Because I loved Monsters Inc. so much and I was so disappointed with Monsters University, even though it was over a month ago that I saw it, I just have to tell you what I thought. Warning: this review will probably contain spoilers.
I was so excited when I first heard about the prospects of a Monsters Inc. sequel. Something about the original was so touching, and exciting, and hilarious it resonated with me and instantly became one of my favourite movies ever. I heard the sequel was going to mainly focus on Mike when he was younger, how he got into comedy and how he got such a happy-go-lucky attitude. It would show how he and Sully became friends and how they rose to the top. While it’s technically true that most of those things are shown in this new movie, they’re nothing like you’d expect. And I don’t mean that in a good way…
The story follows Mike’s misadventures in his first year of university, in training to become a scarer. Mike is a overly-enthusiastic nerd, who’s trying his hardest to get noticed, while Sully is a lazy jock from a famous family. They come to loggerheads in class one day which results in an accident which sees both of them thrown out of the Scarer Training course. Mike refuses to give up hope and he and Sully, along with a bunch of quirky misfits, team up to compete for their spots back in the scarer course.
So what am I actually disappointed about? That story doesn’t sound so bad. Sure, but what’s so good about it? Where’s the originality? Where’s the interest? This kind of underdog, rising from the ashes story has been told a million ways to Sunday. Every character is a cliché; you could swap each of them out with equivalents from any number of movies, and the whole thing would hardly change.
Now, if that was all that was wrong with it, I could maybe overlook it to focus on the good in it (which I will mention later). But for me, there were so many glaring inconsistencies in Monsters University compared to Monster Inc. that it stopped my enjoyment dead in its tracks early on. A large portion of the premise on which MU is based is blatantly wrong: Mike & Sully knew each other as early as primary school (middle school in America)! They didn’t just meet at university. Another inconsistency arises when Mike and Sully go to work in the mailroom at Monsters Incorporated, and meet the Abominable Snowman. He’s their boss. If this really happened, they would’ve know him when they met him again after being banished…but they don’t. There are things like this scattered throughout the movie, which break any immersion and investment I may have in the story. I can’t enjoy it because it shouldn’t exist.
Mike and Sully in this movie are very different from how they were in the original movie. And, sure, that should be the case because they’re a lot younger and less experienced with the world. But the differences in their character don’t match that. Mike’s still got his characteristic positive attitude but where does it come from? If we go along with this movie, we’re to believe he was just born with it. He doesn’t become positive through his experience, he’s just like that! Sully, on the other hand, starts off as a mean, aggressive slacker, and by the end of the movie you do see him start to be more caring, like he was in the original movie. But even then, it just doesn’t quite seem to gel.
I don’t think even the people that made this movie like it as much, because you can see a certain amount of care is missing from it. In Monsters Inc. we only got a tiny glimpse of monster society, with all its curious customs and culture so bizarre to the human world. This was one of my favourite aspects of MI, and I particularly liked the amazing mixture of monster-inspired architecture and design: buildings with horns, bumper bars with fangs. But in Monsters University, it’s as if they just ran out of time or inclination to put this level of detail and imagination into the world. Most of the buildings are boring and plain. Many of the scenes would look no different if they were repopulated with humans.
And the buildings aren’t the only place lacking variety, the monsters are too. In the original movie we actually saw quite a wide range of monster: from tiny ones to beast so big we only saw a foot! From spikey and puffy, to liquidy and furry, there were so many. However, this movie has a lot less. Apart from supporting or main characters, nearly all of the monsters fall into a few small categories.
Another thing that distracted me from enjoying the movie was I started thinking about the equivalent situations and jobs in the real world. The whole movie is really weird when you think about it this way. Scarers are like trained athletes, whose career is to generate electricity. That’d be like track athletes training to run in a hamster wheel or something to generate electricity. Sure, there’s more skill and finesse to it than that, but that’s my point. Meanwhile you’ve got all the failed scarers and nerds studying to design and build energy cartridges, which is portrayed as a dead-end, boring, unfulfilling job. These people would be engineers in our world; it’s not very nice to portray engineers that way! And the students who are doing door design would be building inter-dimensional portals as their university assignment! Imagine that!
Overall, the moral of the movie is pretty mixed up, and is definitely not clear until it’s all totally over. Initially it looks like it’s your typical “You can do anything when you put your mind to it”, but when everything fails, despite Mike working his hardest, that moral falls apart. Instead, we’re left with “Sometimes your best just isn’t good enough”. Luckily, right at the end it turns into “No matter what, there’s always another way or another option altogether”, which is a good moral to learn. In hindsight, I didn’t mind so much. Sure, little Mike is cute and all, but a movie is more than the cute of one brief scene. I guess the reason I was so disappointed with this movie was because I love the original so much, and I had such high hope for this one. I went back and watch some of the trailers for it the other day, and some of them looked much better than this movie turned out to be. They seemed more in the vein of the original Monsters Inc. and I really miss that.
Have you seen Monsters University? What did you think? Did it live up to your expectations? Have I said anything you disagree with? Tell me & everyone else who passes through here what you think in the comment below.