Equestria Rising: “Equestria Girls” review

It’s been hard to remain excited about My Little Pony.

Since the third season wrapped up, which was over six months ago by the way, I haven’t really had much enthusiasm about the franchise. That last season made me think of a dying whale, screaming out its final cries as it struggled to stay alive, while being sucked down into the whirlpool of irrelevance.

Not that I’m happy about it, far from it. Seeing my favourite show go down the drain does not give me pleasure, in any way. It makes me sad. It makes me depressed. It makes me cling to the pun-laden cringe-inducing SheZow; and the highly superior, but less exciting, Littlest Pet Shop.

I love the show, and I hate to see it fall apart. But this was bound to happen. Eventually, all programs, with the possible exception of Seinfeld, run out of ideas. The writing staff starts to come up dry, and have to resort to reading off the list of ideas they previously thought were too shit to bother writing.

And that’s exactly how season three felt, even though it was only thirteen episodes long. It actually felt more like they were taking cues from fan fiction. Even the final episode felt like a shitty fan story, rather than a well-thought-out, professionally made script.

It’s the same complaint I levelled at one of the final Animorphs books, back in the day. I was a huge fan of that series, but the way they saved Marco’s mother felt so contrived, and so forced, it actually made me sick. I don’t know what else to say about it. And don’t get me started on the actual ending.

But I digress. Now thankfully, during season three, there were a few episodes I liked. Wonderbolts Academy was pretty good, despite Spitfire’s apparent recharacterization. And Magic Duel, and Just for Sidekicks rank among my favourite episodes of all time, even if Peewee went walkabout.

But sadly, I found the rest of the season to be lacking, and Magical Mystery Cure was the first episode that I actually hated. Which is a tall order, you have to admit.

So it should come as no surprise to anyone that, when I first heard of Equestria Girls, I was a bit skeptical. I didn’t want to be. I wanted to be ready to jump in with both feet, excited for the latest release; their theatrical debut. But I wasn’t. Instead, I was scared. I was afraid it would be exactly as terrible as I expected, and make me give up my bronydom, and all that comes with it.

Sad Fluttershy

I’m so glad to be proven wrong.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

It didn’t help that the film was never released in my former hometown of Sudbury. Instead, it was released everywhere else.

Map

This is a map of every showing in Ontario. You see that area not populated with markers? Yeah, that’s not a barren wasteland, that’s where I lived at the time. One of the marked cities I’d like to note, is the city of Midland, with a population of 35,000. Sudbury has a population of 160,000, four times as much.

Someone explain to me the logic behind giving Midland a release, and not Sudbury.

Of course, I was all ready to see it on opening night. Me and my fellow bronies scheduled an outing for just that purpose. But obviously, that didn’t happen, which upset me quite a bit. I’m not sure why exactly it got such a limited release. Possibly because of Hasbro’s bizarre fear of money and success.

Regardless, I had to wait to see the film, and the plans for the aforementioned outing got kicked in the head quite repeatedly. Eventually, it was released on DVD, which I bought. But because of how little of a shit I gave, I kept putting off watching it.

It took me a month after buying the DVD to finally press play on that disk, which was a long time coming. And you can understand my skepticism.

Part of the problem was the fact that this is a film that appears to be based on fan art. There’s enough ‘humanized ponies’ on DeviantArt to prove that. And this idea basically continues the ‘fan work’ feel of season three.

Plus, early plot details reminded me of A Tale of Two Twilights. From which it appeared to have been ripped verbatim.

Now, the apparent motivation for the creation of this iteration was the desire, by Hasbro, to expand the franchise’s demographics from everyone, to everyone and teenage girls. Don’t see how this would result in that, or why it’s even necessary. But good luck. I would have assumed that demographic was already locked, but whatever.

However it’s worth noting why this is a problem, since such targeting is generally not done in a positive way. I won’t argue it’s efficacy, because I don’t care. But early marketing of the film was very much sexist, as a result. Which is especially terrible for a spin-off of its pedigree.

So… with all that being said, one can understand my reluctance. I didn’t want to be more depressed about the series than I already was. I expected the film to be terrible. To be the worst thing since smallpox. And as a result, I expected that my watching of the film, would result in me giving up on all things brony.

But the moment I pressed play in VLC Media Player, I suddenly remembered: This was the show I loved. This was the show that inspired me to write prose again.

