Tag Archives: high fantasy

Review: Barbie Movies

Specifically, I am talking about what are referred to as Season 2 through 4 of Barbie movies on Wikipedia (I wasn’t born when Season 1 happened).

This may seem like something ridiculous for me to be watching as an adult, but believe it or not there are a lot of us who grew up with Barbie who enjoy watching the films if only to see what they’ve gone done did now. And to be honest, the evolution itself is pretty entertaining, and I like where it is going. For direct-to-home movies, the animation is never that bad for the time periods it is being produced in, and honestly I feel like while some of the story elements are goofy, the movies show how the brand is continuing to grow and try to not only appeal to girls, but help them find their voices and confidence.

The second “season” of films show their age the most–these films started coming out in 2001, when CGI animation was still figuring itself out. It did however set the tone as different from the prior two films by being in a different style. Most of these early movies, done from 2001-2009, were based either off of fairy tales or ballets, with a few originals thrown in that matched the theming of the mystical and fantasy elements. Even if the stories themselves are familiar, the writers didn’t approach them the same way and really worked to give the Barbie character agency rather than being the end goal like most fairy tale heroines are.

Examples include Rapunzel, where rather than always staying in the castle, she finds her way in and out of the tower on her own. One of the original stories, The Magic of Pegasus, has a princess go out to rescue her sister, herself, and other princesses. If anything the boy who comes along serves the role girls usually are relegated to–the practical one who only serves to help the hero. Even the rendition of The Three MusketeersĀ works hard to show that these girls can be feminine and powerful at the same time. (Okay, I am a sucker for war fans, what can I say?)

The third season (2010-2015) is where they started reaching out to modern stories as well, almost entirely original with some being in fairy tale settings but with modern elements. This is where they really had fun with what they could come up with. While some sort of irked me for being rather shallow, such as A Fairy Secret, I did like this idea of there being a greater world that they were playing with in some of the films and others I thought really played around with traditional roles and made them fresher. The Pearl Princess was amusing with the fact that the main character used her love of dress up to find a good job that would suit her, and the traditional dork character was a hero in his own right.

There was also more variation in Barbie’s personality depending on the movie. She had definitive flaws, skills, and overall wasn’t nearly as grating as normal. For example, Kristen fromĀ The Pink Shoes was a talented dancer…she just couldn’t stick to the choreography, a flightiness to her personality rather than there being something necessarily wrong with other people’s opinions. While the end result is Kristen still getting to be a star ballerina, it isn’t for a traditional role with traditional choreography she would have to learn, but rather an original production that she would have a voice in. Similarly, Alexa in The Secret Door is shy and lacks confidence in herself. The movie is about helping her find out that she can do what her duties require of her as a princess, without calling her wrong for feeling shy sometimes.

The new fourth season (2016-Present) hasn’t had much going on so far, but it’s showing that they are going even farther out of their comfort zone (to my approval) and into some elements that really need more girl representation. It’s a fact that when it comes to things like space adventures, spy thrillers, and even video games, that male characters are usually the hero, and the girls are either the goal or they are the damsel in distress still. Even Bond Girls aren’t considered as good at their job as the male leads. But the Barbie movies are taking what they did with season two and applying them to these genres. In particular, I loved Starlight Adventures for what it was–middle-aged power hungry man had to get smacked down by a young woman who had this thing called environmental conscientiousness and morals. One of the upcoming movies is also centered around video games, which I am all for.

If you think Barbie movies are for little girls only, you are sadly mistaken. They aren’t too bad to watch on a lark on your own, nothing worse than a Disney movie, except these have the emphasis on girl-power where it belongs. The animation is increasing in quality as they go, and the stories are amusing. Give them a shot before you completely write them off, since there are plenty to choose from.

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Review: Willow

…I wish I was reviewing something cool titled this. (I can think of a couple things that share this travesty’s title.) Instead, I have to delve into George Lucas’s insanity. Super. /sarcasm

Okay, so what exactly is this 80’s wonder movie about? A special baby is born, destined to bring about the end of a cruel queen’s reign. Obviously, the queen doesn’t want this to happen, so she sets out to kill the baby. A few shenanigans later, and she is put in the care of a humble farmer named Willow who has aspirations of being a great sorcerer…just struggles with the execution. He has to deal with a bumbling “great” swordsman, a warrior daughter of the queen, and a great sorceress who has been turned into an animal…which one tends to change throughout the film. They have to bring an end to this queen (despite it being the prophecy that the baby is supposed to do this), and… I don’t know. Live happily ever after?

Now, let’s get this out there. I have issues with George Lucas. I think he contradicts his own canon in everything he writes, which is one of my Cardinal Rules (Obey your own rules!), he tells stories about how things went in the story-planning process (or at least that’s the impression I’m under, I could be wrong), and he basically has no idea how to tell these great premises that he comes up with. And there is almost always a lot of potential in everything he touches. But then he just…throws it at us in this big blob and expects us to do half the work for him.

Where does that leave us for the plot of this movie? Well, in a quagmire from minute one and it just sort of gets worse from there. Seriously, it takes forever to find out who exactly Elora is, what impact she is supposed to have on this world, or even how we know that she’s the right baby just by looking at her. Characters go unnamed far too long so you’re left going, “That guy,” or “that girl,” rather than getting attached to them as characters. It takes most of the movie to get any proof that the evil queen is the one actually doing these horrid things, rather than just characters saying so (and seeing as they flip flop so much on what they are going to do, reasonable doubt can be given until that point). Most of the movie is Willow running around with the baby strapped to his chest or in his arms. And a young Van Kilmer running around in drag, half-naked, or in armor.

That helped make up for the rest. A wee bit.

Speaking of characters… Sigh. Not only were there severe portrayal issues that I’m not sure how to even describe without offending some ethnic or socio group. Not only could they not make up their darn mind what culture they were drawing from, either for armor or for culture. Not only did none of the characters show enough depth for me to really get attached. The one character who I almost started going, “Okay, I can work with this, there is potential here…” She was also his primary female protagonist. So she had to be involved in some romance. And since Lucas can’t write romance, he instead settles for ruining this strong, powerful character because she “falls in love” with Van Kilmer’s character and not only becomes an idiot, she becomes incompetent after a few lines of trite poetry. Just gag me. I like sap as much as the next person, if not actually more so, but it needs to make sense or at least have some build-up to it!

You may notice I’m not saying any of the character’s names. That’s because I have no idea how to spell them. I can guess. But this is what happens when you go with overly complicated fantasy names. People aren’t certain of the spellings, or in case of books, pronunciations.

The world was equally confusing. Again, no real cultural basis. Lucas did what Lucas always does and has to put “his” stamp on every single thing. So the humans aren’t humans, they are some clanky word. The magic chants are long, equally clanky, and even the characters couldn’t keep them straight. And while yes, I respect the facts of the technological limitations of the 80’s… The trolls were just sad. I got extremely grossed out by the way the magic transformations were done, since they were done just to be grotesquely as possible. I got frustrated with the swordsman juggling of his sword, trying to be fancy and show off that he was as great as he said. Every time he did it, I went, “Aaaand, you’re dead.” Weapon work as a whole though was far more realistic than usual, though some of the rest was comedic as all get out. There, there’s a minor pro to it.

So overall, I cringed and snorted my way through it. But Ginny has promised that the three books that follow the movie are love (okay, not the first one, but the other two!), so those are next on the list.