A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!
Directed By: Andrew Stanton, Angus MacLane
Written By: Andrew Stanton, Bob Peterson, Victoria Strouse
Produced By: Lindsey Collins
Starring: Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Ed O’Neill
Running Time: 97 Minutes
Pixar sequels have developed a slight inconsistency over the years, with the occasional picture triumphantly becoming an instant classic of the canon. Thirteen years has passed since the groundbreaking Finding Nemo swept up on our shores, presenting pioneering visuals effects, ideas and characters to generations of audiences in sheer awe and amazement.
It’s fair to say that Finding Dory, the eagerly anticipated followup to Nemo has had audiences the world over itching to jump back into the theatre chair and experience the next underwater chapter with their favourite sea creatures of yesteryear as they either reminisce about their childhood, experience the film as a maturer adult or even dive into the animated ocean for the very first time. Finding Dory is not just a long-awaited Disney Pixar sequel, it’s a significant tentpole picture of the decade and will be celebrated across the globe for what it is.
Set one year after Marlon (Albert Brooks), Nemo (Alexander Gould) and Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) return home from their transpacific adventure, Dory finds herself experiencing an existential crisis of sorts.
Suffering from severe short-term memory loss, the endearing anterograde amnesiac begins to have fuzzy flashbacks about her parents and upbringing. These unfamiliar and striking recollections send her on another journey of discovery across the deep blue, and she’s taking her two favourite clownfish along for the ride once again.
From the offset, Finding Dory appears eerily similar to the original, which isn’t an inditement; more a noticeably “safe move” for a film that had the luxury of thirteen years in development. As the plot progresses and we learn that Finding Dory shares shockingly similar beats to Nemo, curiosity seeps in regarding the whereabouts of something new, fresh and original.
Attempting to replace timeless, definitive characters with uncharismatic, two-dimensional and disposable characters is undoubtedly Finding Dory’s biggest fault. For example, Bruce the shark and his two loveable sidekicks are replaced by a dormant giant squid, whereas Willem Dafoe’s Gill and his idiosyncratic tank-dwellers are replaced by a coffee-drinking octopus, a conveniently placed whale shark and a loveable beluga whale (all of whom are humorous enough, but vastly inferior compared to their narrative predecessors).
The opening third (and a few elements for the remainder of the film) in some aspects are the cinematic equivalent of a cover band releasing a greatest hits album; it’s simply not the same and slightly pathetic.
For all of its attempts at new and investible characters that can transition into the pre-existing world, Finding Dory introduces the new elements as best as it can, however over the course of the film, there seems to be something severely lacking. That ‘something’ is undefined and inexplicable, but it establishes a seismic void within the narrative that is incredibly difficult to fill. This unfortunately predictable void can also be found in many other Disney Pixar sequels in recent years with few exceptions.
Thankfully however, the plot of Dory eventually deviates into realms previously unexplored, offering fresh and entertaining plot threads as well as numerous moments of quintessential Disney Pixar charm.
Aesthetically, not much has changed within the animation of Finding Dory, which triggers two opposing reactions. The first is that the animators and creative team behind the film have opted for a similar style and appearance to the original from over a decade ago.
Creating continuity and flow that will make revisiting the original a less-jarring experience (like Toy Story and Toy Story 2 for example) is a clever and thoughtful approach, particularly when considering how we’re re-introduced to Marlon and Dory.
The other reaction is that the lack of significant advancements within Finding Dory could be a reminder of just how significant and pioneering Finding Nemo was some thirteen years ago, which is never a good sign when introducing something ‘new’.
A lot of Finding Dory retreads the original and reminds the audience of its quality, which stems into not just the appearance of the film, but the characters and aforementioned narrative beats.
To its credit, Finding Dory gallantly attempts to explore new and exciting areas, however even with a fluctuating, exciting conclusion, the highlights of the film are reminiscences for the most part, which, as previously mentioned, is a rather safe approach from Pixar.
If Dory speaking whale and “Just Keep Swimming” were your highlights from Finding Nemo, prepare to take a trip down memory lane whilst you accompany Dory on hers. Whilst Finding Dory introduces new elements to the deep blue world and presents genuine emotional beats synonymous with the Disney Pixar brand, one cannot help but think the story, characters and plot lines could’ve deviated slightly further away from the universally beloved 2003 original.
By no means a flop, there’s something for everyone as is expected with these properties, however for a sequel about memory and the past, Finding Dory does a great job of living in it.