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Synopsis:

Canterlot High School has been peaceful for a while following the incident with the Dazzlings. Sunset Shimmer still frequently writes to Twilight Sparkle and the girls have shifted back into being “normal students” aside from showing off their pony transformations from time to time, although Sunset has been noticing a strange individual snooping around CHS appearing to be taking “readings” of some sort. It turns out the individual is the human universe’s version of Twilight Sparkle, who goes to an elite private school called Crystal Prep Academy (a mirror image of the Crystal Empire). Although she’s the smartest student in school, she’s socially an outcast as everyone at Crystal Prep is only interested in their own achievements and success, and she longs to be away from the contact of others all together and pursue her ambitions of gaining more knowledge and understanding of strange phenomena by enrolling in a special program that focuses on teaching individual students. At the same time, an upcoming event known as the “Friendship Games”, which is both an athletic and academic competition between Canterlot High and Crystal Prep, is drawing near. Although Crystal Prep has always dominated the competition, following the events of the first two “Equestria Girls” movies Canterlot High has been improving both athletically and academically, and Principal Abacus Cinch, to help ensure the winning streak goes unbroken, coerces Twilight into competing on the condition of getting her into her program.

Once arriving at Canterlot High, Twilight is shocked to find everyone recognizes her and is friendly to her (believing she’s the Equestria Twilight Sparkle). While she goes around the school using a new device of her own creation in an attempt to analyze and understand the strange phenomenon that have been happening there (i.e. Equestrian Magic), the Mane Six discover that their pony forms appear whenever they demonstrate their corresponding Element of Harmony and not just when they play music. However, Sunset Shimmer notices that soon after showing off these forms, the girls are dropping out of them and acting drained…and always when Twilight, who they realize is this universe’s instead of the Equestrian one, is around. Sunset writes to the Equestrian Twilight for help on this, but receives no answer. As a result, she makes an attempt to cross through the portal again, only for Twilight to appear and do something to the portal, removing it completely and cutting Sunset off from Equestria.

As the games begin and continue, Twilight sees how everyone at CHS is supportive and encouraging of each other, and even her in spite of being the competition; while the CPA students are cold, obsessed with winning, and only care about their own success. The girls even go out of their way to cheer Twilight up and encourage her, with Applejack even helping her win the physical part of one of the competitions. Unfortunately, the reason for the disappearance of the girls’ magic and the portal is Twilight’s device, and she ends up draining each girl as they reveal their forms to her. Worse than that, the more power she absorbs, the more dimensional tears the device begins to rip into the human universe, linking it to the world of Equestria, and the more anomalies it results in (such as giving this world’s version of Spike the power to speak). In one competition, Twilight’s device accidentally brings a carnivorous vine from the Everfree Forest into the human world, prompting Sunset, who realizes what’s going on, to blow up angrily at her and send her running off in tears. Immediately afterward, Sunset regrets what she’s done as well as fears she’s truly the one responsible for all of this for crossing into the human world to begin with, while Cinch, realizing by now that magic is real, pressures Twilight to use the magic she’s gathered herself to ensure CPA’s victory; this time appealing to Twilight’s desire to understand everything by saying it’s the only way she’ll learn about magic.

As the final event begins, Twilight gives into the temptation and uses her device on herself, warping her into a “dark alicorn goddess” similar to how Sunset Shimmer herself was warped into a demon by the Magic Element. Consumed by her desire to understand all things, she begins to rip apart the human world to bring Equestria into it so she can discover all the secrets of magic in it. In the midst of this, Sunset Shimmer comes forward and warns Twilight that doing this won’t make her happy; she’ll still be alone until she discovers the “magic of friendship”. Using Twilight’s own device, Sunset gathers the power of the Mane Six herself and turns into a “light alicorn goddess” before repairing the dimensions. The two engage in a struggle in which Twilight briefly has the upper hand until she sees Spike calling out for her to stop. Regaining herself partially as a result, Twilight balks which results in Sunset overwhelming her, but she doesn’t “smack her down”; instead offering her hand to her in friendship. Twilight accepts and both recover their human forms. Both the CHS staff as well as the CPA staff and her own students reveal Principal Cinch’s manipulation and, unable to protest that any cheating went on as no one would believe stories about magic, she’s forced to accept that both sides are declared “winners”.

