Zootopia: a Film for Animation Fans of All Ages

by Chad Osborne

movie_poster_zootopia_866a1bf2Like many animated films, we get a childlike adventure seeing several different characters come to life in the unusual world of Zootopia.  This world, however, is not very different from ours, except for the fact it’s filled with animals.  Zootopia is a story about a small rabbit trying to keep up with the larger animals around her (I challenge anyone not to see this as a metaphor for the Western World’s way of life).  In this case an eager young Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), struggles to pursue her dream of becoming the first “rabbit” cop in the great city of Zootopia. Along the way she soon finds out that the job is more challenging than it seems, and in more ways than she cold ever have imagined.

images-3Visually, this film pleases the eye with the impressive art design, especially in the depiction of the variety of biodiversity settings, each relative to the many species of animals that live in the city of Zootopia.  Although the narrative does follow the style of “the hero’s journey”, it does not portray a story that seems in any way generic.  Not at all.  Quite the contrary, the plot adds several twists, keeping you involved every step of the way as Judy learns one lessons after another about the realities of the world in which she lives.

imagesAs the pursuit progresses across the city’s many districts the changing biodiversity challenges each character to adapt (or not) to the worlds of Zootopia.  It is literally a survival of the fittest as the mysteries continue to pile up for Judy and her sidekick Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), a sly fox whose street-wise personality contrasts perfectly with Judy’s fresh optimism.  The film virtually jumps off the screen with exploding movements and quick action that pulls you through the streets of the city, taking you to the next level of crime solving mystery as the two unlikely companions try to unravel the case.

zootopia3Beyond its visual appeal, the film does a very good job getting the audience to relate to the adorable animated characters through the everyday life situations they undertake.  The lead character undergoes several stages of struggle, which shows her growing process as to how she finds out who she really is.  It leaves us with the lesson – it does not matter how small you are, you still can do great things.  This is definitely a film that does not leave you thinking of it as a child’s movie, but rather I feel as though all ages will relate to it.

images-1While all the elements of this film meet their goals, the one particular element that really stands out is sound.  Although this is true about most animated features, Zootopia really out does the minimum requirement by adding extra effects when needed.  After all, Judy is a speedy rabbit, full of ambition and courage, creating a lot of movement with every action.  As Judy Hopps struggles to complete her training she is surrounded by larger animals who gather in a pack, stomping loudly around her.  But this does not stop her from zipping around them or through the streets of Zootopia, past loud cars and through the commotion of people.  The audible bustling of the city life of Zootopia brings a plethora of different sounds that enhance the excitement of the story.  This adds to the greatness that Zootopia has to offer audiences.  It’s not just another “kid film” with a simple story.  I encourage you to take the time to watch a corny rabbit, a sly fox and some hysterical slow-moving sloths all in a large world of an animal running society and you will see what I am talking about and become a fan of yet another Disney family blockbuster.

Captain America: Civil War

by Justin Guiao

Captain America: Civil War by the Russo brothers is the 13th film in Disney’s Marvel’s new cinematic universe.  It’s strange to think that Marvel has been able to put out so many frankly similar films at extremely high budgets in this relatively short amount of time since the first Iron Man hit theaters.  They continue to make money however, meaning many more of them are to come.

Captain-America-Civil-War

I had fairly high expectations for Civil War.  I saw Fox’s Deadpool in theaters a month or two before which was my first visit to a theater in over two years.  I was thoroughly impressed with Deadpool, and the raving critical reviews of the Civil War screeners led me to go to the theater once again.  However, these heightened expectations may have damped my enjoyment somewhat.  Even though I did enjoy it, I am probably going to continue holding out on going to the theater for any more blockbusters for a while and will just start waiting for Blu-rays.  Regardless of all this, I did think Civil War was a good film, and I probably will see it again after it comes out on disk.  It features a few firsts for a Marvel franchise 13 movies into its story, with Downey as Tony Stark showing up in a non-Iron Man or Avengers film for the first time, as well as the introduction of new characters to the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe), Black Panther and Spiderman, both of which are unsurprisingly up for solo movies in the near future.  It also features a large battle between many of the heroes, as well as some notable smaller bouts, in contrast to previous MCU team-up films where the heroes fight off endless hordes of weaker minions.

captain-america-civil-war-image-46-1200x499Unfortunately, I think Marvel is coming up to a point where they have too many heroes in their MCU.  It has gotten to the point where there are so many that it seems silly to have a big crisis that only one hero deals with when we are aware that many other exist and operate relatively nearby.  On the other hand, the big team up film that is Civil War almost feels like a bunch of promotional material for movies about the new heroes, as even after everything that happens in the film, at the end there are not any sizable rifts created between the heroes and everyone starts carrying on as normal, resulting in that feeling that little or no progress was made.  Also, Marvel has been adherent to the thought of letting any of their heroes die.  The fact that the audience knows this by now takes some of the intrigue and tension out of the film. We know how it’s going to end, just not how it’s going to get there.  In spite of this, the Russo Brothers were able to create a film that stands out among the seemingly exponentially increasing amount of Marvel superhero films that have been coming out.  While it doesn’t have the strongest plot that would make it stand out as a classic in the future, it does fulfill its purpose as an action blockbuster well.  The special effects were top notch as always through these films along with excellent fight choreography (although Captain America definitely killed a majority of the people he fought.  There is no way that would just knock them unconscious like the film made it seem, they’re dead).

screen-shot-2016-03-10-at-12-12-20-pm-173561I can’t say much for the sound of the film.  This may be because I have been spoiled by Marvel’s production quality in the last near-decade, but it was just really more of the same.  Loud explosions, extremely over exaggerated punches and hits, the same mechanical sounds from Iron Man, and fantasy-like mystical sounds from the Vision and the Scarlet Witch.  While the sound was definitely high quality, you could tell that actors were the real stars and sound was just there to make them look better.  The editing of the film was also impressive.  I can only imagine how many cuts and scenes were filmed individually in the film.  Even with such heavy amounts of CGI, there was plenty of practical effects used to make it seem more real, including most of the explosions.  While the big fights were all CGI, the editing on the scene where two super humans are running down Bucky on a motorcycle really makes it seem like they’re outrunning all of the cars.  The hand to hand combat, even between CGI’d head to toe Downey Jr. and Chris Evans, seemed fluid and believable.  I don’t know too much about video editing, but I could tell that the people who worked on this film took pride in it and managed to do an excellent job.

