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Synopsis:

At Canterlot High School, Sunset Shimmer is an outcast after everything she’s done, with her only friends being the other members of the humanized Mane Six, who have formed a band: the Rainbooms. In an attempt to befriend students before they have a chance to learn about her past, she escorts three new students, Adiago Dazzle, Sonata Dusk, and Aria Blaze, around the school, but it soon is clear something is up when the trio (the Dazzlings) sing to the school, getting the students to turn against each other and apparently absorbing all of the discord that results. Sunset and the girls are unaffected due to the Equestrian magic they possess, but everyone else is, including the principal and vice principal, who change the upcoming Musical Review into a “Battle of the Bands” after being hypnotized by the Dazzlings. They suspect the three are using a form of evil magic and that they need Twilight back to defeat them by using magic of her own. Sunset remembers she had a book that, when written into, would display the resulting message in a matching book in Celestia’s possession, and for the first time in years writes to her asking for help.

As it turns out, Princess Twilight Sparkle now has the book and moved it into her new palace in Ponyville (following the end of Season Four). She gets the message and realizes the Dazzilngs are actually Sirens: merpony-like creatures who sing to turn creatures against one another and then feed and grow stronger off of that discord, causing a feedback loop that eventually allows them to take over completely. She uses a combination of magic and science to rig up the book to the mirror and create a way to open and close it at will, allowing her to return to the human world with Spike. She goes with the others to school and attempts to unite with the girls to stop them right then and there…but nothing happens. Rainbow Dash reveals their “Equestrian forms” only now appear while they’re singing in their band. They encourage Twilight to write a counter-spell/song that they can use to break the charms of the Dazzlings at the Finals of the upcoming Battle of the Bands, when all students are listening.

Unfortunately, Twilight is unable to think up a spell in spite of all of the girls expecting her to succeed by default. Meanwhile, Sunset is still upset that everyone expects her to be evil by default…and the two realize they’re more alike than they originally thought. The competition begins and the Rainbooms are able to get through to the finals, but the Dazzlings, realizing that the girls are immune to their charm, figure out that they are the source of the Equestrian magic and enchant everyone into being their enemies and frustrating them at every turn. While playing in the semifinals against Trixie’s group, the Dazzlings manage to start affecting the girls and get Rainbow Dash to grandstand, nearly bringing out their Equestrian forms right there. Sunset Shimmer, fearing it will tip the Dazzlings off to their power, breaks up the performance by force, earning the anger and hate of the school again as well as the Mane Six. Surprisingly enough, the girls still win the semifinals to go on to the finals. Enraged at her stolen victory, Trixie imprisons the girls under the stage and performs in their stead.

The girls start fighting amongst themselves over everything that’s gone wrong as the Dazzlings get out to perform, and Sunset Shimmer realizes the Dazzlings set this all up, including getting Trixie mad at them by ensuring her snubbing, so they could be here and fight and be a source of “food” for them. She gets the girls to reconcile, and Twilight realizes they don’t need a specific “counter-spell”; they can just sing anything and it will have the desired effect so long as their friendship is behind it. After being broken out by Spike (with help from humanized Vinyl Scratch/DJ-Pon-3, who was immune to the Dazzlings due to her headphones), the girls erect an opposing stage and perform just as the Dazzlings absorb enough power to yield their true forms. A literal “Battle of the Bands” breaks out but, although the Mane Six take Equestrian forms, they’re still unable to prevail, so Twilight encourages Sunset to join in with them. Finally feeling like “one of the group”, Sunset transforms into Equestrian form as well and becomes a “seventh element”, allowing the group to use an enhanced version of the Elements of Harmony to break the spell and shatter the power of the Dazzlings, rendering them tone deaf and harmless.

Twilight returns home, but Sunset now becomes a full member of the Rainbooms and finally begins to earn the friendship of the other students. With the two world’s permanently connected due to Twilight’s machine, Sunset begins an open communication with Twilight back in her world, starting off her letters: “Dear Princess Twilight…” The real human version of Twilight Sparkle is confused at everything that’s happened over the two movies.

Review:

As you may have seen in my other post, “Everything Wrong With ‘My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic – Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks”, I nitpicked this movie quite a bit. And, to be honest, in some ways this movie is a step or two backward from the first. Particularly the plot. The whole setup by the Dazzlings to get the Mane Six where they want them to absorb their power is practically a Gambit Roulette. And, like many McCarthy episodes, the episode focuses on one or two protagonists while the other members of the Mane Six are essentially just a “unit”, similar to how Merry and Pippin in “The Lord of the Rings” movies were a unit until the final film.

What makes it worse in this one is that Twilight Sparkle herself is beginning to “merge with the unit”…because, let’s be honest, the main character in this one was Sunset Shimmer. While the promotional material managed to shove her to the sidelines, even going so far as to have her only standing on the sidelines or in the background as a “roadie” or “side character”, she ultimately became the most important character in this movie.

