I’m not going to bother promising to try to get better at posting more. It’s been a long time since my last post, which is pretty much inexcusable.
So. Last Wednesday, I took my sister to see Disney’s latest film, Zootopia (or, as it’s apparently called elsewhere, Zootropolis). This is the story of a bunny who has big dreams of being a police officer and how she teams up with with a fox con-artist to solve a missing-mammals case.
First off, my favourite part, the characters.
Judy Hopps is the aforementioned bunny with big dreams. But it would seem that she’s just born the wrong species: she’s small and, really, how aggressive can bunnies be? Sure, animals may have “evolved” past the whole prey-and-predator thing, but it would seem that the divide is still just as big as the one between whites and blacks can be. But Judy’s determined to realize her dream. A violent bully won’t deter her. Her parents pointing out that there are no bunny cops only pushes her to be the first one. Bootcamp is brutal, but she trains and utilizes her natural skills to get the job done. Blatant opposition abounds within the police force. And then there’s that fox that takes every chance he gets to belittle her….
His name is Nick Wilde and he’s been doing his thing since he was twelve. Made a rather impressive living out of doing things like re-selling popsicles. But a certain overachieving bunny pretending to be a cop just won’t leave him be, even after he talks down to her and tells her that the whole “you can become anything in Zootopia” mentality is just a passing dream. But she blackmails him into working with her on this missing mammals case. Despite her unethical tactics, though, he finds himself actually liking the cute little furball. After all, he’s been living out the fox stereotype (ie: shifty and not to be trusted) for so long, the idea of friendship might be one worth checking out.
I won’t address any other characters in detail (not that I exactly need to, since the film is so heavily focused on Nick and Judy), but I will say that I found a couple of them completely unnecessary. One of them is celebrity singer Gazelle. Seriously, her only purpose is to provide the movie’s theme song. When she’s not doing that, she’s strutting around in a questionable outfit and being the celeb voice on a controversial issue. The other will be mentioned below in another section. My reasoning for his uselessness is that the writers could have had Nick and Judy go anywhere else to get the same information.
I won’t talk about the plot too much (way too many spoilers down that direction!), but I will say that I was surprised by how much they managed to fit into 108 minutes. A good sort of surprise (I’ve always liked a good mystery), but still impressed that all of that is in a kids’ film. From what I remember, it made pretty good sense (I’m still trying to figure out one scene, but am having a hard time remembering how that went down), though I might think differently upon a second viewing.
It’s only fair to point out here that there are several intense scenes that can easily frighten younger audiences. One kid sitting in the same row as we were loudly declared during one action sequence, “Mommy, I’m never watching this show ever again!”
Now, for the prevalent theme. For the most part, I liked what was said. My problems with it come from how far it can be blown out of proportion. There are people out there who will accuse me of being intolerant, but while I do believe in respecting people, I don’t believe I have to accept what they do as being okay.
I think Zootopia is on the right track when it comes to its brand of racism, that is, where species are involved, both in what kind of animal a character is and into which category he naturally falls into: prey or predator. I think it was Nick who said something along the lines of, “Hey, just because I’m a fox, you think I’m untrustworthy?” Judy, who was bullied by a fox in her younger years, acknowledges that there are both good and bad foxes, just as there are both good and bad bunnies. She also voices how much she hates it when some mammals can’t get past their stereotyping. And she lets Police Chief Bogo know that she’s not “just a token bunny” and is capable of taking on “real police work”. When stuff happens (again, plot spoiler stuff I won’t talk about), many animals adopt an attitude of suspicion, while a few (including celebrity singer Gazelle) urge peace and the restoration of the harmony between prey and predator species.
So far, so good.
And then there’s the “naturalist club” that Nick and Judy go to for answers to a missing-mammal case. They’re greeted by a dreadlocked, fly-infested yak “omm”-ing. And not wearing clothes. As he puts it, clothes on animals are unnatural. Yeah, I follow that… in a world populated by humans with pets. The implications of naked animals in a world of otherwise-clothed animals? And matched with the theme of accepting others as they are, no matter the differences? I’m getting the idea that Disney’s telling us to accept nudists as a-okay. The only thing they didn’t do (at least, not that I noticed) is tell us to do the same about those of deviant sexual identities and lusts. Unless that’s sorta covered by Judy telling a little squirt of an animal, “You want to be an elephant when you grow up? Then be an elephant!” Um, sorry, pursuing dreams is one thing, but you can’t change species. Just doesn’t work that way.
Zootopia has good characters and the development thereof. Judy and Nick made the movie for me. (I gravitate more toward Nick because I like his character arc better, but Judy was still a fine character with her own journey; neither of them would have grown without the other.)
The plotline held my interest, twisting and turning this way and that, amping up the stakes everytime.
The idea of working hard with a can-do attitude in order to pursue your dreams is communicated clearly. Friendship, honesty, and honour are lauded. And the theme of getting to know people before you judge them had a great start and has an effective role in the film.
But the implications of how far that can be taken is what tainted the experience of an otherwise fine Disney production for me.