This was the show starring the quirky and exciting, Pinkie Pie; the undeniably noble, Applejack; the charming and genteel, Rarity; the exciting and ambitious, Rainbow Dash; the demure and kind, Fluttershy; and the intelligent and ambitious, Princess Twilight Sparkle.

This was My Little Pony. I couldn’t possibly hate it.

So in case you were wondering how I felt about the film, I’ll tell you: I loved My Little Pony: Equestria Girls.

Shocked Twilight

I know, I was as shocked as you!

I expected to hate it, and I loved it. For that, someone needs to give Meghan McCarthy some type of medal!

It’s not to say it’s perfect, but it doesn’t need to be. The best way to judge art is how it makes you feel. Not its logical underpinnings. And thank fuck for that, because the plot holes are aplenty.

Let’s deal with the basic plot of the film. For starters, it’s insane. From what you could have probably guessed from the box art, 90 per cent of the film takes place in a parallel universe dominated by humans with severe skin conditions. Our characters are the inter-dimensional counterparts of the regular pony characters, ala Sliders. And because of this, we get a few interesting problems.

For a start, Celestia. I find it quite unusual that the inter-dimensional counterpart of Equestria’s thousand-year-old possibly immortal pseudo-goddess and queen-in-all-but-name, is a high school principal. And same with her sister! I expected President, or Prime Minister or something. Some stately job. And that’s not even mentioning the fact that if these two run parallel lives, then that means they also have parallel life-spans. Yeah, wrap your head around that. And no one mentions Vice-Principal Luna’s time in Federal Prison.

Then we have our main antagonist, Sunset Shimmer, who has no counterpart in this realm. One may mention that she lives there, so it’s unnecessary. But no, she’s a native of Equestria, and if she never moved to the human world, there’s no reason to doubt that there’d be a human Sunset wandering the halls of Canterlot High. But it’s never mentioned.

I’m willing to bet Sunset killed her counterpoint. At some stage, murder happened.

But one plot hole that certainly doesn’t exist, is the whereabouts of Twilight’s counterpart. Since Pinkie Pie does mention seeing her in town, with Spike’s counterpart. It’s only two or three lines, but that’s all that was needed. I’m glad they included it.

Speaking of which, Spike, who comes through the portal, is transformed into a dog. Why!? At least Twilight remained a mammal! In contrast, Spike goes from reptile, to mammal, for no discernible reason! I know I’m nitpicking here, I just don’t understand why he’d turn into a dog. Cat, maybe, but dog? I’d actually expect an iguana, or komodo dragon. But a dog? I think Rarity had the right idea, he should be a rabbit! It’d make more sense!

Then we have the rest of the cast. Counterparts of Pinkie, Applejack, Rarity, the others, the three kids, Trixie (for some reason), Cheerilee, the two annoying ones, Mr and Mrs Cake, Granny Smith, Big Mac, Vinyl Scratch, the two tolerable ones, and oddly… that’s it. Even that one shot photographer from season one made a humanoid appearance.

You’d think we see a few familiar background characters in the film. Obviously in the background, that’s kinda the point. But I couldn’t find Lyra, Bon Bon, Minuette, Doctor Whooves, Rose, Lilly, or… any of them! I don’t know what’s going on.

You’d think they’d be included, if only for consistency. I don’t understand the logic here. Best guess, the reason is because if they did do that, there’d be a dearth of males, like in the main series. And they’d have a hard time covering that up in such a familiar setting. But that doesn’t explain why they didn’t at least include the popular ones, like Lyra and David Tennant-pony. And Derpy, what about Derpy!? And no, the post-credits thing doesn’t count.

And what happened to Twist!? Is she dead!?

Anywho…

But, these’re not plot-holes, so much as plot concerns. Slight inconsistencies that thankfully don’t distract from the overall film. Which, as I’ve already established, is fantastic.

But why? Well it’s hard to say, exactly. But there are moments that stood out especially well for me. For instance, the cold open: Twilight and the gang arrive in the Crystal Empire for her first princess summit. Which begs the question: since there are only four princesses, and two of them live in Canterlot, while a third lives in the nearby village of Ponyville, why do they need to go all the way to the other side of the nation? Why didn’t Cadance just go to Ponyville? But I digress. Besides, I’m sure they had their reasons.

