Dir. Dan Scanlon
"A look at the relationship between Mike and Sulley during their days at Monsters University -- when they weren't necessarily the best of friends."
Prequels can be a tricky thing, one might argue they’re harder to get right than sequels. Far too often the prequel setup will be, at best, tedious and pointless or worst, actually damage the story of the film it is intended to pre-date. Character traits are often changed, plot holes opened up and loveable stories tampered with, so I feel I was justified in feeling a little cautious when Monsters University was announced a few years ago.
So it was with a huge sigh of relief that I exited the theatre in high spirits. It seems that once again, Pixar have done the impossible, MU is a great film.
Without giving anything away, this film isn’t at all what you might expect. The, leaving home for College/University storyline has been done to death but MU brings something new to the table and does a lot with the genre that I haven’t seen before, while still employing the few remaining enjoyable parts of the trope.
Mike and Sully’s characters have been changed drastically (something that usually spells death for a prequel) but their character arcs feel genuine and by the end of the film they’ve realistically and understandably changed into the characters we know and love. It even adds more depth to the original characters as, looking back to Monsters Inc. it adds extra justification to the characters motivations in the original film.
The new characters are all enjoyable, the sweet but useless members of the Oozma Kappa fraternity being the best of the bunch. The new cast members, right down to the background characters and those with only one or two lines are spot on and are able to deliver on the traditional University clichés but in a unique way that fits in perfectly with the monster world.
The visuals are, of course, brilliant. The rich foliage that covers the campus is absolutely gorgeous and the architecture is delightful. The campus works brilliantly in 3D too, giving the perfect perception of the university's grand scale.
Monsters University is a film that delivers on a classic setup in an original and interesting way and it carries with it a bittersweet but important message. It’s not Pixar’s best, but after the backlash against Cars 2 and the mixed criticism for Brave, fans will be more than happy that Pixar has made an astounding return to form.
The Blue Umbrella
Dir. Saschka Unseld
While the story of the Blue Umbrella is about as basic a plot as you could get away with in a short like this, boy meets girl, they fall in love, the small scale of the plot is more than made up for by the visuals.
I was blown away by how good this film looks. The rendering software has been pushed to new extremes in order to deliver some of the most amazing lighting and reflection I’ve ever seen in an animated film.
How many films have you seen where the lighting is the element that takes your breath away? None? Well this will, it’s that good.
The storyline is slight, but cute, the music is great and the visuals are astonishing. It may be little more than a tech demo for the new global illumination software, but so what? It’s the most amazing tech demo you’ll ever see. I can’t wait to get this on blu-ray and spend hours pouring over its every detail.