World" can't exactly hold a candle to it, but since it's only heard in the end credits and soundtrack, it's not too bad.

Animation
Because My Little Pony: The Movie is a theatrical release, the Flash animation we've come to expect for the actual show wouldn't really do the film any justice at all. I think traditional animation is due for a comeback, given how many people are more drawn to flashy CGI films these days. Now, before anybody has a go at me for bashing CGI, keep in mind that without it, we wouldn't have Toy Story.

Overall, the presentation for My Little Pony is really good. I like the redesigns for Canterlot and its castle; they definitely feel bigger and more realistic, like you expect to see in a city. I wonder how that will translate onto Flash animation for season eight.

The character designs also feel more realistic as well, especially the movements. If you take a look at how they move their mouths, they feel much more fluid and natural, especially given that it's traditional animation. It's a shame it's all for the movie; I'd love to see how well it could work in the actual show.

New Characters
Songbird Serenade
I'm gonna be talking about how I see them from least favorite to most favorite. Not that Songbird Serenade is awful, but as I've mentioned before, she's got nothing going on. What if she were substituted for Rara (if Lena Hall wanted to return) or Sapphire Shores? Yes, her song is great (as is Sia's performance), but her lack of substance makes Songbird, as a character, weaker than a bad guy who barely grasps the bar of mediocrity.

The Storm King
Sure, he's got a few funny moments here and there, but the Storm King, as I've said, is a very anti-climactic bad guy. He kind of feels like Discord and Lord Tirek put together, only for a discount price. Maybe if he was given more screentime, I'd probably like the Storm King better. As his role stands, however, Liev Schreiber's performance is fairly serviceable.

Grubber
Whilst it's debatable as to how much of a point Grubber serves, he is at least a good foil for Tempest Shadow, especially if things get tense. Whether you laugh at his moments or find him annoying depends on who you ask, but you can tell Michael Pena had fun voicing him. Fun fact: He also voices Vincent Tong's character in The Lego Ninjago Movie.

Queen Novo
So now we're getting to the characters that, I feel, are done a fairer degree of justice. For the small amount screentime she gets, Uzo Aduba really brings out the sarcastic wit of Queen Novo. You can also tell that she is someone who do not want to steal from, unless you want to end up close to drowning. I'm hoping she and Skystar return for season eight (maybe with different voice actors), but it would be a shame if that wasn't the case.

Captain Celaeno
Zoe Salanda portrayed a pirate in The Curse of the Black Pearl, and now she plays a parrot pirate fourteen years later! You can understand why Celaeno's stuck in the position she's in, and it's very satisfying when she defies the Storm King. She also gets better when you realize how much she cares for her crew.

Tempest Shadow/Fizzlepop Berrytwist
If the Storm King wasn't announced as being the big bad, you'd be forgiven for thinking Tempest Shadow was the lead villain. Although her relationship with the Storm King is a bit vague, you do feel for her when she loses her ability to control magic. But despite this setback and not being able to get her horn restored, Tempest works around the problem by making a great fireworks display, which is perhaps one of the movie's most clever hidden messages.

Add that to Emily Blunt's performance, and you end up with one of the best MLP bad guys since Lord Tirek... but why isn't Tempest in the Top Two?

Capper
Tempest Shadow might have a more complex backstory, but Capper ranks slightly above her for one reason alone - charisma. In fact, he's probably the best male character in the series, as well as the most sympathetic. Many male characters we have these days are either poorly utilized by the writers (Flash Sentry), horribly unlikable stereotypes (Timber Spruce), or just plain forgettable (Sunburst). Thankfully, Capper doesn't fall into any of those traps. His character development really shines when he feels guilty for almost selling off Spike and the Mane Six to Verko, even though Capper (initially) had a reason for this. But happily, he makes up for it by deliberately misguiding Tempest and then joining in for the final battle. Taye Diggs may have voiced the best new character for the film if it wasn't for...

Princess Skystar
...this precious little cinnamon roll. Just... everything about Princess Skystar I love. From her cute, lovable personality, her sympathetic plight of feeling lonely, her friendship with Pinkie, all the way down to Kristen Chenoweth's performance. She's even fierce when she wants to be! I could go on for days, so to make it short, she's the third best character of the franchise behind Fluttershy and Sunset Shimmer.

Voice Acting and Music
I've already given my thoughts on the guest stars for the film; all of them are fantastic in their own way (even Sia, despite having little screentime), but you can't overlook the voices behind the show. Tara, Andrea, Ashleigh, Tabitha, and Cathy all do the job they've done for the past seven years, but for me, Andrea Libman as Pinkie Pie is the standout, especially in the scene where she confronts Twilight. I can imagine how everyone felt when recording that scene!

Oh, and can I just say that it's really heartwarming to have Nicole Oliver perform alongside her husband Mark? It'd be nice to see him voice someone in the show; maybe a love interest for Celestia (could be Good Sombra)?

Unlike in the show, Daniel Ingram actually uses a live orchestra to record the music, and my Celestia, is it great or what? Especially in the title sequence. I think the best moment was when I heard it for the first time, and it still gives me the chills to this day. Though, sadly, I don't think my headphones do the music any justice at all; it sounds way better listening to it in theaters.

And as mentioned earlier, the songs are all really good, and even the weakest of the bunch is better than most of season seven's offerings (barring the song from The Perfect Pear, the only good song of season seven). I haven't heard those exclusive to the soundtrack, so I can't comment on them.

Final Thoughts
I honestly don't get the hate the film gets. I know My Little Pony isn't for everyone, but maybe those who haven't seen the film yet should do some research on the show before declaring it one of the worst films of 2017 - there's no way it can be worse than The Emoji Movie, am I right?

For all the minor issues I have with the film, it's very solid as far as films based on TV shows go; one of the better ones for sure. Okay, so it uses a few cliches I don't like that much, a couple of characters are underutilized, and maybe a few scenes are not for all people, but I haven't much of a reason to hate it. The characters in general are all really good for the most part, the songs are fantastic, and the themes they depict are absolutely wonderful, the big one being that friends can be found in the most unlikely of places.

Overall, I can look past the issues and call it one of the best films of 2017.

Rating: 9 out of 10