We learn how Twilight’s dealing with her recent transformation. That is, she’s not exactly comfortable with it yet. Her wings feel awkward, and that sort of runs counter to Magical Mystery Cure, doesn’t it? But I don’t care, I’m already considering that episode non-canon.

But yeah, she’s not used to her wings, and that makes sense. The idea that she would be flying laps around Canterlot Castle five minutes after getting the damn things is just ridiculous. It just doesn’t make sense. She would be stumbling and crashing every five minutes. It’s not like she had them since childhood!

See, that’s how you do it, Larson!!!

Anyway, there’s also her general discomfort with the position in general. She’s worried she might get a kingdom to lead, (actually, it’d be a principality) and she’s not sure she wants that.

I like this. I never thought of Twilight as being ‘princess material’ and I like that Twilight shares my sentiments. The idea that she might not be 100% in on the plan sorta gives me a bit of comfort.

You see, I was kinda worried that princesshood would change Twilight. That she’d start acting like a diva, going: “I’m hungry! Rarity, get me some grapes! Then, peel them, and place them in my mouth! I’m too powerful and lazy to do this on my own! You shall do it for me! Your princess commands you!” And we all know Rarity would, too.

But thankfully, that didn’t happen, and we have no indication that it ever will. Though it would make for a decent episode, as Twilight learns not to act like a consummate bitch who thinks she’s better than anypony else.

So this is good. I have to say.

But there’s more to Equestria Girls than Twilight not being a ponce.

The whole film is about Twilight’s quest to win the position of “Princess of the Fall Formal,” the local equivalent of Prom Queen or whatever, by earning the respect of everyhuman at Canterlot High. Which, as a premise, sounds pretty shallow, but she has a good reason. Since the crown awarded to the princess is actually her own crown, which was stolen, and contains her own Element of Magic. Which begs the question: Why?

Why are they one in the same? Why make Twilight’s royal ceremonial crown a part of the most powerful weapon known to ponykind? Shouldn’t you keep it in a vault, Celestia?

You know, I don’t know why, but it seems as if Celestia’s acting more and more irresponsible. We have this little issue, with the crown. Twilight’s promotion, after she’s demonstrated signs of mental instability. And we also learn that a portal to another realm was transported from the Canterlot throne room, to a storage closet in the Crystal Empire for no reason. If she expected Sunset to come through and ask for redemption, why move the portal to the other side of the country?

Why even hold the summit in the Crystal Empire to begin with?

Regardless, as a premise, the stolen crown plot works. The stakes are high enough to bind the whole story together, and maintain the themes we’ve come to love from the franchise. Her mission is to get the whole student population behind her, by getting them to come together and break the social barriers that are common in high schools.

Her first step: bring the alternates of her Ponyville friends together. Which isn’t done for her in advance. Despite the fact that those five were friends a few years back. Which doesn’t particularly mesh with show canon, but whatever.

Turns out those five had a bit of a schism a while back, subtly caused by Sunset Shimmer’s expect hacking skills. One may question how a pony from Equestria could be an expect computer hacker, but remember, she did spend a lot of time in this realm. Got the lay of the land, as it were.

Anyway, Twilight gets the five of them to talk it out, and they discover Sunset’s deception. She sent an email as Fluttershy, to Pinkie, requesting a party, which caused Fluttershy to get thrown for a loop. Same thing happened between Rainbow Dash and Applejack, and regularly between Rarity and Pinkie Pie. And as a student of IT myself, I have to say, I’m impressed. It takes a lot of effort to spoof a message over the SMS networks.

I want to say that it was pretty pathetic for Applejack to refuse to talk to Rainbow Dash in person. I mean, it’s so passive aggressively childish isn’t it? Why wouldn’t she walk up to her friend, and demand an explanation? Did she think that little of her? Then again, I actually did that once. It wasn’t my finest moment.

Anyway, the team mends itself, and they welcome Twilight into the group, deciding to team up so she can win the crown. Then again, if all those five wanted to do was take Sunset Shimmer down a peg; Why not pick someone who had a better chance of winning? Someone who had a bit of history with the student body? Like Rarity for instance! Or is that the point? The fact that those five had a history with their fellow students was actually why they couldn’t win. And it meant fresh blood was needed to turn them against Sunset.

Let’s face it, no matter who you are, you’re gonna make enemies. Someone with a fresh slate could do wonders.

