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Synopsis:

Following the events of “Friendship Games”, the human persona of Twilight Sparkle has ingratiated herself at Canterlot High School and with the human version of the Mane Six, but suffers almost constant fear of the possibility of reverting into her malevolent alter ego, Midnight Sparkle. At the same time, she and the rest of the Wondercolts are headed to Camp Everfree for a month of fun. On arrival, they meet up with counselors Gloriosa Daisy and her younger brother Timber Spruce. Timber and Twilight form an almost immediate attraction, but Timber is constantly butting heads with his sister, who seems obsessed with making sure everyone is taken care of and kept happy by satisfying all of their needs herself. Sunset Shimmer and Twilight end up being tentmates, and after unpacking Twilight surprises them both by subconsciously telekinetically levitating most of the objects in her room. Fearing that it’s a sign of Midnight Sparkle’s influence returning and wanting nothing to do with it, Twilight makes Sunset keep it a secret from the others until she can stop it.

The first night at camp, Timber tells the group the legend of “Gaia Everfree”, a mysterious and dangerous entity that supposedly dwelt in the forest before his family settled there and who threatens to one day return to claim the camp for herself. The next day, disasters and strange events start taking place around the campers, and trails of gem dust are left everywhere; which, according to the legend, is a sign of Gaia Everfree’s presence. More than that, the other members of the Mane Six are beginning to manifest new abilities that seem to be tied to being in Camp Everfree: Applejack has gained super strength, Rarity can generate gem shields, Pinkie Pie can charge objects to explode, Rainbow Dash can move in a flash, and Fluttershy can understand animal languages. The girls begin to suspect that Gaia Everfree might in fact be another creature from Equestria, but Twilight fears that this is Midnight Sparkle subconsciously returning and that it means she could cause something bad in the near future. When Sunset learns that she herself has gained the power of tactile empathy, she takes the opposite viewpoint of Twilight and instead encourages the others to use their powers more, but while the girls enjoy them Twilight begins to isolate herself for fear of causing problems.

One night, Twilight tries to run away from camp, but Sunset and Spike not only find her but also find Timber wandering in the woods. When Sunset learns that Timber always wanted his family to sell the camp so he could move to the city and sees a trail of gem dust coming from his pocket, she begins to suspect he purposely created the myth of Gaia Everfree in order to get the camp shut down and has been behind everything. After she overhears part of an argument between Timber and Gloriosa, she takes that as confirmation of her suspicions and follows Timber until she finds her way to a strange glowing cave in the rock quarry–the one area that the campers are forbidden from intruding on. Knowing that Twilight is growing attracted to Timber and not wanting to accuse him of treachery until she knows for certain he’s behind everything, she brings Twilight along with her when she and Spike go to investigate the cave. Inside, Sunset senses genuine Equestrian magic coming from a crystal podium made for seven smaller geodes; five of which are missing. Not long after, they are confronted not by Timber but by Gloriosa. On accidentally touching her, Sunset discovers that Filthy Rich has been threatening to turn Camp Everfree into a spa and that Gloriosa only had a month to come up with the rent to stop this. She stumbled upon the seven geodes and discovered they gave her power over plant growth. Desperate to try and save the camp by showing the campers the best time ever via caring for all of their needs, she used the power of five of the geodes to try and solve every little problem in camp and make everything more fun. Unfortunately, most of her actions ended up backfiring, requiring Timber to make up the legend of Gaia Everfree to cover for her random acts of chaos. The argument Sunset overheard was, in fact, Timber trying to convince Gloriosa to relinquish her newfound power as he realized her personality was beginning to change. However, even though Twilght warns Gloriosa of the corruptive influence of Equestrian magic, she insists the only thing she needs to handle everything is more power and she seizes the remaining two crystals, transforming her literally into a visage of the fictional Gaia Everfree.

Now fully corrupted and psychotic, Gloriosa imprisons Twilight and Sunset and moves on the camp, intending to seal it, its campers, and herself forever in a single massive plant so that they will all be “protected and cared for”.The rest of the Mane Six attempt to help the other campers escape, but Gloriosa is capable of nearly instantaneous regeneration and soon the camp is locked up and the campers imprisoned along with Timber. Sunset and Twilight arrive but find themselves nearly caught, with Twilight’s own power being the only remaining chance at stopping Gloriosa. Although she is at first scared of reverting into Midnight Sparkle, Sunset and the others encourage her by telling her they know she’s strong enough to remain in control. Finally, Twilight unleashes her own power and is able to “pony up” herself; stripping Gloriosa of the seven crystals and giving them to herself and the Mane Six instead; resulting in each getting a respective crystal necklace that permanently gives them their new abilities. Gloriosa fully reverts back into her old persona and learns the error of trying to handle all of her problems alone, but laments that the camp is still doomed to close in only a few days. However, the Mane Six and Wondercolts elect to throw a Crystal Gala in the same cave where the geodes were found and invite all camp alumni for a fundraiser. Using their new powers, the group pulls the task off in one day, and the gala is a success while Twilight and Timber use the opportunity to begin a relationship. At the end, while Sunset is happy for the group’s new abilities, she also wonders how the geodes ended up at Camp Everfree in the first place. The scene cuts to the front of Canterlot High School at the pedestal that Midnight Sparkle attacked in “Friendship Games”, and reveals there is a tiny crack that Daydream Shimmer failed to seal opening a rift to the Equestria dimension…

