Saturday, July 9, 2022

"Sequelitis and mediocrity"

I haven't purchased a Pixar film since Ratatouille and seldom re-watch that. In "To Mediocrity and Beyond" Ross Douthat on Pixar movies:
The decline of Pixar can be charted with relative precision from its acquisition by Disney in 2006. After a few artistic high points that had been in the works before the acquisition — most notably 2008’s Wall-E — the studio responsible for a remarkable decade of originality began to descend into sequelitis and mediocrity. There were occasional bright spots, from Toy Story 3 to Inside Out, but the brand gradually passed from a certificate of excellence to a firm promise of “just okay.” ....

Until this summer, that is, which has brought us an intensification of Pixarian decline, via the movie known as “Lightyear.” ....

One of the best superhero movies, Brad Bird’s The Incredibles, was a Pixar offering that improved on most of Marvel and DC, and after so many lousy Star Wars sequels and prequels one could imagine an animated space opera that likewise recaptured some of the old Skywalker magic, but with a different galaxy and cast.

The reason The Incredibles worked so well, however, is that it wasn’t afraid to be a straightforward superhero movie — cheeky and comical and self-deprecating rather than brooding and self-serious, but with the genre structure still intact, the supervillain and his lair, the world-destroying weapons, the works. ....

If the creative model where you sell action to kids and heartstring-tugging to their parents ends in this kind of mediocrity [i.e. Lightyear], was it really ever quite as brilliant as we imagined? Is there a reason that my own kids re-watched The Incredibles obsessively but were one-and-done with critically garlanded fare like Up and Ratatouille, or even the later Toy Story movies? When we look back on the Pixar age, will we see artistic glory — or just the clever manipulation of parental vulnerabilities, which became stale and obvious with repetition?

It’s too soon to say: Ask me again after a lightspeed jump to a future where the misbegotten Lightyear is forgotten.
I do re-watch The Incredibles.

Ross Douthat, "To Mediocrity and Beyond," National Review, June 23, 2022.

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