I am often asked questions along the lines of why I am so harsh on Flash Sentry and why I insist that the first motion picture of Friendship is Magic is, in simple terms, a mistake. My answers have been varied and posted in isolated threads; consequently, my position has been made clear, but the thoughts behind the position remain largely unknown. And so, on account of the synopsis for the sequel which was leaked yesterday, I have finally resolved to take a stand and explain myself. This is a complex matter, and although every question has been answered before, an appropriately complex answer is still nowhere to be found. That said, I intend to discuss both of the EG films with due attention to their most significant elements.
Part One: Equestria Girls
It is only fitting that I should start at the very beginning of the original production, and so the title itself is our first topic. They call it Equestria Girls. Here lies an issue which often goes unnoticed, and I cannot blame any viewer for ignoring it, as it bears little consequence in light of the production itself. However, one should note that the only character with any strong ties to Equestria is none other than Twilight Sparkle, who actually renounces those ties at a later time. Thus Equestria itself has little significance in this film, and the land is only notable for providing a template for the peculiar microcosm known as Canterlot High, in which the entirety of a parallel Equestria seems to gather. EG does not have enough Equestria by any measure.
That very microcosm, by its very nature, may be incomprehensible and even off-putting to a viewer. The foremost issue is that all of its inhabitants are humans, even though the title of the film itself is connected to ponies twice over. With that aside, the crux of the matter is whether humans should be involved in this show. Perhaps the most important factor to consider is the very nature of televised entertainment, a concept which is largely rooted in escapism. For a viewer to be entertained, the viewer must somehow be lured away from the woes of reality and drawn into a world where personal problems do not matter. One might argue that the conflicts of EG are easier to relate to, since a viewer may be struggling to overcome a "Sunset Shimmer" IRL; however, the target audience is not in high school as the characters of EG are. Thus the setting presented by EG is a rather uncanny preview of what may befall a target viewer at a later time. The presence of a human high school tends to lead target viewers to think of their futures, and the familiar monolith looming over the entire story offers no semblance of escapism.
Furthermore, I can only wonder what might have happened if Hasbro had chosen another species for this film. The company was willing to make Spike a dog, so was My Little Puppy too great a step to take? Unfortunately, Andy Price confirms that this decision was made "partially to compete with doll market, but also in answer to fans 'humanized' art." In light of all the hoopla over Twilight's transformation, this was a very drastic move. The introduction of human characters so soon after such a significant plot point is dubitable in itself. However, the problem lies in the timing of the production. When a 72-minute motion picture in which Twilight Sparkle becomes a human comes immediately after the 22-minute picture in which she becomes an Alicorn, those twenty-two minutes become lost in a tide of the nuances of a shadowy reflection-world. Twilight's victory in Ponyville suddenly feels empty and perhaps even insignificant in comparison.
And I almost forgot: high school clichés do not ameliorate this abominable choice of setting in any way. If anything, they weaken the plot and detract from what might have actually been an engaging adventure for an Alicorn princess.
Moving on, it is perhaps best to discuss the most obvious disappointment before criticizing the grayer characters in the film. But before I discuss what is wrong with Flash Sentry, I must establish what is not wrong. First off, the problem is not Flash's role as Twilight's love interest. Twilight is old enough to flirt with whomever she wishes, and she is certainly old enough to make mature decisions with relation to that matter. Secondly, Flash is not a disappointment because of the guitar guy/cool dude act. It is quite alright for a character to be popular and even talented, so long as it does not go to his/her head. Trixie is often found unlikable because she delights in abusing her talent, and Diamond Tiara is unlikable because she relishes her undeserved popularity. Flash has similar qualities but does not flaunt them.
The problem is this: although it is acceptable for Twilight to have a love interest, it is outright bizarre for her to find one in the human world of Canterlot High. The fandom's idea of Lyra Heartstrings might find it romantic, but for the average viewer, this is just ludicrous. Is Twilight's brain that severely affected by the trip from Equestria to Canterlot High? In any case, Twilight initially has every intention of returning to Equestria, where a pony Flash Sentry awaits. Thus the sorriest part of it all is that she forms a relationship with a character whom she has no intention of ever seeing again. Moreover, the existence of a pony Flash means that she will have to start all over again if she is ever going to have a relationship in the main series... unless Hasbro decides to toss her another boy toy, in which case, the Flash X Twilight experiment cannot go anywhere pleasant if it is ever shown again. The relationship is contained completely within the confines of the EG side-series.
And yes... Flash Sentry is a bit generic. And Flash's only significant deed is saving Twilight from a pointless subplot. But those are just cherries on the top.
For me at least, Twilight Sparkle is the greatest disappointment of EG, primarily because she is so extraordinarily out of character that I still ball my fist when reflecting upon the matter. However, much of this can be blamed on the introduction of EG's Mane Six, or rather the five humans that revolve around Twilight for the entirety of the plot in Canterlot High. Twilight becomes a member of a second Mane Six, a new clique which in every way replaces the old one. There is a new Rainbow Dash, a new Applejack, etc. This entire film somehow seems to forget the distinction between the ponies and the humans, leading Twilight to behave rather strangely. For example, consider this gem:
- "Yes, but I've also seen what you've been able to do here [Canterlot High] without magic. Equestria will find a way to survive without my Element of Harmony. This place might not, if I allow it to fall into your hands. So go ahead. Destroy the portal. You are not getting this crown!"