Review:

Fresh out of watching the Equestria Girls Magical Girl Spinoff Series Pilot, I mean, “Equestria Girls: Legend of Everfree” and…well…something comes to mind from it.

Something…involving motorcycle ramps…and shark tanks.

I puzzled over why they changed the plot/ending of “Equestria Girls: Friendship Games” from the original concept. It was originally supposed to equally be about Sunset Shimmer and Sci-Twi, and perhaps more about Sunset Shimmer as, at the end of it, Sci-Twi was supposed to go back to Crystal Prep and Sunset was supposed to be the one who learned that the human world, and her human friends, was where she belonged. Instead, the plot was changed to be mostly about Sci-Twi with Sunset’s opportunities to stand out reduced to where she was mostly part of the “bloc” that is the Humanized Mane Six.

Now, of course, it all makes sense. The makers never got rid of the idea of making “Equestria Girls” a full-fledged “magical girl” spinoff series, BUT they wanted it to not have any ties to the source series. The only way they could do that was by writing Twilight Sparkle out of the script. However, that would mean that Sunset Shimmer would fully have to take over her role and Twilight Sparkle would have no part in this group, and they obviously felt Twilight Sparkle was a big selling point for the dynamic so, over the course of the 3rd and 4th movies, Sci-Twi has ingratiated into the group.

So how did it work out?

Unfortunately, in my opinion, not too well.

The time to break the franchise off into a stand-alone series was after “Rainbow Rocks”. It would have been weak after “Friendship Games”, and it’s even weaker after “Legend of Everfree”.

The movie isn’t bad…but it’s not good either. It’s the most emotion-lacking entry since the original movie. However, unlike the original movie, there’s nothing new here. There’s no twist of Twilight Sparkle finding herself turned into a human. There’s no villain who, although uninspired, has the interesting trait of being a unicorn masquerading as a human. It’s all the parts that are now well and established in the franchise to the tune of a regular plot, and then offers nothing new to spice it up.

All of the teases in the previews indicated that Midnight Sparkle might make a return appearance as an alter-ego in Sci-Twi’s head. And do you know what? That would have been a great move. It would have been something unique. The fact of the matter is when villains get reformed in the whole series, usually it happens in a “poof” and from then on in they’re solidly good from that point forward. To have a character running around with a split personality that still craved the power to attain all knowledge, or perhaps made Sci-Twi still feel just a little bit better about her own weaknesses and inadequacies and therefore she couldn’t “let go”…that would have been something interesting and different.

Instead, Midnight Sparkle is nothing more than a fear in Sci-Twi’s head; only slightly more substance than the brief shot we get of Demon Shimmer in the “My Past is Not Today” music video. A plot device to keep her from stopping Gloriosa Daisy outright. And that’s pretty much the problem with that whole subplot. We already had a well-done plot involving a former villain haunted by her past, fearing that she’s more of a liability to her new friends than someone who can truly connect with them, and who managed to conquer her fears and stand with them. It’s called “Rainbow Rocks” and it involved Sunset Shimmer. Everything about Sci-Twi had been done and done better.

Some of the songs were pretty good. On the whole, there seems to be more effort put into songs in the movie than in the series nowadays. Yet whereas I thought the quality was high enough to offset the quantity in “Friendship Games”, in this one we only get a couple really good ones. So while the music isn’t bad, it’s still “overshadowed” by “Rainbow Rocks” and “Friendship Games”.

The closest thing we have to being something new and interesting is the villain, Gloriosa Daisy. She was…interesting, at least, but underdone. The big problem with this movie and the previous one is that the villains aren’t really “villains”…just people who had gone psychotic from trying to use Equestrian magic. But it was done better in this film versus the last one.

Midnight Sparkle was just “generically crazy”. Her desire to understand more about magic was warped to the point where she wanted to rip apart the human world to gain access to magic and learn about it.