Then again, one of Sunset Shimmer’s first salvos against our hero, is to secretly record a video of her acting like a pony, making Twilight the laughing-stock of the school.

Twilight looks like an idiot

So, why did they decide to get behind her?

I guess because she’s the only one who actually wants it.

Didn’t Rarity want it the previous Spring?

Oh, I’m getting distracted.

The group decides they need a plan to get Twilight elected. And Rarity pulls out a bunch of cat horse ears and tails, saying they should wear them to show unity and school spirit.

Rarity dresses in style

I never understood the idea of ‘school spirit.’

So they do, and they all arrive in the dining hall for lunch. Cue big, epic musical number that’s twelve kinds of awesome.

In the past, I’ve explained exactly why I hate musical numbers. So there shouldn’t be any point in going over it again. But I will anyways. I hate musical numbers because they make no sense in any context. People don’t just burst into song, and they don’t do spontaneous, yet synchronized, dance routines in the middle of the street. Musical numbers strain my suspension of disbelief to the breaking point. And that’s why I hate them.

So why do I love this one? Because it makes sense! You see there’s one scenario in which a group would spontaneously burst into song: and that’s if it isn’t spontaneous. It can make sense if they plan it well in advance. Much like our heroes do. And this does happen in real life. They’re sometimes known as ‘flash mobs.’ A bunch of people plan a big musical/dance number in a public location at a public time, delighting and confusing passers-by.

Get up, get down.

And that’s exactly what happens in the cafeteria at Canterlot High! The Elements of Humanity stage a flash mob! And it is awesome! They need to do it more often. There’s a moment at the beginning of everyone going, “What the fuck!?” Then they all join in! And it doesn’t feel forced, or contrived, or awkward, it just feels like it happens. The lyrics aren’t perfect, but they don’t need to be. And it adds to the overall feel. We can assume they only had an hour or two to come up with that, so it would be a bit sloppy. But the song overall is still good. The horse metaphors work as a sign of unity among the students (a horse being the school mascot) and the beat is certainly contagious.

Party in the Cafeteria

So, Sunset stages her next counterattack. Her lackeys, Snips and Snails, trash the gymnasium where the dance is supposed to be held, and they frame Twilight using ghetto Photoshop. But her plan is foiled by Brad!

I should talk about this guy. Brad, or as he’s actually known, Lucky Strike. Wait, no, that’s not it. Irish Whisky? No… wait… it’s… uh… AH! It’s Flash Sentry. But I prefer… anything else. His name actually sucks. I’m gonna stick with ‘Brad.’

So, Brad is basically Twilight’s love interest, and the ex-boyfriend of Sunset Shimmer. Of course that last point never actually goes anywhere. It’s just mentioned offhand for no discernible reason.

But throwing romance into the story, is actually something I approve of. I’ve always found it a bit strange that this show seemed to avoid showing our heroes having any sort of romantic interest. These characters are not sexless, and to say otherwise is just absurd. But so far, out of our main characters, Rarity is the only one who’s actually proven it on-screen, before calling her love interest a cunt, and spraying him with pastry.

My only complaint is this: I just wish Twilight showed romantic interest in a character, rather than a cardboard cutout. You see, Prince Blueblood had a personality. It was the personality of an asshole, but it was a personality. Brad, on the other hand, has no personality. All we get from him is a superior nobility, a talent for guitar, and a cool, aloof demeanour. Which is so boring, it’s barely worth mentioning. I think it all comes down to the fact that he’s basically the ‘perfect boyfriend,’ and that’s insane. He has no flaws, none. He needs flaws. Maybe he gets nervous around girls, maybe he’s a bit OCD and hates dirt, maybe he has anger issues, or something. But instead, he’s just boring. There’s nothing more to say.

I only wish they tried something different. Something along the lines of this:

Alternate Ending

Sadly, that didn’t happen. But there are other approaches one could take. In fact, I’m gonna write one, right now!

