Saturday, 8 July 2017

Equestria Girls special review: "Mirror Magic"

And that's a wrap. This is the last piece of Equestria Girls content we're getting this year. Three shorts, 66 minutes, and yet not a single note of substance. "Mirror Magic" is easily the worst of the three shorts, rehashing ideas from earlier two-parters while piling on other tiresome tropes and possessing absolutely no emotional resonance whatsoever. All three shorts are vacuous and mostly unimaginative, but whatever positive qualities were present in the other two are largely absent here. It does nothing to move the series forward, isn't particularly funny, and is filled to the brim with lazy storytelling and characterization. It is an absolute waste of time.

If you'd asked me last year, I would have said that Equestria Girls should really expand into being a proper series. Now, I just want it to be over with already. None of these shorts demonstrates even the slightest interest in exploring what actually has potential about this world and these characters, and that would be fine if they weren't also committed to these hollow, derivative, thorougly tired storylines. "Mirror Magic" has a bad villain, a predictable structure, limp gags, and one-note characterization, and I do not understand why it exists. It's stagnation of the worst kind, and completely absent from it is the heart and charm which drew me to My Little Pony in the first place.



Starlight Glimmer is worried about a magical threat showing up, so she goes to Equestria to talk to Princess Twilight. Princess Twilight is away, so she talks to Starlight Glimmer instead. Starlight wants to go to the human world, so Sunset brings her. Meanwhile, Juniper Montage bristles over being thwarted by the Rainbooms, is stuck with a dull job at a movie theater, uses the mirror to take her revenge. Starlight and Sunset need to stop her.

As with most things Equestria Girls, a disproportionate amount of "Mirror Magic" is simply devoted to setting up the main plot, especially with several scenes devoted to Juniper whining about the Rainbooms and toying around with her magic mirror. In "Rainbow Rocks," this was fine, because the plot started fairly quickly, and the buildup to the final showdown also featured Sunset and Twilight's character arcs. By contrast, "Mirror Magic" has no emotional scaffolding for its conflict. Juniper's motivations are still vacuous, and there's no profound contrast between her and the protagonists aside from the most obvious idea that, like Twilight, Starlight, and Sunset, she did something wrong and is saved by friendship.

In a turn which is sure to irritate a lot of people, Juniper is convinced to give up her sinister ways simply through being offered friendship. I'm not usually bothered by this kind of thing, but the film fails to establish a reason for me to care, and as a result, it feels like a rehash of earlier stories, especially the climax of Friendship Games. Juniper spends the majority of the special whining and looking at her reflections, and as a result she just comes across as self-absorbed and vapid. She's definitely not funny, as every gag in her scenes is trite and predictable, and even if she were, all those gags are at her expense, and as such it's hard to sympathize with her enough for her reformation to mean anything.

Meanwhile, Sunset and Starlight are off being bland again, and surprisingly, pairing them together reveals nothing about either of them. As I'd feared, putting two bland characters together results in a bland dynamic: Sunset just expresses anxiety about a magical disaster happening, while Starlight is excited about being in the human world, and neither expresses even a single personality trait beyond that. Bizarrely, Starlight also has a new chipper attitude which feels inconsistent with her relaxed persona in "Rock Solid Friendship," and she adds absolutely nothing to the special whatsoever. Her enthusiasm over the human world is more or less meaningless, the humour she brings is largely rehashed from the first film, and her heart-to-heart with Juniper at the end could have just as easily been delivered by Sunset or Twilight. Her presence is wholly extraneous.

Just to dispel any concerns that "Mirror Magic" would be at all creative, it gets the mane six and later Sunset out of the way simply by having the villain capture them without a fight. In "To Where and Back Again," this worked not only because the episode didn't waste time on the captured ponies, but also because that capture added to the protagonists' anxiety. But neither Sunset nor Starlight have anything close to a meaningful character arc, and Juniper's is shallow and meaningless, so it feels like little more than a lazy way to move the plot forward. The final battle does derive some tension from the world inside the mirror falling apart, but there's no real tension because we know this show won't actually hurt these characters.

Worst of all, this special tells us nothing new about the characters or the world. The cliffhanger from "Legend of Everfree" remains unresolved, we learn nothing new about the geodes, not a single returning character develops at all, and we learn absolutely nothing new about their lives, either. Instead, we get a bunch of beats rehashed from better movies and episodes, and the one thing this special does change about the series is that the main friend group now has Juniper and Starlight added to it, because what this series needed was two charmless new characters to bland it up even more. It doesn't even have the good courtesy to have some decent jokes, as characters run at the mouth without ever saying anything interesting. It's just so boring. 

And that's all we're getting from Equestria Girls this year. One entertaining special, two dull ones, and absolutely no substance whatsoever. Perhaps this series shouldn't get its own show after all, because if these specials are any indication, it has absolutely nothing left to offer. "Mirror Magic" in particular is an irritating rehash which sees the series spinning its wheels, doing the same thing it always does only with less conviction and heart. You've seen everything here before, and the execution is so charmless that I don't know what anyone could get out of it. I still think those first three movies have a lot of merit and charm, but if this is where Equestria Girls is going, I want out.

Score:
Entertainment: 3/10
Characters: 2/10
Themes: 3/10
Story: 2/10
Overall: 25/100

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