It is with absolute confidence and a heavy sigh of relief that I can finally, wholeheartedly say: You can now forget that Cars 2 had ever happened.
Yes, I’m far kinder to Cars 2 than most people are, but there’s no denying that it couldn’t be further than from its heart-wrenching predecessor, making it the odd black sheep in the Cars trilogy. Luckily, Cars 3 doesn’t fall victim to the same troubles that made Cars 2 so dreadfully unbearable, and almost entirely allows you to forget about it at all. What’s perhaps so welcoming and entertaining about the latest installment of this series is that it represents all the same elements that defined Cars into a beautiful and brilliant movie, and omits the elements that fell flat over the span of these three films. While Pixar’s current model consists of many sequels, which some would consider being Pixar on the verge of creative bankruptcy, Cars 3 proves that they still have the beauty, ambition, and emotion that defined their films over a decade ago.
Cars 3 sees Lightning McQueen, an unspecified amount of time after the events of the first Cars movie (this film does not acknowledge the events of Cars 2 at all), and McQueen is still comfortably at the top of his game. However, when tragedy strikes, McQueen will need to re-asses himself, and everything he loves, in his struggle to keep up with the sport that he once dominated. At its core, Cars 3 is about accepting who you are, finding the beauty in others, and letting go of the pain that defines you. Reminiscent of Pixar’s glory days, the movie inspires us to think about ourselves and find the beauty in the little things. It hardly reaches the level of Pixar’s best, but it’s a refreshing promise of Pixar maintaining their quality, and their brand.
For that reason, Cars 3 has a very Rocky IV-esque feel to it, in which both our heroes find themselves with the need to rebuild themselves in order to keep up with the changing world around them. These films complement each other because they tackle the difficult problems of change, and our need to accept it. But even though Lightning has come a long way since finding humility and love from his friends in Radiator Springs, he’ll still need to realize that in order for himself to succeed, he’ll need to believe in others, and not only himself to help him reach his goals.
There’s much that makes Cars 3 a truly fun ride, and much of that can be contributed to its lightning-fast pacing and gripping storytelling. Director Brian Fee proves that he is the perfect suitor for the job as he learns to balance action with tension, and emotion with humor throughout the film. Perhaps what makes the film most special is new character Cruz Ramirez, who is ultimately the film’s secret weapon and adds a massive amount of heart and depth that defines what makes this movie so special. Cruz’s introduction and character arc amount to perhaps the most interesting element of the movie and there’s no doubt that by the time the credits begin rolling, she’ll be your new favorite character too. There isn’t much room for old characters, as characters like Mater and Sally gets pushed to the sidelines once again while the main arc takes place throughout the film. But considering that Mater got his spotlight in Cars 2, his supporting role can hardly be a negative thing, and much like his character should be, he only appears when he has something unique to contribute to the story, which makes his appearances appreciated, and not exhausting like the previous films had him portrayed.
As much as Cars 3 is brimming with emotional beauty, there’s no shortage of visual beauty to accompany the feature as well. That’s because Pixar continues to outdo themselves in visual artistry, pushing the very boundaries of animation that they set before them. Every frame of Cars 3 is rich with stunning detail, not only expanding on the brilliant color and designs of Cars, but somehow making it even more immersive and beautiful. The team continues to impress in new ways and expanding on groundbreaking feats that they introduced with the first film. Visual artistry and attention to detail is one of the many things that make this film an incredible feat for animation. This film is also accompanied by a brilliant new short film that’s easily Pixar’s best in years, titled Lou, which is so spectacular that deserves a review of its own, which will debut on our site later in the week.
After a lackluster bump in the road in 2011 as a sequel to a film that’s far from Pixar’s best, although is a brilliant film in its own right, Cars 3 proves that the road-trip taken within this time was truly worth it. Those who have stuck with these characters through these two films, countless spin-offs, and a theme park land, will appreciate how this film further expands the Cars mythology and character arcs, which pay off in some truly fantastic fan-favorite moments. The film offers a fresh start for one that’s been stuck in neutral for some time and represents that now that the Cars movies have pushed their way out of the ditch they’ve been stuck in, there might be promising journey ahead.
Cars 3 is not only a promising return to the world of Lightning McQueen, but it’s a promising return that will remind you of Pixar’s golden era. While Pixar might only be pushing out one original film in this sequel-heavy phase (Coco, which comes out this November), this film shows that even in a sequel-reliant future, Pixar still has their storytelling ambition that they built their legacy on. Cars 3 is an emotional ride that does justice to its predecessor, and now that Cars is a quality franchise again, we can’t wait to see where this road will lead them next.
Cars 3 opens in theaters nationwide this Friday, June 16th.