Is the tyre pressure getting too much for Pixar?
Written By: Nigel Asipa
For many folks, the Cars franchise remains Pixar’s most underwhelming in their roster. Emotionally speaking it doesn’t seem to resonate with Pixar’s standouts like The Incredibles, Finding Nemo and of course, Toy Story. I’d skipped Cars 2, not just because it’s universally recognised as Pixar’s worst effort to date but also I found Cars to be largely forgettable.
But director Brian Fee (who worked as a storyboard artist for the 2006’s Cars) and John Lasseter (who directed the first one and works as executive producer for this one) seem to feel that Lightening Mcqueen and his other anthropomorphic supporters have relevance and resonance with Pixar fans. Many are scratching their heads in fact as to why we are deserving of a third instalment and yet waiting on the sequel to The Incredibles, so I went in with some trepidation.
Walking out however I was reminded at what I love about Pixar, is that they have a responsibility at not only delivering dazzling visuals but also stories that have a great deal of compassion for their audience. They recognise the changes/milestones we go through in life and explores that concept in a manner in which all can relate to.
Cars 3 is a generational tale of Mcqueen coming to terms with emerging talent besting him in something that he’s all about, racing. These new guys are more aerodynamic, more downforce, better tyre pressure and faster. Armie Hammer’s Jackson Storm (which sounds like the cheesiest name for an 80’s action hero) is the upcomer who slams the proverbial door on Mcqueen and stealing his thunder in the process. He’s a younger Mcqueen, he’s brash, cool and cocky to a point where he ought to be perceived as the main antagonist, when actually the antagonist is Mcqueen’s fear of being left behind and forgotten by his fans and the racing community. He cares about his legacy, he feels the need to adapt to this new generation who have the technology but lack the experience.
These new guys are more aerodynamic, more downforce, better tyre pressure and faster. A little neglect on Mcqueen’s part almost ruins his career and so is a journey where he needs to go back to basics, flex muscles he never knew he had. He recalls what Doc Hudson taught him that made him the great racer he is today. The late great Paul Newman voices Doc from leftover recordings from conversations he had with John Lasseter, so it was a little eerie hearing him as he died back in 2008. The relationship Mcqueen and Doc shared was quite touching, we also realise a few more things about Doc as to what made him a great racer.
The movie itself has flair, similar to that of the new racers and the animation is as gorgeous as ever. The set pieces like one on a destruction derby are quite lively. Many of the old characters are back like Mater the tow truck (who many believed was a large reason Cars 2 fell flat because of the amount of screen time he was given), Luigi the slightly neurotic Fiat 500, his assistant Guido the forklift and Mcqueens ever trusting Superliner Mack.
We get new guys like Nathan Fillion’s Sterling (excellent voice work), a business car who has seemingly good intentions for Mcqueen, Kerry Washington’s statistics orientated Natalie Certain and the most complex character out of everyone, Cristela Alonzo’s Cruz Ramirez. She’s assigned as Mcqueen’s trainer who also happens to be a huge fan of his, she almost hit the racing track but was sidetracked by her confidence and lack of support from others because she simply doesn’t belong.
Cruz is the most accomplished out of everyone as she exemplifies that we’re not defined by our skills, but our integrity. A lesson Mcqueen soon learns that enables him to discover that he learns more from losing than winning, and losing is what he fears most.
Critic Mark Kermode describes Cars 3 as having a ‘narratively familiar path’, and indeed it does. Pixar are great at making familiar characters, the ‘Cars’ franchise doesn’t really. The messages it inspires are certainly to be admired but it’ll probably succeed more in its merchandising. Some of the flashbacks are a little heavy handed and the humour for much of the time falls flat.
I’d say all in all that it ought to be left as a trilogy, anymore after this and Pixar have really stretched the relevance of Mcqueen way too thin. It was a surprise in the end though, better than I would have hoped for anyway. I fear for Toy Story 4 however, Pixar are pushing their luck I think.