Friday, November 27, 2015

The Good Dinosaur: A Good Western

It was Thanksgiving yesterday. (As if none of you know that. Wait, actually, according to my stats, many of you are in Europe and India and the Middle East, so you might not have known it. That said, we Americans tend to be pretty loud and obnoxious, so if you haven't learned to tune us out yet, you probably did know. Sorry.)

After stuffing ourselves to the gills in celebration of a historical event that didn't actually happen, my family and I decided to celebrate the rare chance to be together (we're actually out of state visiting my dad's side of the family--last seen by me three years ago due to a geographical distance of 1500 miles--as well as my parents and brother, whom I barely see because of college despite being only half an hour away by car).

We did this by shutting ourselves in a dark room and watching a screen for two hours without talking to each other. In other words, we went to the movies.

We decided on The Good Dinosaur, because we love Pixar, it's a family movie, and Victor Frankenstein sucks (according to Rotten Tomatoes, which is our movie god).

In terms of animated movies, it was great. True to Pixar, it made us laugh and cry. In terms of Pixar movies, it's in the lower rungs. Not at all on par with Inside Out or Finding Nemo.

Part of the reason I didn't like it so much is because it's a Western. It had the Western farm, storyline, accents, music, everything but the riding into the sunset with the damsel. So there were a lot of tropes and cliches that were true to the genre, but Pixar could've used better ways to tell the story.

Anyway, this totally counts towards RinnReads' Sci-Fi Month, because it's AU scifi. (Alternate universe, a "what if" in history that changes the present. What if the Nazis won WWII? What if Thomas Edison had never been born? What if the meteor never hit earth and so dinosaurs are still alive?)

Enjoy the spoilers! :)


The star's name is Arlo (see? Western), and he's the runt of the litter. He's got a big burly brother and a smart sister, as well as tough-as-nails parents. Everyone's on the farm, and everyone's striving to "make their mark," in this case, literally. They have a corn cylo where they stash all their food, and when they've hit a big milestone, they mark it with a footprint (in the parents' case, it was building the farm itself; in the brother's, it was clearing the field; in the sister's, plowing the field).

Arlo's trying to make his mark, but he's a coward, scared of everything from storms to bugs. And who can blame him? Put a bug under a microscope; they're terrifying!

Arlo's dad decides the best way for Arlo to get brave is to have him kill something. (That always goes well.)

There's a "critter" who's been stealing their food. Arlo sets a trap and gets ready to kill it, but when he  sees it (it's the human boy, who certainly looks like a critter), he can't do it, and let's him go. The dad sees this, and the two of them chase after the boy.

In the confusion and rain, Arlo trips and hurts himself. The dad figures they've had enough and it's time to go home.

Cue the flood, and the standard Disney slaughter bus for parents.

Is it a spoiler that a parent dies in a Disney movie? No, I guess it's a spoiler if they don't die.

The family's struggling to harvest everything before winter. So it really doesn't help that the critter-human sneaks into the cyclo and has been chomping on their food. Arlo, furious and blaming the boy for his father's death, chases after him, and they fall into the river. The same river that killed his dad. This river is more dangerous to dinosaurs than meteors.

Arlo ends up stranded, and before long finds himself starving. But at least he knows how to get home: follow the river. The deadly, horrible river.

He sets up a shelter, where the boy finds him. The kid acts and moves a lot more like a dog than a human: howling, sniffing, going on all fours, all of it.

Caveboy offers Arlo (who's still angry at him) food. Unfortunately, the boy keeps offering meat, and  Arlo's a strict vegan. After a couple frustrating failures, the boy gives Arlo berries, then shows him where to find them. Then tries to stop Arlo from eating them. Arlo doesn't understand what's up until the snake (with weird little arms and legs, but only four, so it's a quadrupedal snake, I guess?) attacks him.

This is where we find out the boy's a friggin' BAMF. He takes on this venomous, scary, extremely quick snake and scares it off in the fight (while Arlo's cowering in the corner).


