Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Minimum Underdrive

The second trailer for "Cars 2"... looks like sub-Dreamworks pablum. As that also handily sums up the first one, I'm not sure why the fact that it's so crummy-looking is being treated as a news-item everywhere else in the blogosphere...



I mean, didn't we all kind of "accept and deal" with this already? "Cars" is the very bottom of the Pixar barrel artistically, but as a merchandising-franchise it's their biggest cash-cow. I could be wrong, but wasn't it a "big deal" awhile back that the Cars-brand had displaced Hotwheels as "the" toy-car line? So... "everything else" is the 'real' Pixar stuff, and "Cars" is the crap they have to make to PAY for the 'real' stuff. I thought we'd been through this already...

Thing is, I kinda feel like there's TWO angles at play here, but only one of them is "open" about itself. On the one hand, dedicated film-geek Pixar afficionados tend to dislike "Cars" because it's such a step down from the rest of the lineup - that's the "open" one.

On the other hand... "Cars" is ALSO the most "different" Pixar movie in terms of it's vibe and frame of reference: The other movies are about monsters, action-figures, superheroes, lost-worlds, robots... stuff film-geeks (generally) love. "Cars," on the other hand, is "about" rural small-town values, Middle-American normalcy and NASCAR culture; all things that "geek culture" to a large-degree actively abhors. Other Pixar movies drop references to Harryhausen and Kurosawa, "Cars" has Larry the Cable Guy as it's co-lead. We (geeks) tend to see Pixar as an "US" outfit, but "Cars" is a "THEM" movie - and that kinda pisses us off, right?

Am I nuts, or is that just a teensy bit of the story here? Not so much, "this is why people think 'Cars' sucked - because it DOES suck - but maybe "this is why people CARE that "Cars" sucks."

30 comments:

Mr.G said...

Possibly. I know that Lasseter in particular loves the Cars films, (they were his pet project after all) so if it makes anyone feel any better, they were created with SOME kind of labor of love and not entirely a marketing department's wet dream. That being said, considering that the story of this film will center around "International Cars of Mystery" in a globe trotting action packed adventure, it would seem that even Pixar themselves are aware of this perception and are making some small steps to bridge the gap as it were ....

Reverend Allan Ironside said...

I found the first Cars to be somewhat dependable and quite an enjoyable movie...but not enough to justify a sequel. CERTAINLY not enough to justify THIS sequel right here. For the first time in my life, I believe I will pass on seeing a Pixar movie

Caspian said...

Honestly? I've absolutely never, ever understood the hate behind Cars. I love the movie, just as I love every other Pixar movie. Just because it's about cars doesn't mean I instantly have to hate it. Sure, it probably helps when I'm interested in the subject matter of the movie, though if a movie is able to both garner my interest and be good when I could care less about what it actually revolves around... Well, then it's good. In my book, anyway.

Would anybody like to tell me what exactly is so bad about Cars? I'm actually very interested in finding out why people seem to dislike it so much.

Also; -WHY- is everyone jumping on the sequel? Am I the only one that seems to think Pixar's making this sequel BECAUSE the original is considered their worst movie and thus they wish to IMPROVE upon it?

Chris Cesarano said...

Cars is always "the forgotten movie" by Pixar. It's not bad, but...eh. It exists, and when my niece wants to watch it I put it on.

I haven't watched the trailer yet (at work), but...

That being said, considering that the story of this film will center around "International Cars of Mystery" in a globe trotting action packed adventure...

My first thought on seeing the poster for Cars 2 was "why? What's the point? What didn't they do in the first movie?"

My thought now is "Why? What's the point? What does this have to do with the ideas and messages in the first film?"

I can't imagine anyone genuinely pitching a Cars sequel as this WITHOUT marketing being involved. Now, I'm not gonna bitch and complain since I'm not going to see it, but it's still depressing to know it exists.

Kung Fu Panda was also a great movie that doesn't need a sequel, but they're giving it one anyway. I guess Hollywood figures if it works for games, then it works for movies.

Damned sequelitis.

Matthew said...

