Wednesday, 4 May 2016

'Zootopia' Review


This review WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS for the film to be discussed, if you do not want certain plot points or story spoilt, please do not read further.

'Zootopia' is an impressive film, one that shows that Disney is more than able to keep up good quality productions such as 'Big Hero 6' and 'Wreck It Ralph' that don't fall back on fairy tale stories or princess characters.

Here we have a world without humans, where mammals have evolved into a talking, anthropomorphic society where all species live and work together.  The film makes it very clear from the outset that despite the seeming utopia of Zootopia (I see what you did there Disney, subtle) there are still a lot of fears of certain predatory species, as well as the belief that certain smaller species can't do certain jobs.

It's a theme that is at the heart of the film as Judy Hopps, a rabbit girl from the country, sets out to become the first rabbit police officer.  Despite tough training and no one believing in her Judy manages to graduate the top of her class and gets assigned to the main district of Zootopia.  

Whilst being sidelined by her captain she stumbles across a con-man fox called Nick, who ends up being a key player when she gets herself assigned to a missing persons case.  Tricking Nick into helping her, the two of them discover that a number of predatory species are turning feral for unknown reasons.

What follows next is apparent chaos as the prey animals begin to mistrust the predators and life in Zootopia shifts, with predators losing certain positions of power and becoming seen as a threat.  Judy and Nick discover that it's all a scheme to turn the population against the predator species and gain power.  Together they are able to thwart the villain and bring relative peace back to the city.

Whilst there is a lot here to keep kids entertained with visual gags and comedy moments the main story and the themes within it are complex and engaging enough to keep adult audiences from getting bored.  I did manage to figure out who the main villain was before their identity was revealed to the audience, but the plot was still good enough to keep my attention and entertain me.

The visual style of the film is very good, with dozens of different species represented across the story, some in some very fun roles and using some great satirical humour to build a well rounded world.  My personal favourite was the fact that everyone who worked at the DMV were sloths, which not only played into the stereotype that the staff at DMV's are always slow, but gave us some great comic moments.

One of the best things about Zootopia is that it tries to tackle some very serious real world problems, namely racism and prejudice.  Now, this is a kids film, so it's not going to go massively in depth on the subject, nor does it give any answers on how a society can tackle these issues, but I think that it is good to see a children's film bringing these ideas up.

During the course of the film we see certain species denied service in shops because the owners have certain preconceptions about what those species are like.  We have characters thinking that Judy only got her position because of the Mammal Inclusion Initiative (kind of like affirmative action for small woodland creatures).  We have characters told that certain terms, such as referring to a rabbit as cute, is okay when other rabbits do it, but not when other species do.  We see a prey mother suddenly guard her child when a predator sits down next to them on the train.

It's all scenarios that we will recognise from real life, some of us have probably been on the receiving end of some situations like this (I know I have).  I've seen some people complain that the film raises these issues in a very 'hollywood' way and that it doesn't do enough to discuss how to tackle these problems in the real world, but surely their very inclusion is a good thing.  At the end of the day this is a film for kids, and if it results in kids taking a moment to think about how we treat people and how we act to those who are 'different' then that itself can lead towards things getting better in the future.

'Zootopia' is an entertaining and fun film that introduces a great new world and a host a brilliant characters that I hope Disney will come back to in the future with possible sequels.  After all, this is basically a buddy cop film with animals, and like classic 80's buddy cop films I think this is a franchise that has a lot of life in it yet, with more stories to tell.


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