Perhaps it is noble to sacrifice one's friendships which have been developing over the course of three seasons for the sake of Canterlot High, but Twilight seems to forget that the Elements only operate correctly when all six are united. The entirety of the S2 premier revolves around that plot point. Furthermore, the S4 premier actually proves that Equestria cannot survive without the Elements. Twilight is inconceivably naïve in the climax of EG, and the climax itself does no justice to her usual character. The new Mane Six defeat Sunset Shimmer without using the Elements at all. Supposedly, the spirits of the Elements were within them the entire time. If this is truly the case, Twilight became better friends with a quintet of humans in 72 minutes than she did with five ponies in 3 seasons. And if the Elements may exist inside a group of six who exemplify each of the six Elements, the Elements in Equestria are not worth the necklaces that house them.
That Twilight would choose Canterlot High over Ponyville (including the other five ponies) is simply... inappropriate. EG is a dark day for the magic of friendship.
Snips & Snails
Snips and Snails are flagrantly obnoxious in the show proper, but EG morphs them into something utterly rancid. In the show, they are nothing but immature and dimwitted children. They act as toadies for a minor antagonist or two, but they never cause any mischief. Now the "evil minion" role they receive in EG is not disagreeable in itself. An alternate universe's characters often act very differently from those of the original universe. E.g. the good King Sombra of the comics is starkly antithetical to the King Sombra of the S3 premier. The reason why the EG depiction of Snips and Snails is wrong is that EG is fully dedicated to preserving the similarities between every other set of characters. EG Rarity acts in the same way as FiM Rarity. Likewise, EG Trixie (even though a cameo) acts much like FiM Trixie. EG Snips and Snails, however, are similar to their counterparts in only their clumsiness. They act maliciously towards Twilight Sparkle, and they follow a self-obsessed despot that encourages them to slander and libel those that would oppose the regime. The demonic powers they gain at the end do nothing to improve their image. EG Snips and EG Snails are significantly wickeder than the original duo.
When one willingly goes from being Princess Celestia's star pupil to being Principal Celestia's local sleazebag, that pony is either self-deluded or self-depreciative. I am not saying that Sunset's multi-year plan to take the crown was unwise in any way, but it is implied that she could have returned from Canterlot High at a number of times prior to the events of EG. Wasting away winning dances in a high school, rather than practice magic in Equestria, seem rather counterproductive. It is certainly possible that she could have spent a considerable amount of time in Equestria before she seized the crown and escaped through the mirror, but the photographs in Canterlot High show that Sunset spent far more time there for no apparent purpose. And for this reason, Sunset Shimmer comes across as nothing more than a common bully, a character that belongs in a high school. The ambitious student simply ceases to exist.
Part Two: Equestria Girls - Rainbow Rocks
I tend to analyze two crucial elements of most works: the conception and the execution. I find the infamous Mare Do Well episode somewhat tolerable because it was decent conceptually, even if it turned out to be a flop in the end. Furthermore, I continue to decry EG because it was flawed in regard to both components. Nevertheless, since Rainbow Rocks has not yet been unveiled, I can only express what I believe about the idea itself.
Battle of the Bands
High school clichés did nothing to support the previous film, nor did they make it any more entertaining. The theme of Rainbow Rocks implies heavily that the sequel will surpass the original in its corniness, and accordingly, I am not eager to see the fallout of the battle of the bands. Dragging Twilight back into Canterlot High does not justify the tragic use of such an old and unexciting cliché.
Moreover, since Twilight is the only character involved with any link to the ponies of Equestria, the world of Canterlot High is doomed to retain its nature as an unfortunate spin-off. It is essentially Twilight's little secret. None of the other characters in the Friendship is Magic series (save Spike) can have any knowledge of this world. They are ever distant and accordingly ignorant. Their counterparts may receives cameos and such (e.g. a human Trixie appeared in the first film), but the characters themselves, the individuals whom fans have spent four seasons praising, are perennially left out. Twilight Sparkle is the only "Equestria Girl" in the entire side-series, and pulling her back into the mire of Canterlot High conjures up a boring story with boring characters, starring Twilight Sparkle, the not-Mane-Six, and the cheap cameos.
Unless I am very much mistaken, Adagio is the foremost villain of Rainbow Rocks. And nothing about this character is remarkable in any way. Sunset Shimmer was a high school jerk. Sunset Shimmer used a contest to prove who was better. Sunset Shimmer possessed uncanny powers. Unless Adagio is a ghost or some other manner of creature, I doubt this villain will prove satisfying. And if Adagio turns out to be another pony-turned-human, there is no redemption for EG.
[N.B. this blog is subject to change.]