Anomaly Appraisal: Toy Story 3, The Bittersweet Finale


You know, I’d planned to write an epic, three-part review of the entire trilogy, but the more I reflect on it, it becomes clear that it would not be practical. Comparing a movie made 15 years ago with one from today is kinda cruel in more ways than one, not least on the quality of the animation.

No, this is a straight-up, honest account of how I hated about 95% of Toy Story 3 and how it all worked out in the end, sort of. If you want an animator’s perspective, I highly recommend reading Michael Sporn’s thoughts on the film. I agree with most of his points, which is why I’m linking to it.

Starting with the animation, it is superb. The fact that just the textures on the characters can be seen is proof how far CGI has come in 15 years. The levels of detail that can be created nowadays makes the original film more akin to a student thesis! It is the little things like these details that has set Pixar apart from other studios, they really do take the time to focus on things that affect the movie in ways that may not easily be perceived at first glance.

As for the directing, I would say that Wall-E is easily superior in that it was more in tune with the character. In TS3, the opening sequence is over-dramatic despite its content. Plenty of shots in the films seemed to be set up as if trying to prove something. None detract from the viewing experience, but they are grossly over-wrought in the context of what Toy Story is. That being said, there are no real pointless shots in the film, save for maybe Mrs. Potato Head’s eye.

This films is perhaps one of the most realistic that Pixar has released. Compared even to UP, the level of detail is stunning, from the largest detail (entire rooms) to the smallest (Ken’s wardrobe). One can’t help but feel that the charm of the original and sequel has been lost in the meantime. Compared to The Incredibles, which seemed realistic despite trying not to be, TS3 seems unrealistic because it tries to be too much like the real world and in the process overreaches its goal. Again, it ain’t the end of the world, but it may be connected to my thoughts further down.

The story itself was OK. It was certainly of a much higher standard than what Hollywood is known to put out. It is clearly the completion of the toy’s time with Andy. He’s grown up and heading to college, the toys are neglected in their chest, although they do acknowledge that Andy could have binned them many years ago and did not. The writing as usual was absolutely superb with jokes-a-plenty for adults and kids. The theatrics of Buzz Lightyear manages to steal the show were certainly enjoyed by the audience.

Do I agree with all aspects of the plot? Well, not quite. The villain lacks motivation. Sure he has some, the flashback sequence certainly indicates that but what ran through my mind while watching it was that Jessie went through much worse and was not nearly as resentful. Lots-O-Huggin Bear is also the first villain in the series to get his cumuppance. Why is that? Sure, Al got his in TS2, but he clearly was not a toy, even Stinky Pete got sent off to live with a little girl, not, well, I won’t spoil the surprise.

The characters in the film are the same we know and love. They are all here, but as we’ve seen before, they change subtly between films. In other words, Woody from Toy Story is still the same Woody in Toy Story 3, but he is ever so different. Perhaps in this movie, it is the situations that he is in differentiate him from the first two films. I couldn’t help but feel that the presence of an evil segment of toys soured things for everyone. One could argue that the first two films were too devoid of such characters, but here, I felt they went a wee bit over the top (secret, late-night gambling session anyone?).

Sigh, I guess my issue is that Toy Story is not near as innocent as Toy Story, or even Toy Story 2. Whereas the latter contained only a few grandstanding scenes, this latest film is pretty much one big sign begging for the audiences sympathy. It plays on our fondness for the characters, who don’t feel they need to prove anything any more. There is no soft treading, characters are shown as-is, no justification given. The simplicity of the first two films is also missing. In the first, Woody and Buzz get lost and need to find Andy, in the second, Woody gets stolen and his friends try to get him back. In this film, the whole gang gets tossed about all over the place and we’ve no idea what it supposed to happen to them by the end of the film, their ultimate goal does not become obvious until the very end.

Which leads me to another sticking point. The toys themselves. Did you notice that in the first film, they were extremely careful not to let anything they do make things appear out of place? That meant they tiptoed around and were careful to be just as they were left. In Toy Story 2, the rules were loosened a bit and the toys began to interact with their surroundings, especially Woody, who moved around frequently. This does not include the scene where the toys cross the road, that is simply the what happens when they do move about.

However, in this film, all of that is lost as the toys haphazardly move around as they please, moving things about and turning things upside down. can they really be considered toys any more if they are altering their environment in a way that would clearly be noticeable by a human? Methinks not. It is as if the humans in this film are oblivious to what’s going on right under their nose. That seems a bit of a stretch and somewhat spoiled the film for me. The first film made me believe that my toys were doing stuff when my back was turned. Toy Story 3 makes me wonder if they were doing anything at all.

Perhaps I am too harsh on Toy Story 3, it is after all (hopefully) the conclusion to the story that the writers intended. In that respect, it does commendably. How it gets there is a different matter entirely, but that should not putting you off seeing one of the year’s best films thus far.

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