I would be Arlo 

The fight's seen by another dinosaur, a big one who's as afraid of the world as Arlo, except he collects various critters to protect him from everything. And I mean everything. Creatures, mosquitoes, unrealistic expectations, whatever. This other dino wants the boy, and determines that if he can name the boy, he'll get to keep him. Arlo and Even Weirder Dino get into a naming contest, until Arlo finds a name the boy actually responds to: Spot.

Really, Pixar. Is it too much to ask for just a little more creativity?

Anyway, Arlo and Spot (grr...I wanted to call him Critter) keep traveling together, and they make the audience cry when they both explain--Spot nonverbally but beautifully--that they've both lost at least one parent (Spot's an orphan).

Then a storm happens and completely wipes out all the familiar landmarks, destroying any chance Arlo had to make it home.

That's when he finds the pterodactyls, who are searching the ruined area for survivors. They offer to help Arlo find his way home, in exchange for his help with the heavy lifting. Arlo's fine with this, and helps them uncover a small survivor (another critter, but not a human).

Then the pterodactyls eat the critter.

In a dino-free Western, these would be the crazy religious fanatics who kill anyone and everyone who doesn't believe as they do, or possibly the KKK. In a dino-Western, these guys worship storms, and scavenge in the carnage they leave behind. "The storm provides."

The pterodactyls find Spot, and he and Arlo run away.

Right into a pair of t-rexes.

But luckily the t-rexes are friendly (even though Arlo's species would probably be on their menu; maybe green dinosaurs are toxic to them, or something). They scare of the pterodactyls, and we learn that they're ranchers (complete with Texan accents). The dad shows up (and he's had his face bitten by an alligator; a friggin' alligator!), and refuses to help Arlo, because their herd has been stolen (by feathered velociraptors, which is one of the few scientifically accurate things in this movie; paleontologists are realizing that dinosaurs had feathers, not scales).

See? Feathers.

Arlo decides to help them. Well, actually he has Spot help them. Spot sniffs out the herd, and Arlo's forced to man up or get eaten by a pissed-off t-rex. He becomes bait for the raptors, and the t-rexes take them out.

And then we get the campfire, more herding, the inspirational speech from the new father figure, blah blah blah, tropes tropes tropes...Arlo finds the river again and he and Spot break away from the t-rexes.

But just as they're about to get to the farm, they see another human. An adult.

Seeing the other critter (er, human, but he's hairy enough to count as a critter), Arlo decides he's not going to let Spot go, essentially forcing him to return with him to the farm.

Booo! Bad dinosaur! Bad!

Then the pterodactyls come back and kidnap Spot, so Arlo's screwed either way.

Arlo ends up unconscious and stuck in a mess of vines, and has this creepy vision involving his dad freeing him. At first it looks like he's alive (and you think, "You dick! This was all just an elaborate scheme to get your kid to grow a pair? Your wife is being crushed under the burdens of being a single mother, mister!"). Then Arlo realizes his father is in fact not alive by the lack of footprints (and you either think, "So, he's high?" or "So, how exactly did he get out of the vines?")

Anyway, the vision serves to enforce Arlo's conviction to save his new friend. He wakes up, gets free of the vines, goes saves Spot, ends up in the river (again), saves Spot (again), and they head to the farm.

The adult human shows up again, but this time with his whole family. None of them appear to be related to Spot in any way, but Arlo decides it's best if he stays with this family of strangers instead of with him at the farm. So they have a bittersweet farewell that will also make you cry (but not as much as the "Yeah, we're both kinda orphans" conversation).

Arlo comes home safe and sound in time to see everything harvested. His family did all the work while he was away. The perfect ending for a teenager!


Know a good movie, show, or book?
Any questions or concerns?
(All criticism is welcome, so long as it's respectful.)

Then PLEASE contact me.

Thanks for reading! :)

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