In conclusion, Twilight expresses her desire to Dean Cadance from CPA to transfer to CHS. She joins the Mane Six, restoring them to seven, and everything is back the way it was before (except Spike somehow retains the power of speech). In the post-credits scene, Equestrian Twilight Sparkle arrives at last and she and human Twilight Sparkle are stunned to see each other.

Review:

I’m still not too keen on the idea of Hasbro ever making a specific spin-off of the “Equestria Girls” storyline as its own series and, as people may have guessed from the reception of the toys, doing so would probably not be very profitable. That said…I have to admit, the spinoff gets better with each new entry. This is my favorite one yet.

Starting with the bad as I usually do in these movies, there’s really not too much to find. By now, we no longer have to deal with “Twilight getting used to human things” like we did in the first nor do we have to deal with all of the convenience of plot in the second film. This plotline is…well, honestly pretty flawless. It’s not Oscar worthy, no…but it’s pretty solid. I will pick on the fact there was a random plot device inserted so that Cathy Wessluck could start voicing Spike instead of dog barks, and that for some reason at the end Spike can still talk with little explanation. Sunset Shimmer has advanced to being one of the more popular characters in the franchise, so…I’m not sure it was such a good move to shift away from her as much in this film and focus on Twilight Sparkle. And the movie kind of points out something wrong with its own plot when Luna warns the girls not to use magic so they can’t be accused of cheating…only for Celestia to point out at the end of the film that someone trying to say “they used magic!” sounds ridiculous in a magicless world. I also didn’t quite like the tacked-on moral at the end, which was when Sunset made a comment about not “running to Twilight for help” anymore. That might actually be a stab at addressing the whole problem of the original series…namely that Twilight has to fix everything while Celestia kind of sits back and watches…but it doesn’t go well here because, as pointed out, not only is Twilight always rather busy solving problems rather than being off on “royal summits”, but too much of the plot focused on human Twilight Sparkle’s problems rather than Sunset Shimmer’s.

At this point, Flash Sentry seems to officially be a “failed idea”. The movie almost seems to lampoon the fact the writers can’t find a reason for him to be there, and the plot is left in an awkward state where they deliberately introduced a character only to have nothing for him to do. That, unfortunately, is a side effect of the movies which only have a limited number of potential “installments” to do things in, whereas the series could have gone ahead and left him out all together. Still, I can’t complain too much as I never cared for him in the first place.

While Principal Celestia and Vice Principal Luna seem somewhat “better” in this one, although only slightly, Dean Cadance is more of a conundrum. The plot goes out of its way to show she’s supposed to be the “kinder” instructor interested in Twilight’s overall welfare…and yet she was present in the principal’s office when Twilight was pretty much being blackmailed and silently assented to it. That…kind of makes her a jerk too.

And…that’s really all I can fault it for other than nitpicks (which I will get to in my “Everything Wrong With”). Like I said…this is, in my opinion, the best one yet.

To be honest, the first thing that made me want to scream on hearing about this movie was that Josh Haber wrote it instead of Megan McCarthy. All of the “lackluster” that was present in Season Four I’ve blamed him for, as he wrote the episodes “Castle-Mane-Ia”, “Simple Ways”, and “Leap of Faith”. So far he’s only done “Bloom and Gloom” in Season Five. I complain a lot about his plots being boring and dull, but…well…thinking again on him I have to change that. To be honest he manages to keep narratives going. A lot of writers, especially in Season One, came up with plots that were too threadbare and needed a lot of music or padding to fill out. He actually fills his out pretty nicely. More than that, in episodes like “Bloom and Gloom” and…I can’t believe I’m admitting this…”Simple Ways”, he’s able to get more into characters and show sides of them that are new, different, and unused…but actually plausible.

