Welcome to the Pixar Rewind! Over the next couple weeks, we at Rotoscopers will analyze every Pixar film ever, and what makes each one so great. At the end of the series, and after the release of ‘Inside Out,’ we will have a fan vote to determine which film is the best of them all!
Pixar is kind of hit or miss with its sequels. The Toy Story franchise has certainly proved that Pixar is capable of creating fantastic sequels, while Cars has not.
Monsters University seems to rank somewhere in the middle of these two franchises in terms of quality. Not as perfect as Toy Story, not as, erm… Imperfect as Cars.
At least, that is what the general consensus seems to be.
Personally, I love Monsters University a lot. I was actually quite baffled at the lukewarm reaction it received when the film was initially released in 2013.
Admittedly, I don’t compare this film too much to Monsters, Inc.. For some strange reason, the two films seem very separate from one another, despite that the stories revolve around the same protagonists. Perhaps the two feel separate because Monsters University is told from Mike’s point of view rather than from Sulley’s (who tells the story of Monsters, Inc.). There are enough nods to the previous film, without making the storylines feel particularly entwined, and one can certainly see one of these movies without having to see the other (although it is more funny and most illuminating to watch both films together).
This movie may not have quite the same heart to it that the last Toy Story film had. Perhaps that is because Toy Story 3 showed just how sad it is to go away to college, while Monsters University shows just how much fun college can be (This may be why I enjoyed this film so much as well. As someone who graduated high school right when this movie came out, I wanted to be happy about going away to college and this film has a much rosier view on the experience than Toy Story 3 does.) This, however, does not detract from the overall quality of the film. Monsters University is simply a fun film to watch, from the animation to the music (I love me some drumlines) to the constantly hilarious antics of the characters.
The movie begins with a baby Mike Wazowski (who is so adorable, squee!). This is a nice throwback to the first movie, since we get to go back and see Monsters, Inc. again, and slowly eases us into known territory before we begin to further explore and see the developed monster world.
It was also interesting to see how the film didn’t have a villain. Sure, there are antagonists. Dean Hardscrabble may be considered the main antagonist, but nothing she does is inherently wrong or bad. Instead, this film focuses on discovering who you are. In many cases, we are our own worst enemy, and it can be very difficult to discover that who you are is very different than you want to be. For Mike, this comes in the form of him not being the best scarer. But Mike is smart and works so hard. He was a character that I could relate to a lot, too. While I’m sure we all know that one person who seems to get by on natural talent, Mike represents those that have to work harder than everyone else to get to where they want to go. This is a difficult path, but often a more fulfilling one. This is something that one sees, time and time again, throughout the film. Mike’s combined message of working hard, staying optimistic, and following your heart in spite of all odds is something that we can all learn from.
This film continues the legacy of Monsters, Inc. and shows Pixar’s ingenuity for the small and clever references. Even the architecture of the college is clever, such as the building that look like monsters.
Though perhaps the greatest achievement from this film comes from the humor. Every character is developed and strong, and each one funny in their own right. The best breakout character was Art, who is so hysterical, and is a rather impressive piece of animation in his own right. He basically looks like a Muppet.
This film is just genuinely fun to watch. The Scare Games are clever and were an extremely good story device used to drive the story forward without taking away from character development.
Of course, we get to see Mike and Sulley’s relationship grow. They most certainly do not begin on the right foot. (We feel bad for poor Mike when he is disturbed by the pig Sulley stole when all he wanted was to study. I can relate, Mike.) From there, though, they begin a grudging relationship based on the shared goal of wanting to be back in the Scarer program, which leads them to become genuine friends.
Perhaps the fun antics of this Pixar film don’t have quite the same level of sadness that its other movies have (see Up and Toy Story 3). The lessons learned and character growth are more subtle, but the heart of these matters are still extremely important. They are especially important if you are about to go away to college and have to face that frightening question of “Who am I really?”. This movie may be more fun and silly, but it is by no means a lesser Pixar film. It is simply a different one than we have seen before and is a predecessor that is worthy of its “sequel.”
What do you think of ‘Monster’s University’? Where does it rank among Pixar’s other films?
More from the Pixar Rewind:
We hope that you enjoy ‘Inside Out’ as much as these other Pixar films… ‘Inside Out’ is in theaters tomorrow!
Edited by: Hannah Wilkes