Personally, Cars is my favourite Pixar movie. Yes, I know, I'm crazy. I don't know, there's just something about it. It's so laid back and relaxed, appreciate what you've got and just have fun. Annnnd the sequel looks to be throwing all that out the window, Fun! Oh well, my 3 yr old nephew is going to love it.

Curtis said...

Cars gets a pass from me because it triggers my nostalgia for the old Tex Avery short "One Cab's Family"

Honestly the sequel could be worse

john said...

For me, at least, it's not "us vs. them" so much as it's "oh God, now the fucking redneck sanctimony has invaded Pixar!?" Small-town Americana I'm down with; pandering to the pompous yokel demographic, not so much.

Blue Highwind said...

Having Larry the Cable Guy in your movie usually is a clue as to why smart people don't like it.

And yes, I am saying you have to be stupid to like Larry the Cable Guy. I stand by it.

79520b74-4a6a-11e0-8d14-000bcdca4d7a said...

Personally, I think it is a bit silly that so many people dislike Cars. It is a great Pixar movie through and through. And I mean great. It has all the characteristics Pixar movies have. Great detail in everything, story, animation, sets/background, characters, ect.

Granted, I also put Cars on the lowest rung of Pixar movies, but not because it was somehow a bad movie or a Pixar failure. I just think that the emotions and themes in Cars are not as great as the ones in the other Pixar movies. Cars is a happy movie. Not fun, but happy. And it is good to have happy movies. Not all of Pixar's stuff can be like the last two with their themes of death and ending (Up and Toy Story 3). Pixar ranges all themes and emotions and that is one of the many reasons Pixar is so great.

I really think so many people dislike this movie is because of what Bob was saying. I think it is a lot more than just a "teensy" bit. I have friends that dislike the movie and a lot of their reasons involve Pixar not putting as much detail and thought into Cars. They veiw it as a rushed through movie that Pixar only made to sell toy cars. I would have to disagree because there is so much in Cars, but most of it I would not get on my own simply because they are all car imagery. When I watched Cars with my dad, he pointed all sorts of stuff like, "That’s the old logo of...(some car company) and those mountains are the backs of...(dates and words that identify a car I don't know)!"

I am aware that people have different tastes and backgrounds of knowledge, but I think that people should not bash something just because it is different from what they like.

Jwillx70 said...

I agree with Mr. G. The fact that this movie looks like its shaping up to be a James Bond/Super Spy riff with elements of Knight Rider thrown in makes me think it will be more of an US (geek) movie.

I just hope they give K.I.T. a cameo.

Landstander said...

Bob: You named your own prejudice.
I'm a big Pixar fan and think Cars was top shelf. (Whereas I think 'Up' was overpraised.) I do not like Nascar, and I don't live in middle America. You should try opening up to it.

Btw, I've always thought all Dreamworks CG films were sub-Pixar pablum.

Landstander said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Smashmatt202 said...

I find it ironic that John Lassenter, one of the co-founders of Pixar, lead man creatively behind both Pixar AND Disney, and pretty much the modern day Walt Disney, is responsible for both these movies. It's like he dropped from grace, almost...

When I first saw Cars, I didn't mind it, and I actually kind of liked it, but it passed quickly, and I did NOT care for the spin-offs that followed it, especially since they focused a lot on Mater.

counterpoint said...

with all the talent and good ideas at pixar.... why make a sequel to a mediocre movie?

Chris Evans said...

Welcome to Disney! I was wondering when they'd get around to making crappy sequels. Here comes the Mulan 2-ing of every pixar movie.

Samuel James Newsome said...

Please tell me the title of this blog post was a power rangers reference :D

James said...

I didn't care for Cars, and would agree that it lies at the bottom of the barrel of Pixar (arguably America's finest studio currently producing motion pictures). I wouldn't necessarily say it's the forgotten Pixar film, that belongs to A Bug's Life, I feel. That said, I don't have a driver's licence, so perhaps I am biased?

Anyway, I think that we should all take Cars 2 release as a good thing. It'll be solid stuff, presumably. And surely, something else will win at the Oscars in 2012 for Best Animated Feature?

balanevskiy said...