For how many people have played Spiderman recently, I really liked this iteration. They portrayed him closer to his comic roots, a teenager with a quick wit and a loud mouth. The incessant chatter from him during the big fight scenes really brought forth what I think the original writers intended for the character. I didn’t really know what to think of the casting choice for Black Panther and really I still don’t, as I did not know much about the character.

2818A5BD00000578-3069258-image-a-2_1430857574138With all the strong acting and effects, I really feel that the overall plot is the weakest thing in the movie.  It seems like they were trying to cram too much into one movie, and the suspension of belief for the plot started to fade away in the process.  The civil war comic story was extremely popular and very receptive to a movie version, but perhaps it could have used two movies.  However, this didn’t matter too much during the film itself, as the actors, choreography, and special effects led the way once more for Marvel.  With Civil War, Marvel has created another enjoyable and action-packed blockbuster to whet the appetites of long time comic fans for the introduction of more characters into the MCU.

Wreck It Ralph is More Than Worthy of an Oscar Nom

by Kaitlin Palma

There was a time in all of our lives where games meant the world to us. Whether it was jumping rope, playing tag or, as Wreck It Ralph portrays, video games. Disney’s latest dive into the animation pool was released in the late fall of 2012 and is now currently under consideration for an Oscar as Best Animated Feature of the year. Although the film faces tough competition it is more than worthy of the nomination and in any other year would likely be a clear win for the trophy. Yes, a simple story about a villainous video game character wanting to turn a new leaf is that good.

Wreck It Ralph's Mixed CastFrom the moment Disney made its way into theaters with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937 (that’s more than 70 years ago!) the stories that have borne the studio’s moniker have warmed our hearts and allowed our imaginations to expand vastly. This film is no exception. Whether you are one for animation or not, Wreck It Ralph is more than just a bunch of colorful pictures and cute little catch phrases. To my delighted surprise this film had essentially everything it takes to be called a “good movie” regardless of mode or medium. More than just a kid’s pic, more than a family night flick, this film—action packed with racing candy cars and villainous famished cyber land insects—is the greatest adventure never taken. With an exciting twist of good versus evil and an unexpected hero and villain, Wreck It Ralph will make you laugh until you cry and keep you on the edge of your seat.

Ralph explores being a different character

As someone brought up in the digital age, I have to say that Wreck It Ralph was a real surprise treat. It’s very easy to watch animation and not appreciate the time and effort it takes to carefully create every detail required to tell a tale like this one. But the visual effects here really stand out, running the gamete of style and presentation in order to represent actual past video games as well as the ones created specifically for the movie. Amazingly enough the collaboration of disparate (game) realities seamlessly come together as a unified whole, thus placing the audience into a world they’ve known but have never explored.

Ralph tries to make friendsOf course all the artistry in the world doesn’t mean much to a film without a solid story as a foundation. And the story here is one that offers a lot of heart and a positive message without being sappy or preachy. One scene in particular is quite memorable. It’s when the main character, Ralph, expresses the need to be more in life than just one that wrecks things. So, he ventures out to discover how he can be the hero instead of the villain and begins an adventure that takes him through the many worlds of video gaming. Ralph discovers that what he needs to be a hero, or “good guy” is a medal. Believing this to be the key to achieving his goal, he sneaks into the game “Hero’s Duty” in which the players must fight to bring his/her team to the top of the light tower where the medal of a hero awaits.

Of course, Ralph’s world (his game) is very different in setting from “Hero’s Duty” which mimics the real world games of Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed. This is where the pacing of the film picks up speed to match the adrenaline filled universe of these alternate realities. Naturally, Ralph is confused and scared by his new surroundings. Then, BANG! A gun is fired, followed by a second, third and fourth. With every gunshot or screech of a dying “cybug”, Ralph’s face is shown in acute reaction with very quick and concise cuts. The audience not only sees, but also feels the strife and determination in Ralph’s eyes as the medal becomes the only thing that holds any meaning in his life. In the midst of the fight we are suddenly taken back to Ralph’s home game (where he exists as the antagonist). There the protagonist, Fix It Felix is seen genuinely concerned about Ralph’s disappearance. It is perhaps the first time in cinema where the “hero” sincerely misses his nemesis. This moment acutely demonstrates the necessity, even the dependency of opposites in any world, animated, fictionalized or otherwise and the natural need for balance.

A diverse group of genres

With a message like that it’s easy to see why the film is not only enjoyable for every member of the family but worthy of accolades and even awards. Whether you grew up on Atari, Sega or Xbox a good story is a good story, and makes you come back again and again to experience the pleasure of the adventure whether it’s on film or in a video game. Academy Award winner or not, that’s the real achievement when it comes to animated films – reaching as large an audience as possible. Wreck It Ralph has done that, and is bound to continue to do so for generations to come.