Gloriosa Daisy was done a bit better. What the first three movie villains all have in common is ultimately their motives were purely selfish and self-interested. By comparison, somewhere in Gloriosa’s twisted mind, she thought she was somehow doing “what was best for everyone” by merging the camp, herself, and all the campers into one gigantic plant. And that…actually makes her craziness more disturbing and effective. Craziness isn’t really crazy if you’re acting logically. Midnight Sparkle wanted more knowledge and all she did was not care about what stood in her way, which is morally skewed but not necessarily insane. Gloriosa Daisy, on the other hand, was genuinely messed up. In addition to that, the speed of her regeneration and her art style, only the third villain to have “tar eyes” in the series as a whole (the first two being Tirek and Demon Shimmer), made her look genuinely malevolent and disturbing.

But even that had problems. In the previous entries, the girls had to somehow unite to stop the villain. In this one, Sci-Twi just stops her with her one and only attack. The movie actually already had the villain defeated before the girls had a chance to pull off their magical transformations. And after she was defeated, the movie still had the whole subplot about the camp possibly being closed down, so things drug out after the climax longer than they should have to tie up that loose end.

Even with these weaknesses, the film could have still come out ahead. All of this might have worked normally (and it kind of did in “Friendship Games”), but there’s a couple glaring problems that go below average and drag it down.

Like the series does from time to time, it had a muddled moral. And this is the first entry in the Equestria Girls movies that did.

“If you have problems to overcome, you can’t try and tackle them all by yourself. It’s important to realize that your friends and loved ones are there for you, and to learn to rely on the encouragement and support of them rather than try to be ‘superman’ and take on more responsibility than you can handle. After all, you’re only human, and that’s ok.

“…Oh, and Sci-Twi? We need you to pretty much step up and save us all single-handedly by yourself, because you alone are the only one who can.”

The most awkward thing was that the Equestria Girls franchise was doing perfectly fine as being a “side plot” to “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic”. By trying to sever its ties to that series and become something it was only ever supposed to be in-part in the first place, a magical girl series, its making the characters awkward. Sunset Shimmer fit the role nicely of Twilight Sparkle’s protege, but now we suddenly have to make her the teacher and Sci-Twi the protege. Suddenly we don’t have “real” villains like the Dazzlings anymore. Instead, in the past two movies, it’s been people who have just gone temporarily insane from trying to use magic. Yet even “Friendship Games” had a genuine villain in Abacus Cinch, and people complained that was too much of an archetype. In this movie it’s even worse because the genuine villain is your typical greedy wealthy industrialist, and, worse yet, they didn’t make him original but used humanized Filthy Rich. And thanks to a little thing called Season Five’s episode “Crusaders of the Lost Mark”, that would have made things so awkward for humanized Diamond Tiara that she never even shows up in the film.

Lastly, in the worst move at all, they did the one thing that seemed to polarize people more than anything about the first film: they tried to give Sci-Twi a love interest.

There’s a couple things wrong with that.

A.This is a Y-rated show. Romantic love is only going to be as cliche and corny as possible, and therefore will fall flat on the majority of the fandom. While one can argue that the show still needs to appeal primarily to its original demographic, many episodes in Season Five and Six show the opposite is true and it’s catering to the adults instead.

B. They’re doing it with someone who comes off as more of a jerk than Flash Sentry. Not much of one, and, as a result, someone who seems more real and genuine than Flash…but the fact is one who still seems more negative. Timber Spruce’s big schtick is he and Sci-Twi keep going on about how they already know science trivia facts. Yeah…really the stuff of puppy love, that is. It sounds more like they’re prepping each other for Quiz Bowl than falling for one another. The other thing is Timber seems more smarmy and slightly more smug and egotistical than Flash. So, in essence, after things failed with Flash Sentry from a plot standpoint, they’re basically using a character who is less likable and appealing than Flash Sentry was and hoping he somehow works out?

C. Flash Sentry is still around, whose mere existence is testament to the fact they failed trying to do this before. Literally every time he walks on the screen is a reminder about how the “Equestria Girls” franchise is stuck with a character who just doesn’t work and doesn’t have a place in the story. If they had made some excuse for Flash not being able to come to camp or simply not included him, that might have helped. By actually having him not only there but actively trying to pair with Twilight, coupled with what I said above, it makes the flimsy attempts at romance even more pat and shameless by simultaneously showing how this won’t work as well as showing a character who, honestly, seems to work better with Sci-Twi than the one she ends up with.

