If you know anything about me or read this blog at all, you know I'm a fan of Pixar. Any post on filmmaking or storytelling or pretty much anything is often tied back to Pixar movies, because I find so much depth and heart in their films. I have loved every single Pixar movie out there, any of my friends can tell you that I rarely go to the theater for any other reason than to see the latest Pixar blockbuster. Just go read some posts like Bubble Wrap or The Color Conspiracy to see what I'm talking about.
But the Cars sequel directly contradicts Pixar's storytelling standard.
Cars 2 was only made to make more money, not to tell a good story. They forced a story together that wasn't asking to be told, that didn't naturally flow along with the original. Cars 2 didn't feel like a feature film, it felt like a really long short film.
I got nervous when I saw the trailers. Cars 2 is a spy movie? Set against the backdrop of the World Grand Prix? Non-stop action, explosions, and goofy lines from Mater encompassed the entire marketing campaign. I kept on telling myself, Pixar has never let us down. Why should they now? Nevertheless, I went into the theater with low expectations.
I think my main problem with the movie is that it's almost the opposite of its predecessor. The whole point of Cars was switching out of the fast lane and enjoying life. Cars 2 was all about racing through life as fast as possible and blowing stuff up. Okay, it didn't explicitly say that, but that was the message it brought across. The whole Radiator Springs gang was reduced to cameos, and Doc Hudson's role was cut out completely due to the death of Paul Newman.
This is one of the many reasons a sequel to Cars should not have been made.
His absence was explained in a 10-second long scene with Lightning and Mater admiring his Piston Cups and saying "Doc would've been proud." McQueen adds "You know, Doc said it's just an empty cup, but hey, it is pretty cool." This also contradicts the lesson Lightning learned in the original film, that trophies aren't what racing is about. But hey, it's cool!
The second big problem was the star: Tow Mater. Nearly all movie franchises focuses on one main character and continues to expand on that character in the sequels. For instance, Woody's character arc is continually expanded and developed as the trilogy progresses. But for Cars, the ending was nearly perfect. McQueen's character arc was so complete, and there wasn't much room for expansion. So they had to switch to the co-star, Mater, and expand on him. Unfortunately, Mater's absent-mindedness and dumb humor quickly gets old. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with Mater, in some ways he's more likable then Lightning. But Lightning is the backbone of the story. Without him, the story just doesn't work. The fact that McQueen's character arc was concluded in the first film was yet another reason that the sequel for Cars was uncalled for.
The whole movie was full of Pixar cliches (yes, the cliches were all unique to Pixar) especially the ending, and by that time I was just waiting for it be over. I didn't hate the film, but I didn't walk out of the theater with the same sort of awe I have with past Pixar movies. It just was mediocre.
I'm pretty much on par with the Rotten Tomatoes consensus: Cars 2 is as visually appealing as any other Pixar production, but all that dazzle can't disguise the rusty storytelling under the hood.
Cars 2 wasn't a bad story, but it was unrefined. If John Lasseter had an extra year to knock out the bugs, it may have been a better film.
John Lasseter has been my inspiration for years--in fact, he was the inspiration for creating Snowtop Studios. But for Cars 2, he's apparently so in love with the idea of a spy movie with talking cars that he is blinded that his story falls short of the standard he is responsible for setting.
I won't say it isn't worth your time. Go and see for yourself and tell me what you think in the comments!