Also, the movie relies on a mixture of plot devices and stupidity to keep the plot moving forward. The plot made the girls conceal their power from the Dazzlings when it’s clear the Dazzlings would have known about it already because everyone else in the school did, plus they even reveal they know Sunset Shimmer’s back story so naturally they would know how she was defeated. Conversely, everyone in the school should know how much Twilight did for them already and that they can trust her, although the show does have the excuse that the Dazzlings may have already brainwashed everyone into distrusting her and the Mane Six. (The school does go from mere distrust of Sunset Shimmer to outright dislike only after they start hypnotizing people.) The plot on one hand is simplistic considering how much of it is filled with just singing, while overly complicated on the other hand with the Gambit Roulette used to trap the Mane Six. Trixie appears to be in the plot just as fanservice.

Finally, the villains are dull. In a way, they’re kind of the mirror image of King Sombre from Season Three. Sombre was pretty bland but ultimately did very little in the show itself, making him a weak villain. By contrast, the Dazzlings actually do get the chance to “be evil” quite a bit and even a serious threat, but ultimately fail due to lack of personality other than “generic evil teenager archetype”. The only way they’re able to insert any personality into them is by having Sonata “be stupid”, which is a rather clunky way to do things. Having little other personality, they’re essentially big MacGuffins, which is a step back from Sunset Shimmer.

So yes, the movie did take a few steps back.

All of that said…I think it took even more steps forward. I liked it better than the original.

For one thing, Flash Sentry has been (mercifully) reduced even more to the plot. He’s almost to the point where any of Twilight’s attraction to him seems both forced and awkward, but as a fan of the show without him I can’t complain. There was more fanservice in including humanized versions of characters, but more importantly they allowed the characters to “be themselves” more than in “Equestria Girls”, where the majority of the focus was on the humanized Mane Six.

The plot is a bit simplistic with a poor setup and bland villains, yet it still manages to stay “engaging”. Whereas before in “Equestria Girls” the idea of a “pony in a human world” was supposed to be funny in its own right as Twilight tried to adjust, in this movie the setting is used to make the situation a bit more realistic, such as at the slumber party, without losing the magic all together. The end result is you get more character and “depth”. While the villains may not have been charismatic themselves, the final battle was again good (even if it wasn’t as extreme as a demon).

But far and away the best thing about this film is the relationship between Sunset Shimmer and Twilight Sparkle. Let’s be honest, Sunset Shimmer is a far cry in this movie from the villain she was in the original, yet there’s still enough “hooks” to make the audience believe she is indeed the same person. And similar to how Princess Luna was done in “Luna Eclipsed”, she ends up being remarkably dynamic as she struggles to give herself a “kinder, gentler image” and frequently gets frustrated, both in being constantly haunted and reminded of her past (even by her new friends) as well as being too afraid to “be normal”.

Yet what’s even better is that scene in Pinkie Pie’s kitchen, where Twilight and Sunset share a few moments together, and, as much to my surprise as that of the two of them, they realize that they’re closer to each other than they think. It was clear in the first movie that they were “two sides of the same coin”, not only from the name and background, but now they discover they’re more close to one another besides “one choosing good; one choosing evil”. They both suffer from everyone expecting them to be one thing the moment they see them. And whether that’s expecting one to be good or expecting one to be evil, it’s still a stereotype that they hate to have to deal with. That’s one of my favorite scenes in the series.

And it’s really a great moment at the end when Sunset Shimmer manages to conquer her own self-hate and doubt, the thought that she was never really a good enough person to be like the Mane Six, and join up with them to become a “seventh” Element of Harmony. It’s very similar to how Luna is able to “rise” in the second story arc of the IDW comic, which was a fantastic story to begin with. To say that Sunset Shimmer “stole the show” in this second installment is an understatement, but really the writing made her such an appealing character in this movie that it’s something you don’t mind seeing.

Last but not least, this is a great way to cap off Season Four because it marks how Twilight Sparkle has “completed the journey”. She’s gone from student to hero to princess to goddess…and now she’s finally in the roll where she started, with a student of her own who looks to her for guidance and encouragement. That was a great way to end things.

So, in short…I’ll admit it, this was actually a decent film and a pretty good entry in the franchise. Similar to how you only could appreciate the Season Four finale by watching the somewhat subpar “Keep Calm and Flutter On”, you can only really appreciate this entry if you watch “Equestria Girls” first. But so long as you end up with something good, it still ends up enjoyable.

I actually recommend this one a little.

Fun Facts:

Again, I hit all of these in my “Everything Wrong With”. The only thing I could add is there was a cut scene involving the humanized Flim-Flam Brothers as well, and Sunset Shimmer sounds far older than the rest of the girls, which was the same in the original “Equestria Girls”.

One of the key aspects of Trixie Lulamoon’s design is she’s one of the only characters on the show who has a single waterspot in her eyes, unlike the girls who have two and the CMCs who have three. In this movie, she got upped to the standard two in some shots.

As I pointed out in “Everything Wrong With”, the fact that Lyra and Bon Bon are doing a piano duet makes me think that had to be fanservice toward the lesbian shipping of the two that’s been going on for years.

Kazumi Evans, the voice of Adiago Dazzle, had been on the show almost since its inception as the “fill-in voice” for Tabitha St. Germain whenever one of her characters was requited to sing. This is the first time she’s been able to play the “speaking voice” of a character on the show.

Rating:

3.5 Stars out of 5

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