D. Last but not least, they’re doing something the Nostalgia Critic cautioned against…

In “Friendship Games”, there was a brief scene where Flash Sentry tried to interact with Sci-Twi, got ignored, and then humanized Derpy came by and patted him on the back. It was basically the writers acknowledging: “Yeah…we really don’t know what to do with this character, so he’s getting welcomed into the background.” Basically, pointing out a concept that didn’t work. And that’s fine if you do it once.

But in this movie, pretty much the only reason Flash appears on the screen is to point out how it doesn’t work. Heck, they even came out and did it again by acknowledging how equally lazy and awkward it would be if Flash paired up with Sunset again (which was never shown on screen to begin with, and Sunset came out and stated in “Rainbow Rocks” that she never cared about him…just wanted the status he represented), before doing ANOTHER Derpy-comes-by-and-pats-him-on-the-back.

So the series acknowledges that a plot item doesn’t work, right before trying to do it again with a character more irritating than the one they tried it out on.

That, quite simply, doesn’t make any logical sense.

So do I think the film was bad? No, just…alright. The problem is it doesn’t take many chances. It doesn’t really try to show us anything new. 90% of it is things we’ve all seen before and gotten used to, and the remaining 10% is rather by-the-numbers. Even the girl’s respective powers aren’t all that great.And if it’s the start of a long series of episodes against villains who just go temporarily insane rather than do anything really evil…yeah, this might get stale quick.

The problem with being “just alright” is that, at this point, the viewers expect more. Part of the reason “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” took off was because it was supposed to be created as just a shameless gimmick to sell merchandise and ended up being entertaining, clever, appealing, and surprisingly good. The series appeal is all about taking what you expect and surprising you with something different. As a result, when you get something that ends up being exactly what you expected, it comes off as bad. What looked like it should have been the springboard for a stand-alone series ended up coming across as a regular episode in that same series.

At this point, either a fifth movie would need a significant rebound, or a regular series needs to start. Until this film I had hopes that even if the source series ended, this one would continue as a new and exciting spinoff series. However, if “Legend of Everfree” ends up becoming the new Equestria Girls par for the course, the feature film coming out next year might very well have to be subtitled “Farewell to Equestria”.

 

Fun Facts:

While the movie was originally marketed as having been written by Josh Haber, the same individual who wrote “Friendship Games”, the actual credited writers are Kristine Songco and Joanna Lewis, the same writers for Season Five’s “The Hooffields and the McColts” and Season Six’s “Gauntlet of Fire”.

The film was to be the first in the franchise to debut as a Netflix exclusive. However, the film was aired in English in its entirety on Brazillian TV an entire week before its scheduled release, and was widely pirated and made available on Youtube.

While “Friendship Games” was the first film in the franchise to not feature any scenes set in Equestria (unless one counts the brief glimpses into Equestria made when Midnight Sparkle shatters the dimensions), “Legend of Everfree” is the first film in the franchise to not feature any characters or locations from Equestria other than Sunset Shimmer.

As in the series as a whole, Rebecca Shoichet (the voice of Sunset Shimmer), provides both her own singing voice as well as the singing voice of Twilight Sparkle. “Embrace the Magic” marks the first time in the franchise history she has soloed a song as Sunset Shimmer, not counting the “Friendship Games” short: “My Past is Not Today”.

Enid-Raye Adams provides the voice of Gloriosa Daisy. While her filmography in TV is extensive, her voice acting roles are more limited. She played Orange Slice, one of the only two Canterlot tourist ponies that Pinkie Pie was able to rope in, in Season Six’s “Spice Up Your Life”.

The “grunge pony” who has been around since the original “Equestria Girls” movie finally receives a name: Sandalwood. He’s voice by Vincent Tong, the same voice actor who does Flash Sentry.

Derpy, credited as “Muffins” and voiced by Tabitha St. Germain, has a line in this movie. This is only the third time she has ever spoken.

Trixie Lulamoon has a single line in this film…meaning, similar to the original Equestria Girls movie, Kathleen Barr had to be brought in to record a single line. 😛

Pinkie Pie’s new power resembles that of Gambit from the X-Men.

At several times in this movie when Gaia Everfree is mentioned, Gloriosa Daisy walks in covered in shadow, temporarily appearing to be Gaia Everfree before it’s revealed it’s just her. This ends up being foreshadowing as she ends up being “Gaia Everfree”.

Gloriosa Daisy’s corrupted form is somewhat unique for the series in that it’s a totally different color scheme from her original form.

Snips and Snails have one of the film’s most genuinely funny moments in their reaction to corrupted Gloriosa Daisy. 😀

I personally didn’t care much for the Crystal Form outfits. They remind me of band uniforms.

Rating:

2 Stars Out of 5

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