June 25, 2013
Movie Review: Monsters University (Part 1)
Probably one of the greatest benefits of being a 20-year-old college student is the dozens of free movies that I can openly get into. Not only this, but I think Disney has a specific plan as to how they go about conceptualizing and shooting their films. Toy Story 3 was a nostalgic adventure for audiences between 17 and 27. While this doesn’t really matter for anyone who hasn’t seen a Toy Story film (you’re not American), it strikes a special cord with the aforementioned demographic because of Toy Story’s release around the time that these men and women were only children. Another to mark down in the history books would be Disney’s Monsters, Inc.
Monsters, Inc. told the story of Mike Wazowski and Jimmy Sullivan, two very strange monsters in a world where scaring humans is imperative to how their world operates. People don’t just respect these ‘scarers’ because they’re cool, they revere them because they power the Monster world. The adventures of Mike and James as we know it carried them to the eventuality that making people laugh is much more effective than frightening them. That was more than ten years ago.
Monsters University takes us back before scare doors and hourly door checkups. Before Mike and James were the world’s greatest duo at Monsters, Inc., they were college friends. The story of both monster fanatics stretches far thinner than you could have imagined. (Major Spoiler Alerts)
The film begins with a very young Mike Wazowski dreaming of the day that he could be a scarer. This isn’t such a simple task; Mike is hardly two feet tall. Be that as it may, Mike dedicates his life and free time to studying monsters and scare tactics, as well as collecting for his 6000 card collection of scare cards. For many other teenagers, like Mike, scaring is more than a task to keep their world pumping with life and energy; it’s a cultural achievement for monsters around the world. Since this era takes place before we discover that a child’s laugh is much stronger than their frightened screech, we’ll never see Boo or any of the other familiar human faces from Monsters, Inc.
Instead, we see Mike traverse the nine years of his life, and now our little boy is all grown up and heading off to Monsters University, the most prestigious human frightening school in the nation. It is here that we see the beginnings of the film’s atmosphere and ethics. The Monsters movies have always made a heavy note of trying as best they can to align our own values with theirs; the result is a movie that gives us a mirrored reflection of ourselves. The only difference here is that we can associate a monster’s individuality with their appearance; every monster in Monsters University is unique in that they have a specific purpose. This also translates to them being able to complement their physical appearance by aligning their preferences in clothing and music to that of what associates with their being.
Monsters University follows James and Mike when they first met, as well as their most talked about exploits in the Monsters world. If you could believe it, Randall started off as Mike’s roommate, and James was the dumbfounded jock looking to prove to his father that he could finish college. The story is put into much greater perspective when we identify with central goal of the film; to study in the Monster Scaring program, you must pass the final exam at the end of the test course semester. However, if you fail to pass your exam, you will be permanently excluded from the Scaring program.
Old friendships and nostalgic flashpoints join downright hilarious 3D animated characters in a variety of happiness, sadness and, finally, humorous scenes as we discover the true adventure that both Mike and James have. Their friendship bypasses the normal bro code; these guys began a very complicated Smarts vs. Brawn rivalry at the origin of their friendship. At times you could swear that these themes are as familiar as ever to your own life, and why wouldn’t they be?
Monsters University looks to reach into the twenty year old college student inside us all and rewire how we interpret confidence, fearlessness, and the ability to know when to hang on and keep aspiring. Mike’s relentless courage is held in the best spotlight with James’ (aptly called ‘Jimmy’, for short) undying capability and soft exterior.
More will be covered on this review in the next post!
Image Credit: Pixar / Disney