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Thursday, 16 June 2016


(or Zootropolis)

This film managed to slip under my radar for a weirdly long time - I actually barely knew about it until just before it was due to be released in cinemas, and even then, the only thing I knew was 'it was that film that furries loved,' an impression I mostly got from various jokes people made, and from the one spitting lunatic in my social circle who decided that a barely coherent rant about how Disney was involved in a secret conspiracy to cater to and trick furries was the order of that particular day.

But even after it came out, and it started getting rave reviews not just from critics but also from friends (I seriously don't know anyone who didn't adore the film), I still wasn't that interested in watching it? It was on my list of 'films for a rainy day,' but since I'm not a big film watcher anyway, watching it was a pretty remote possibility.

Well, yesterday was a rainy day.

Set in a world where animals - or mammals, at the very least - have overcome their animalistic ways to build a society, a young rabbit named Judy Hopps becomes Zootopia's first rabbit police officer as part of an inclusion initiative - only to immediately be assigned meter maid duties. Desperate to prove herself and backed into a corner by the police chief, Judy agrees to find a missing otter (one of fourteen missing predators) within forty-eight hours. Before long, she's teamed up with Nicholas Wilde, a fox and a small-time con artist who is understandably embittered at Zootopia's poor treatment of foxes and other predators. The two discover that predators within Zootopia are turning savage - a discovery which sends the city into a tailspin and exposes the deep social and cultural divides and prejudices within Zootopia.

One of the slower but funnier sequences of the film - and, for obvious reasons, the
slowness is part of the humour.

So, if you told me a few years ago that Disney would be producing a pretty incisive and to-the-point film on racism, using cartoon animals to illustrate the point while also being very overt and clear about it being about racism, I would have been - a little surprised, I admit. Broadly speaking, I'm not a fan of using animals, or aliens, or what-have-yous to make points about real-life social prejudices, because I think it's more effective in the long term to make films about prejudice as it exists in real life, rather than filtered through a layer of allegory - and that's still true, and it's a major mark against this film, but as far as allegorical films about racism go, Zootopia is a pretty good one.

That's partly because it's so direct: Characters frankly discuss the prejudices against certain types of animals, and the situations they end up in are often very deliberately tailored to match up with similar situations in real life. It's not perfect, and it feels a bit disingenuous for people to hold it up as the anti-racism film of the year or anything like that, but it's a surprising move for Disney, and I do appreciate the attempt, at least.

The two leads.

It's also a pretty strong film just in general. It's technically superb, with beautiful animation, a great soundtrack, and some very good voice acting - Ginnifer Goodwin and Jason Bateman do excellent jobs as leads Judy and Nick, and rightly manage to steal every scene they're in, which isn't always an easy task, given that the cast also includes actors like Idris Elba (as Chief Bogo), JK Simmons (as Mayor Lionheart), and Alan Tudyk (as Duke Weaselton - yes, Disney, very clever, very self-referential, not the only obnoxious Frozen reference in this film), all of whom manage to imbue their characters with considerable presence and personality. It's paced pretty well also, although it could have done with being ten or twenty minutes longer - long enough for a slightly longer denouement and a slightly longer final confrontation.

As a whodunnit, it falls a little short, as there's really no way for the audience to figure out the culprit or their means until the very end, but then, the whodunnit elements of the story often take a back seat to action, character development, and comedy, and the film does a pretty good job with those. The action is wacky and fun; the comedy is consistent and quite often laugh-out-loud funny; and the characters are likable and engaging, with both leads going on a considerable journey over the course of the story.

These two news reporters might be meant to be reference to some news pundits in
the US, but idk who.

All in all, Disney and I have had a fairly rough history these past few films, but I did enjoy Zootopia (or Zootropolis) a lot, and I feel I can fairly unreservedly recommend it. The film's met with critical and commercial success so far, so I cannot imagine it won't get a sequel sooner or later, so keep an eye out for that.

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