That’s kind of what this movie did. A lot of it focused on the whole “What-If” setting with Twilight Sparkle. To be honest, that’s been done a LOT lately on the show, but they managed to not only keep it fairly fresh-feeling, but to highlight a lot of the girls while they were at it. Similar to “Amending Fences”, plots like this show more than “you need the magic of friendship or you turn into an evil, all-powerful dark god who needs to be smacked by Elements of Harmony”. It actually goes into the real heart of it…that even if you’re smart or talented or intelligent or have all sorts of things going for you, that if you don’t have people who care about you or friends to talk to, you really don’t have anything. Likewise, even if you’re an underachiever or a “loser”, so long as you have people you can turn to and to be there for as they are there for you, you really have all that you need and more than enough.

Abacus Cinch may have not been as flashy or dramatic as other villains, but…I kind of like that. We’ve had our share of ones who were big on “shadow” and lacked substance. If the show wants to maintain its “After-School Special” vibe, then it should also point out characters who are more conventional and subtle, which is what I feel it’s been doing a lot in Season Five. In real life, there are people in power over you who can ruin you without using “dark magic” or super powers. It’s important for kids to realize when they get situations such as Twilight did, are you going to hold on to integrity or cave under pressure…especially when it looks like your future is at stake?

“Twilight is the Villain” was kind of what I expected, but…even then they managed to do some new things with it. In the brief “Midnight Sparkle” scenes we saw (which I thought were very well designed, by the way), I like how, for once, the desire of the villain wasn’t just power but was knowledge; showing that even something that we see of as being neutral or a virtue can be twisted into something bad. And while a lot of episodes featured the fact that “defeating the villain is also ‘saving’ the villain”…I like how this one did things a bit different. Sunset Shimmer actually tried reasoning with Twilight Sparkle first, and when she did gain the power to beat her…she didn’t leave her smoldering in a crater like Twilight did with her. She just went up to her and offered her hand. To be honest, in most of Twilight Sparkle’s victories, she beats down the villain and then works on reconciliation. Sunset Shimmer was different. At all times, it looked as if she never “hated” Twilight, but pitied her. Made it clear the goal was to “save her” as much as save the human world. Even in the beam struggle, look at Sunset’s face. She doesn’t want to win to see Twilight stripped of power…she’s doing this simply because “she has to”.

And…well…since I’m not made of stone…I have to admit it was rather “aww” in the scenes where the neglected and unloved Twilight Sparkle hugs members of the Mane Six.

I guess if I have one other major complaint, it’s that the episode didn’t leave much room to go from here. The end of “Rainbow Rocks” had shifted Sunset Shimmer into Twilight Sparkle’s role. Now that there’s a “new” Twilight Sparkle in the group who is, pretty much, the same as Equestrian Twilight Sparkle was at the beginning of the series…it kind of leaves things in limbo. Sunset Shimmer is supposed to be the one learning about friendship now, and yet now she’s been made into human Twilight Sparkle’s “mentor” in a sense. Are we going to have two Twilights from now on? Is there not going to be any mention of the original Twilight anymore?

(It’s worth noting if they had gone with the original plot for the movie, both of these problems would have been eliminated. I’ll discuss that below.)

But, that aside…in my first two reviews I pretty much made it look like we had a lump of coal that we had to smash up quite a bit to get to the diamond. This is…more of an rough diamond that needs just a bit of cutting.

Fun Facts:

(Again, most of these will be handled in my “Everything Wrong With”.)

The movie was originally supposed to end differently. In the original treatment of the plot, Sunset was supposed to parallel Sci-Twi a lot more closely, only in her case she was wondering about whether or not she still belonged in the human world at a high school. “What More is Out There?” was originally supposed to be a duet between Sunset and Sci-Twi, the hallway scene was supposed to be different in which Sunset voiced to her friends she was entertaining the thought of returning to Equestria and leaving them, and there was even a scene in which Equestria Twilight Sparkle came through earlier in the film and met with Sunset in a coffee shop, directly telling her she could return to Equestria if she wanted. Most of all, the ending originally featured Sci-Twi returning to Crystal Prep Academy with a new appreciation for friendship that had spread to the other students and Sunset realizing her place was in the human world. All of these scenes had dialogue and music recorded for them but were never animated aside from a few backgrounds and storyboards, but are included on the DVD.