I dunno why people really get all worked up about cars, i actually liked the movie personally. of course it may be my pixar fanboyism talking here, i think i'll still see the movie, it could be much worse i think. although yes i'm probably more excited about monsters inc 2 next year :P
Also, with what you said about pixar being made up of geek culture, didn't you yourself in your up review say that pixar is made up of "boy stuff"? And a lot of the pixar creators say basically the same thing, yes cars is one of the weakest of the pixar movies, but i still enjoyed the first one and i just might give cars 2 a shot. ;)

Christian said...

Here's my take on the Cars issue and why so many people don't like it:

First of all, it came out after The Incredibles which, let's be honest, is a really tough act to follow. Anything that has to match a movie like that is going to pale in comparison, so a light concept like Cars was doomed from the start.

Second (and I know this has been mentioned many times before, but it bears repeating), it's one of the only Pixar movies that can actually be called "just for kids".
Yes, I agree whole-heartedly that Pixar works on multiple levels. But I've spent seven summers working as a camp counselor for little kids. This included the summers that Ratatouille and Wall-E came out. You know what the kids remembered most from those movies? Not Ratatouille's father-son reconciliation, notions of going beyond what you were "meant" to be, admonition of critics, and they didn't talk endlessly about how Wall-E provided commentary on modern social life or how the first half recalled the era of silent films. The kids remembered the slapstick and cute character designs. That's all they would talk about and quote with each other.

And really, is that so bad? Should we really expect every film to challenge our intellect? No, because there are times when we need a break from the thinking and just have to relax. Cars provides that kind of relaxation that's needed to balance out the cerebral.

I'll end this tirade with an analogy to another medium. We all can agree that Bioshock and Portal do wonders for furthering the notion that video games can make us think due to excellent writing and subject matter. But at the same time, we all embrace the fun, relaxing, storyless Super Mario Galaxy.

Adam said...

I enjoy Pixar movies but I haven't seen all of them yet including films like Wal-ee and Toy Story 3 (I know; I'm just always behind the curve on these things). Cars I saw as a holiday rental. It struck me as typical Disney fare. Nothing bad but nothing particularly notable. I'd say it's a well done movie (as was mentioned all the old car references that are probably there to throw the parents a bone as they sit through it), just not ambitious which people seem to expect Pixar to be.

So yeah this one isn't on my radar, but the guy's need to pay the bills and they could do a whole lot worse then that to make money (although I was rather surprised to learn that Cars makes more money in merchandise then Toy Story does).

BJames said...

never cared to watch cars,
but why is this even coming out. Bring out an Incredibles sequel, or a new original film.

O.T said...

I like your summation there Bob. Another instance of those "geek fits" that no one wants to bring up at large. Of course it still doesn't excuse the quality of the first movie.

Cars was so annoyingly shallow. Its not some unholy turd though, just infuriatingly mediocre. It doesnt quite hit you at the first viewing, but it really comes to the front after you think about it (particulary if there was a Pixar marathon on the weekend). The characters are 1-note, predictable archtypes, the supporting cast a collection of played out personalities(The van acts like a stoned hippie LOL, the euorpean car is infemminite ROFL, the low-rider is really mexican LMAO), and a central theme more worn out than route 66.

Its not that Pixar made something less than great, Its that such an accomplished studio could make something so agravatingly sub-par.

And now theres a sequel to it. Wheee...

The Partisan said...

I don't hate CARS.

I hate pointless sequels.

Chris Cesarano said...

Just watched the trailer, and yeah, it feels like it completely ruins the original tone felt in the first film. At the same time, it feels like they're going completely Jack Sparrow with Larry the Cable Guy here, making him a much more major character than he originally was.

But it does have Michael Caine.

I just can't get myself THAT worked up over it existing. Yeah, it's an unnecessary film and it looks to do nothing to add to the original, but meh. It's better than yet another Saw film.

Joe said...

I've never seen Cars, but my understanding was that although it's generally considered one of Pixar's weakest offerings film-wise, it was one of the most successful in terms of merchandising--especially to young boys. Disney's really trying to bring in that demographic (a big part of the rationale behind the Marvel purchase), and if there's one thing Disney reigns supreme at, it's merchandising.

I mean, I love Up, but slapping pictures of Fredricksen and Muntz on lunchboxes probably doesn't help sales that much.

Tim said...

