DIR: Steve Loter • PRO: Makul Wigert • ED: Margaret Hou • DES: Dan Hennah • MUS: Joel McNeely • CAST:Ginnifer Goodwin, Mae Whitman, Rosario Dawson
Well, it must be December. Not because the Christmas lights are up, or because it’s getting cold. No; another year, another Tinker Bell movie just in time for the holidays. This time around, the story once again follows not-the-title-character as Fawn (Goodwin) stumbles across and befriends the NeverBeast due to her fascination with its strange, curious ways. There’s also an ancient legend that seems to imply that some form of monster, fitting the titular creature’s description is destined to wipe out their society (and curiously *only* their little society, localised entirely on a small island) unless they find and contain the Beast. But Fawn is convinced that the creature is friendly and needs to be hidden from the heavy-handed fairy border-control and so elects to help the creature and hide it. With the legend seemingly coming true and time running out, has Fawn made a grave error and doomed her species? Well since I’m sure next year’s instalment is no doubt already in production, you can probably guess for yourself.
Let’s get the basic review out of the way. No one over a certain age will be actively seeking this movie out. If you’re going to see it, it’s because you’re either one of its target demographic or the parent of one being dragged along. To the parents, take solace in the fact that this entry in the franchise is both shorter and more tolerable than last year’s. There are actually some cool(ish) visuals near the end when the whole thing goes full apocalyptic fantasy and, while wholly unoriginal, it was pleasantly surprising to see a movie in this particular series take that direction. The NeverBeast itself is essentially one of the Colossi from Shadow of the Colossus; being a (relatively speaking) giant, ancient guardian that acts as a check against an evil, gas-based malevolence that will destroy the world. While the climactic action sequence is exactly the same as that of Avengers Assemble, with a large portal in the sky that needs to be closed, characters making a final, suicidal lunge to close it and then plummeting, unconscious, back to earth once the task has been accomplished. Unoriginal, but refreshing in that you’d expect Tinker Bell movies to be suffocatingly entrenched in perceived generic and gender ‘norms’.
Indeed, in addition to completely ignoring the perceived boundaries between what would likely be seen as ‘girl movies’ and ‘boy movies’ by marketing execs, the film is, in its own way, fairly progressive. The main character’s entire motivation is a very Doctor Who-esque, optimistic quest for knowledge, while worrying about the consequences later. There’s a nice variety of characters and the roles they fulfil in the world and while, yes it’s all dressed up in quite “cutesy” language and job descriptions, it’s nice that it doesn’t feel the need to only show male fairies doing all of the science or guard work (in fact, you see hardly any of the male fairies). It’s not much to write home about but it’s nice to see that these films are at least aware that they’re being made in the twenty-first century and not just catering to a 1950s toy salesman’s view of what “little girls” want.
Now, let’s talk about fascism. While last year’s Pirate Fairy brought up some troublingly classist undertones, they were largely absent this time around. The question could still be raised as to why in this liberal wet-dream of a society, where everyone appears to be on level pegging, there’s no visible monetary system and everyone is content to do whichever job they like; why there’s still a monarchy? I suppose the border patrol have to answer to someone but it’s curious. Anyway, on to that border patrol…
Pixie Hollow (or whatever it’s called) is almost hilariously fascist. The plot kicks off with Fawn trying to smuggle an injured baby hawk out of fairy territory (they don’t take kindly to their kind ‘round them parts) and being caught, almost leading to hawk being killed. Then when she discovers the NeverBeast, the same thing happens. It just seems odd in this rainbow coalition of broadly drawn stereotypes (including the most borderline offensive “nerd” stereotype to have escaped a 1980s frat-house comedy) that such a troublingly small-minded, fear on an Other should be so prevalent.
Amusingly, the only genuinely interesting or even remotely decently written character in the film is the head of this Fairy Death Squad, Nyx (Dawson). Yes, by the end of the story she seems to have learned her lesson that their little kingdom doesn’t need to be protected with quite that level of “us or them” morality and that maybe not all foreign(er) creatures are the same and you know what, perhaps she should stop being quite so gung-ho to murder their young on sight, just because they happened to have been born within fairy borders but still, for most of this film, she is fiercely uncompromising in fulfilling her duty to eliminate outsiders. She seems especially disgusted at Fawn early on when she displays compassion for such a creature. It’s yet another odd quirk of the society in these movies. The overall setup; a lefty’s utopia. The military arm; fiercely right wing.
Fascist undertones aside, it’s all perfectly insipid. The running time is mercifully short, the animation is still too clean and sterile-looking and there’s that inevitable, offensively bland pop song that has to be in it for synergistic reasons that gets repeated at least one too many times and feels like nails down your mental chalkboard. The writing is rubbish, the supporting cast is wasted (Lucy Liu was apparently in this somewhere and even Tinker Bell has only about seven minutes of screen time), the jokes fall painfully flat if you’re an adult and even the young kids in the screening remained silent at most of the punchlines. Still, the plot isn’t terrible, the NeverBeast design is kind of fun once he starts to transform, there’s a couple of nice action scenes and the actual score is pretty ok in places. I’m not going to recommend it but hey, if you find yourself being dragged along to it, it could be worse.
G (See IFCO for details)
Tinkerbell and the Legend of the Neverbeast is released 12th December