The Equestria Girls series is one franchise that’s reception has definitely improved overtime. Looking back, I remember when people thought it was some kind of cruel joke, taking the beloved characters from the highly successful television series, removing them from their enchanted and immensely interesting world of Equestria, and placing them in a high school setting for their first feature film seemed like a real slap in the face from Hasbro. I’ll admit it though, I saw the first two Equestria girls movies in the theatre, and I liked them. I wasn’t over the moon about them or anything, and they certainly didn’t win me over as much as the TV show did, but I thought they were fun, cute little films that had way more effort put into them than films of their type normally get. So If I enjoyed the first two films, I just had to have liked the latest entry, Friendship Games. Right? Uh….well…….here’s the thing……let’s get into the review and I’ll explain.
One of the best parts about last fall’s Rainbow Rocks was it’s cliffhanger ending, which introduced The human world’s Twilight Sparkle (Let’s call her Sci-Twi cause it’s cute.) I was really curious to see where they were gonna go with this character. She’s pretty much the same as the Twilight Sparkle we know and love, just a little nerdier and a bit more socially awkward. She’s adorable, and one of the few things that I thought the movie gets absolutely right (Until the climax.…) as far as the other characters go, it’s kind of lacking this time around, with the one notable exception being Sunset Shimmer. Girl, you are OWNING these films! Sunset once again carries the whole film with her character arc still being the most interesting to watch. So far, she’s the only My Little Pony villain to be reformed that hasn’t felt forced. It’s a much more natural transition from a one-note bad girl to a more fleshed out character, and she’s still the best and most relatable character the Equestria Girls series has put forth. Surprisingly, and disappointingly, the main 5 (Pinkie Pie, Applejack, Rainbow Dash, Rarity and Fluttershy) are some of the more forgettable characters this time around, which is surprising. Applejack is given a nice and touching scene where she teaches Sci-Twi how to use a bow and arrow, but the scene only lasts for about a minute, and aside from that moment I can’t really say that the rest of the main 5 do much that’s terribly memorable.
The Rival School, Crystal Prep Academy, houses a few more interesting Characters, but most of them are still underdeveloped, with most of the students only receiving a few lines of dialogue and not enough screentime. If you were to ask me what their names were, I’d have to double check some of them. (although I will say that Lemon Zest is pretty much the greatest thing ever. And I’m not just saying that because I adore her hair and infectious spunky attitude.) What the film truly lacks is a strong villain. Rainbow Rocks had three fun Villains in the form of the sirens. They weren’t terribly complex, but were still threatening enough and had some terrific songs to accompany them. Friendship Games doesn’t have the Sirens. Instead, we are given Principle Clinch, the leader of the Crystal Prep students. While her first appearance is fairly effective and moody, the character simply isn’t all that interesting, and I couldn’t help but feel like she was just a less engaging version of Dean Hardscrabble from Monsters University. The film also tries to throw in another villain towards the end of the film, and while I won’t give away who it is, the character’s transformation feels rushed and lacks the impact it should have. (though they do pull off some pretty unique and fun visuals during the film’s climax.)
The story itself at times can feel oddly convoluted despite the basic premise being relatively thin. I understood it fine, but for a newcomer? This movie really expects you to be familiar with both the show and the previous two films and I can see some new people being a little lost. All that being said, the film still looks really nice. This is the first Equestrian Girls film not to be given a theatrical release and while it feels less cinematic then the previous entires, the film is still bright and colourful and the animation is smooth and refined, resulting in some of the best flash animation you can possibly see. The film’s soundtrack is also, unsurprisingly, utterly brilliant. Composer William Anderson and Songwriter Daniel Ingram return once again and the two conjure up some wonderfully catchy tunes for this film, with both “Unleash the Magic” and “ACADECA” being the two showstoppers of the film.
Friendship Games is a little more clunky than it’s predecessors. That being said, it’s not a train wreck or anything. It’s not even necessarily disappointing. It’s an Equestria Girls movie, which means It’s got good animation, great music, not so great writing and Characters that vary in quality. I’d say that if you liked the first two films, like these characters and want to see where they go next, by all means, buy it. Heck, even I bought it. The Blu-ray itself comes with a great audio commentary and some interesting special features. But newcomers might want to become more familiar with the first two films first before watching this one.