The first Equestria Girls movie not written by Megan McCarthy or directed by Jayson Thiessen (although he supervised). Also the first movie not to get an even partial theatrical release. It debuted on television on September 26, 2015, the same day as the Season Five episode “Maid in Manehattan”.

Abacus Cinch is a parody of the name “Atticus Finch”, the famous character from “To Kill a Mockingbird”. The character has some physical traits in common with Gregory Peck’s rendition of that character, but personality-wise has nothing to do with the character. She is voiced by Iris Quinn, a newcomer to the franchise.

Most of the Shadowcolts are voiced by either rare voices from the main series or newcomers. Sunny Flare is voiced by Britt Irvin. The only other character she has done in the series as a whole so far was Lightning Dust in Season Four’s “Wonderbolts Academy”. Indigo Zap is voiced by Kelly Sheridan. While Sheridan is a rather famous and long-career voice actor both in anime (notably as Sango from “Inuyasha”) and American cartoons, she was a newcomer to MLP:FIM in Season Five, although since then she has voiced several new characters including Sassy Saddles and Starlight Glimmer. Another “Inuyasha” veteran, although more famous for her roll in “ReBoot”, Sharon Alexander, debuted in MLP:FIM in this movie, providing the voice for the Shadowcolt Sour Sweet. This is Sienna Bohn’s first voice acting performance as well as her first appearance in MLP:FIM, although she turned in one of the more memorable Shadowcolts: the inappropriately-named Sugarcoat. The one “veteran” from the show in the group is the voice of Lemon Zest, Shannon Chan-Kent. She provides both the voice of Silver Spoon and Pinkie Pie’s singing voice normally.

Midnight Sparkle’s wings resemble the black wings from the “Final Fantasy VII” series, in particular Crisis Core and Kingdom Hearts. By comparison, Daydream Shimmer’s transformation resembles the same done by Ultimate Madoka in “Puella Magi Madoka Magica”, keeping with the knockoff vibe of the previous two movies.

First Equestria Girls movie to not feature any of the Mane Six as ponies and completely set in the human universe. Aside from a brief appearance of the Equestrian Twilight Sparkle in the post-credits, it features absolutely no characters from the main series either.

Both this movie and one of the prelude shorts revealed that Sunset Shimmer herself is also a bit of a “nerd”, as her sequence experimenting on the Mane Six is similar to Twilight’s experimenting on Pinkie Pie in Season One’s “Feeling Pinkie Keen”, and she is the student pitted against Twilight Sparkle in the academic part of the competition…and appears to be nearly an even match.

The names of the respective school sports teams are Wondercolts (Canterlot High School) and Shadowcolts (Crystal Prep Academy). The Wondercolts are obviously a takeoff of the Wonderbolts, the elite pegasus team in Equestria. By comparison, the Shadowcolts are a takeoff of the Shadowbolts, who were never a real team at all but were the fake team Nightmare Moon created in the pilot episode to try and tempt Rainbow Dash into abandoning the others. They made only one other “appearance” in the series until now, in Season Two’s “Luna Eclipsed” in which Rainbow Dash has dressed up as one for Nightmare Night. Interestingly enough, Vice Principal Luna seems to know Dean Cadance intimately, indicating that she might have had a past with CPA.

In one brief scene, a class is being taught by humanized Cranky Doodle Donkey.

When Abacus Cinch realizes she’ll have to accept that both schools be declared the winners, she straightens herself up, adjusts her jacket, and then turns and silently walks away. This seems to be a nod to Colonel Nathan Jessup’s final scene in “A Few Good Men” when, in spite of his rage, he realizes there’s nothing he can do to keep from being arrested and inevitably dishonorably discharged and imprisoned.

Rating:

4 Stars out of 5

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