While I agree Cars brings up the tail end of the Pixar output, that's hardly a bad thing. It's the pretty good in a series of fantastics.

There's a lot of positives in it that get glossed over. It is a warm film, has a great voice cast and most of all has a nice, charming nostalgia with its old Route 66 environment, and hell, isn't nostalgia a key quality of geekdom?

When it came out, I remember discussion that one of the reasons it seemed subpar was the strange questions the premise brought up, such as where the humans were during all this.

For myself, I think the big problem as compared to the other Pixar films was simply that the emotional stakes aren't high enough. Face it, most of the Pixar films are adventures where life and limb is on the line, whether it's facing destruction at the hands of a sociopathic child, elimination by a demented supervillain or the kidnapping of an innocent child.

Cars mostly focuses on one vain and shallow protagonists redemption and the revitalization of a community, neither of which are quite as exciting, especially since in the end, Lightning McQueen could just walk away from the big race if he wanted to.

This sequel on the other hand implies that with espionage (and missiles flying), there are greater stakes, which I think may make the film more involving than the first.

And frankly, if you don't like the film because of some "Us" vs. "Them" mentality... grow up. The entitlement thing is wearying.

a.k.a.A.M.V.P said...

Quick Pixar related digression: I was shocked to learn today that one of my good friends holds a passionate disliking of Ratatouille, my pick for Pixar's all-time best and one of my personal favorite films in general. I have to remember, however, that I was rather underwhelmed with it the first time I saw it in theaters and only came to like it a year later when I picked it up on DVD. Also, my friend didn't really begrudge the film so much as the fact that it cost Persepolis what she felt to be a deserved win.

But now the topic at hand: I actually enjoyed the trailer M.B. posted. I saw it a while back and it actually made me want to see the film, what with the James Bond potential and the mind-blowing implication that cars would use guns. And like many people who have posted here, I too had no problem with the first Cars. Sure, it wasn't Pixar's best, but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. It was a pure, fun little film and I was better off for having seen it (its tone also meshed with the Holiday atmosphere at the time).

That being said, If M.B. wanted to drive home some negative assumption over this movies eventual quality, he really should have gone with the recent 2 Minute trailer (the third one overall according to Youtube). What starts out as a promising spin on the spy thriller quickly devolves into one of the clumsily constructed and off-putting trailers I've ever seen. *Trailer Spoiler Warning, I guess* The former intrigue of car-guns was overshadowed by my violent confusion over the existence of Catholicism in this universe (such a huge plot hole for the sake of such a benign joke). But that isn't nearly as bad as the horrifyingly nightmarish bathroom scene that caps the trailer off. If they'd stuck with the previous trailer's sign confusion gag (a fairly old hat gimmick, admittedly), I would have let it slide. But this film will apparently included *shudder* a car bidet. A Japanese car bidet, complete with annoying/creepy cartoon avatar. Used by the Larry t.C.G. truck, no less (I know his name's Mater). This two minute atrocity has squandered nearly all the good will that my surprised enjoyment of the first film built up.

The only hope for this film, as far as I can see, lies in what we aren't seeing. Maybe if some of these scenes don't make it into the final cut; maybe if Mater's role isn't so dominant (while somewhat bland, Owen Wilson's Lightning was a decent protagonist and really deserves a bigger part here, one that the trailer may be downplaying in exchange for Mater / Larry's broader appeal); and maybe if at least half of the tortured dialogue was just ADR'd in for the sake of the trailer ("We're here. Right where you paid me to bring you. Question is: ...Why?" Gag-a-maggot, couldn't they at least have hired a voice actor capable of sounding a little more ominous?); if all of these things prove true, then maybe this film won't be a lost cause. And even if it is, at least we get a pretty promising Toy Story short with the deal. Kind of like a last request prior a veritable death sentence.

CraftyAndy said...

I always considered cars the weakest of pixars movies. It was still good however, talking animals great, talking robots fine, talking cars, appliances, or clothes hell no keep it away it just seems like the result of limiting imagination. considering how much toy companies made on cars 1 This looks like a cash in. Fuck you corporate enterprise give us Incredibles 2.

Smashmatt202 said...

Not before a Monsters Inc. 2, and there's even a rumor floating around about a bug's life 2!

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