[Twilight spills her sundae on Flash]
Flash: AHHH!
Twilight: I am so sorry! [takes napkins, tries to clean him]
Flash: Stop it! [smacks napkins away, tries cleaning himself]
Twilight: I am so so sorry!
Flash: [sighs] It’s okay, don’t worry about it.
Twilight: Really?
Flash: [clearly exasperated] Yes, I just need to do laundry now, no big deal. You know, we really have to stop bumping into each other like this.
Twilight: [laughs nervously] Yeah, sorry.
Flash: [laughs nervously] Look, let me buy you another drink.
Twilight: What?
Flash: Yeah, I got in your way, so…
Twilight: No, it’s my fault, it’s fine, just-forget about it. [slinks off]
Flash: [smiles]

See, they’re called emotions. You get a character to express them, it can work wonders. I even included a bit of flirting at the end there. And that works much better than merely having their hands touch.

But on the bright side, we’ll likely never see this guy again. So none of it matters.

So after the walking slab of granite gets Twilight acquitted, Vice-Principal Luna explains that the dance will have to be postponed till tomorrow. By which time the gateway would be closed, and Twilight would be trapped there for the next thirty moons… which is about two and a half years. Actually, I’m not even sure. How long is a moon? Because the way Twilight acts, you’d think it’d be much longer.

So the team needs to fix the mess, and get the party held on time. But in order to convince her new friends to do that, Twilight needs to inform them of the urgency by coming clean about everything. Which is unnecessary since Pinkie already figured everything out.

Some may question this particular scene, but I should point out that this is Pinkie Pie. And Pinkie Pie is actually much smarter than others give her credit for. Plus, there were so many clues dropped by Twilight (on accident), and since Pinkie’s the kind of girl who would have her eyes and ears everywhere, it’s no surprise that she pieced it all together.

Then Spike talks, and that convinces the other four, while freaking Rarity out. By the way, I approve of Rarity’s reaction. It just feels right.

So they get the gym ready, and students passing by decide to help out as well.

Then the dance, then Twilight wins the crown, then Sunset stages her revenge. Cue big fight scene where shit gets dark.

Deamon Shimmer

Yeah, that’s Sunset. She uses the crown to turn herself into that, before hypnotizing all the students and announcing her true intentions: to stage an invasion of Equestria. Wow, what a twist!

And it’s during this that we get some interesting visual cues that connect back to a familiar face from early season three. I can’t be sure, but I think they may be dropping clues to Sombra’s back story, which he was in desperate need of.

But the crown fights back. It focuses on Twilight and the gang, and since, I assume, it contains imprints of all six element bearers, turns Twilight, and the counterparts of the other bearers, into human-pony hybrids.

The pony-human hybrids

And we learn that the magic of friendship is the only magic strong enough to transcend realms and break any curse. Or am I thinking of something else?

Rumplestiltskin's true love potion

Okay, that too.

Anyway, they use the magic from the element to revert Sunset’s magic, and it appears to create some bizarre psychological after effect in our big bad. Basically, it turns her into a blubbering wimp.

Sunset Crying

It’s probably temporary.

So with that, victory party! They dance, and drink, and have an all around merry time. Rainbow Dash getting the most out of her new wings.

Rainbow and Scootaloo

How is she such a good flyer when she just got her wings five minutes ago?

Meanwhile, Sunset Shimmer, and her lackeys, are assigned to clean up the mess they caused during the final battle, which makes little sense. She attempted world domination, shouldn’t she get jail time?

Then Twilight goes home, and gets a happy ending.

So that’s the plot. And beyond that, there’s really nothing to say.

You may notice I didn’t really talk about the characters that much. Well, that’s because I didn’t need to. All the characters are carbon copies of their pony counterparts, with the solitary exception of Trixie, who’s slightly less dramatic than the one we’re familiar with.

And really, that’s all there’s left to say. The film works, it doesn’t get more complicated than that.

So, with that, we look forward to season four, coming this November, which I’m glad I’m able to do now. Because if Equestria Girls is any indication, the future’s looking bright for the franchise. I think we can declare season three a bizarre fluke, and move on. I know I am.

I know someone might expect me to talk about the latest news regarding season four, but truth be told, I’ve been avoiding it. I honestly don’t want to know what happens until the season actually airs. Previews have been ruining my enjoyment of the show, and last year, they threw me into a pit of depression. So, I’m going to wait until November before I decide to read or comment on anything.

But, thanks to the guy I play Portal 2 co-op with, I did hear that Scootaloo’s finally getting a proper episode to herself, devoted to the fact that she’s disabled. It’s been a long time coming. And in that spirit, I think I’ll dedicate this song to her:

Tongue-tied and twisted, just an earthbound misfit… See you in November!

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