By Rhiannon McKinnon
Last year saw something that animations fans have not experienced before. Not only did Pixar release two films in one year, instead of the usual single year release, but both the films were original concepts. This was a welcome return for the studio that once only gave us originality that has now succumbed to producing a tirade of sequels. Last year’s Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur may have been met with different degrees of success but for lifelong Pixar fans it seemed a step back to the studios former glory.
Knowing that this year’s release was a sequel to one of the studios strongest films, Finding Nemo, filled fans such as myself with both dread and excitement. Would this be a Toy Story success or a Cars 2 style disappointment?
Luckily, thanks to returning writer and director Andrew Stanton, Finding Dory is one of the strongest sequels the studio have delivered, with beautiful animation and the most lovable fish ever at the helm, Dory herself. Finding Dory may not be as on point as Pixar’s Toy Story saga but its strong enough to remind us why sequels can be a good idea.
After the events of the first film Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) is living happily, (if forgetfully), with Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo (Hayden Rolence, replacing Alexander Gould). As part of the family, she slowly begins to remember that she did once have a family of her own. Taking Nemo and Marlin along for the ride, she sets out across the ocean to remember and find her lost family. Along the way meeting all host of sea creatures from Hank the Octopus (Ed O’Neill) to a pair of lazy Sea Lions, (Idris Elba and Dominic West)
Andrew Stanton is once again at the helm as writer/director now with the help of co-director Angus MacLane. Originally parent studio Disney had wanted a straight Finding Nemo sequel but later on Stanton pitched that the follow-up should tell the tale of sidekick Dory and how she ended up alone.
The similarities between the two films are obvious. Both centre on characters journeying across the ocean to find lost family, both see the journeying parties meet an array of sea creatures along the way, and, similarly, both films are fun and filled with humour and action.
Dory is also able to deliver on the emotional level. Her memories of her loving and protective parents propel her on her journey to reunite with them. Her fear of being alone and forgetting her friends is always present and makes her a vulnerable as well as plucky hero.
The only thing that sets this film apart from its predecessor is the story structure. Whereas the first film divides into two solid story arcs, Dory and Marlin and Nemo with the tank gang, this film does not. Here the split in the narrative feels messy until the two parties eventual collide.
The film is filled with characters both old and new, from Mrs Ray, Crush and Sea Lions to an Oyster Clam. Although these mass of characters are fun and cute, towards the end they feel overloaded, not adding to the story.
The first film was a marvel to behold with its underwater effects and array of sea creatures. The animation team have once again exceled in creating an underwater odyssey. More detailed and with more depth, a scene with a passing school of Sting Ray is particularly amazing.
Pixar’s technology has advanced so much that even a scene featured from the first film had to be reanimated due to the differences in appearance.
One concern many fans of the original faced was the evolution of Dory from scene steal sidekick to main character. So many studios have moved popular characters to the forefront in sequels without success. Here, despite a few narrative flaws, Dory is a lovable, emotional, and vulnerable leading fish.
DeGeneres not only embodies Dory with her charm, charisma, and humour but with more emotion. This is Dory’s journey to discover herself. Brooks again gives a stern but caring Marlin while newcomer Rolence does a sweet and developed Nemo. Great comic relief is offered from the large supporting cast including a surreal cameo from Sigourney Weaver.
One of Pixar’s strongest sequels to date. Not its finest feature but with beautiful animation, amazing characters, and a story that makes sure everyone will just keep swimming.
(Also stay till the end of the credits for an appearance from some old friends….)
FINDING DORY IS OUT 29th JULY