It’s been ten years since Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) first exploded onto our screens in a rush of revving engines.
But when it comes to motor racing, time isn’t a car’s friend even if you’re the undisputed champion of the racing circuit. When Lightning comes up against the next generation of racers – sleeker, faster models with a wealth of racing simulators and training gadgets at their disposal – it could spell the end of the racing hero’s career.
‘Cars 3’ isn’t about Lightning at the top of his career, it’s about the moment he realises his career is coming to an end. There’s still racing aplenty, of course, but the ‘I’m the best’ mentality is shifting into ‘I cannot stay the best’ and that has a drastic impact upon the storytelling.
‘Cars 3’ is, if you’ll pardon the pun, more emotionally driven than the previous movies of the franchise, which might ruin the magic a little for younger viewers. If you were to judge the noise during act two, it seemed some of the younger kids weren’t particularly fond of that emotional journey. Or maybe they were just there for the racing scenes.
That focus on the emotional journey might make the second act a bit hard to sit quietly through for younger viewers, but for older movie-goers this is a sweet story about a lot of the problems we face as we realise that getting what we want never goes to plan.
The problem with being on top of the world is that there’s only ever one direction you can go. We don’t often look past the moment of victory in movies and it’s a brave move for a kid’s film to look beyond the idea of ‘happily ever after’ to the realities of change and aging.
Frustratingly, there are issues with gendering here; odd, given they’ve added another female character front and centre in the narrative. And yet, there are tropes at play that jarred me from the movie and, honestly, frustrated the hell out of me.
That it’s 2017 and female characters in kid’s movies are still stereotyped into doe-eyed love interests, pep-talk givers or oblivious and obnoxiously cheerful irritants bothers me, given the otherwise near-flawless storytelling of the movie. The truth is that ‘Cars’ isn’t a ‘boy’ franchise; the audience was packed with girls hyped to see the latest movie, too.
And if this is a farewell from the franchise – and it feels like it might be – would it have been so hard to give audiences a kick-ass female character who wasn’t defined by the men around her? There are issues, but even so, it’s hard not to love ‘Cars 3’. Lightning’s journey is an interesting take on the hero’s quest and it’s hard not to appreciate the movie’s attempt to explore the other side of victory.
Though it doesn’t feel like a ‘welcome to the universe’ for a newer, younger audience, if you’ve grown up with these movies, it’s a nice piece of closure to the trilogy with the potential as a fantastic starting point to a new direction in the storytelling.
★★★★‘Cars 3’ is released nationwide 22 June.