Cars, In Many Guises

Jun 16 2006

I’m preparing a rather massive post to explain the server outages of the past few months. I want to explain exactly the sort of treatment we were getting and the experience we had with iPower. It was…shocking, to be honest.

But enough about that until I can assemble my thoughts into a coherent explanation. I’ve been on vacation for the past couple of days, and yesterday I took advantage of this to go see the new Pixar movie Cars.

If I hadn’t started Otherspace lo these two years ago, I’m sure I’d have approached this movie with a completely different mindset. And if I hadn’t read universally mediocre reviews of the film, ditto.

I expected a nicely-animated but drab movie. I got a beautifully constructed little flick.

Okay, I will agree with most reviewers that the story is straightforward. But so what? Must every story be original or challenging or complex? And I prefer my stories to be thought-provoking, but when they’re not…well, you have to look at the rest of the film.

And the rest of the film is a beautiful testament to the automobile, particularly the American car, and everything it means, from supercharged racing to truck stops in the Midwest.

This is a movie about cars. Much of the film is spent in a little town on Route 66, now abandoned thanks to a massive interstate that cuts through the scenery instead of winding through it. What starts as a movie about an arrogant racing car stuck in a rural outpost becomes a film about beauty passed by for convenience.

And what beauty it is. The scenery is flat-out gorgeous. In fact, I wonder if this is Pixar attempting to address a problem they’ve had: the obsolescence of 3D films. 3D animated films look out-of-date much faster than 2D animated films. Look at Toy Story and Toy Story 2, which look quite stiff and bland by modern standards (and compare them with Pocahontas and Tarzan, the 2D films Disney released in the same years; they both look good today). But the visuals in Cars are classically beautiful; these sweeping vistas of the American Midwest that not only took my breath away, but I wanted to hang on my bedroom wall. You know 3D is good when a still frame is worth, um, framing.

And the way they animated the cars was interesting, too. Really the only “cartoony” bits were the windshield eyes and the bumper mouths. When we’re looking at the rear of the Porsche as it cruises down the highway, it looks like a regular car on the road, and it looks fantastic. It feels like a good car commercial.

The characters? Fine. No complaints. I loved the inclusion of the Click & Clack, as well as the ubiquitous John Ratzenberger (who, I’m sorry, will always sound like Cliff to me). The rest of the characters are simple, and again, that’s okay. I was enjoying the underlying messages of the film rather than studying the subtle nuances of the characters.

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