Tuesday, July 26, 2016

"Divergent" Drops Out

I hadn't been keeping up with the "Divergent" series after the first movie, which I only found notable for securing an excellent cast of promising young actors, including Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, and Miles Teller. Like "Twilight" and "The Hunger Games," its creators had elected to split its last installment into two parts to extend the franchise. I had always wondered what would happen if one of these series started tanking at the box office before it reached its last installment. Well, now we know.

Earlier this week it was reported that after the poor performance of "The Divergent Series: Allegiant" back in spring, Lionsgate is going to skip the theatrical release of the climactic fourth and final movie, "Ascendant." Previously, it was expected to shoot this summer with a scaled down budget to reflect more modest expectations, and reach screens in June of 2017. Instead, "Ascendant" will now be a TV movie leading into a spinoff "Divergent" television series. It's not clear how much of the current cast is going to return, where it will air, or when we can expect to see it.

There's some precedence for a franchise moving from one genre to another like this. "The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones," was another film based off of a young adult genre book series, released in 2013. It failed to recoup its budget, but a television series based off the same material with different actors found some success on Freeform (formerly ABC Family). It premiered earlier this year as "Shadowhunters," and at the time of writing, has been renewed for a second season. Lemony Snicket's "A Series of Unfortunate Events" and Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" are also in the process of being adapted for web and television series after theatrical films meant to launch longer-running franchises failed to find audiences. However, I'm pretty sure that "Divergent" is the first time a previously successful film series has sputtered out after multiple installments, and made the switch to television while it's still technically trying to maintain the same continuity.

The part of this that I find really interesting is that Lionsgate has decided to use "Ascendant" to launch a new television series. I would have expected them to churn out a cheap sequel to finish off the film series, given it a quick release next January, and then tried to recoup as much as they could via VOD and home media. Then, if they wanted to return to this universe, maybe wait a year or two before going the television route. The approach that Lionsgate has chosen seems awfully rushed. I wonder, can rejiggering "Ascendant" into a backdoor pilot work if the main series is already on the rocks? Are they trying to capitalize off of the existing "Divergent" fans before they evaporate? And exactly what source material are they using for the show if the final "Divergent" book was already split into "Allegiant" and "Ascendant"? By picking this option instead of a later reboot or TV adaptation, Lionsgate is potentially sacrificing a second chance for the series' success. It's a bold move, to be sure.

In any case, I'm fairly sure that this is the end of the "book splitting" trend that "Harry Potter" sparked in 2008. With the young adult genre losing steam, it's getting riskier and riskier to commit these longer, serialized franchises. After the end of "The Hunger Games" and "Divergent," there aren't many ongoing ones left. The second "Percy Jackson" film bombed, and no more are planned. "The 5th Wave" broke even, but a continuation looks unlikely. And the final "Maze Runner" film is delayed until 2018 after its star Dylan O'Brien was seriously injured during production. More telling is that there aren't any new titles on the horizon - and the few adaptations that are in the works all seems to be heading to television.

"Divergent" does have its fans, and so far they haven't been happy with the announcement. It's understandable, because no matter how you look at it, Lionsgate seems to be conceding defeat. Still, everything still seems to be up in the air at the moment, so it's much too early to draw any conclusions. It's going to be interesting to see how this is all going to play out. Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised at all if they just end up cancelling the whole thing. Stay tuned.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

He's Her "Lobster"!

It feels like we've been waiting forever for the release of Yorgos Lanthimos's English language debut, "The Lobster."  This time out, he tackles the subject of love and romance, and the results are just as dark and twisted as you'd expect.  In the world of "The Lobster," pairing off is mandatory, and staying single is forbidden.  Those unlucky enough to be single are sent to a hotel for 45 days, where they must find a mate.  Those who fail are turned into the animal of their choice, but some run away to live as Loners in the woods, and are hunted and persecuted.

David (Colin Farrell) goes to the hotel after the death of his wife, where he meets the Lisping Man (John C. Reilly) and the Limping Man (Ben Whishaw) among the men attempting to make love connections.  They are carefully watched by the Hotel Manager (Olivia Colman) to ensure that they are following the hotel's many regulations, and that the matches are genuine.  Potential mates include the Nosebleed Woman (Jessica Barden), the Heartless Woman (Angeliki Papoulia), and the increasingly desperate Biscuit Woman (Ashley Jensen).  Among the communal activities is regularly going out into the nearby woods to hunt Loners.  Among these are the Loner Leader (Léa Seydoux) and the Short Sighted Woman (Rachel Weisz).

I'm very impressed by "The Lobster," but at the same time it confirms for me that Yorgos Lanthimos is a director who has chosen to limit himself to making a very rigid, very particular kind of movie that isn't really to my tastes.  I admire how he constructs these incredibly repressive, brutal, allegorical societies with ridiculous rules, which he uses to satirize elements of the real world.  This worked very well in "Dogtooth," where the family was a microcosm of a tyrannical state, but it's harder to connect real world social rituals around love and marriage to the screwed up system in "The Lobster."  I'm sure that there are people who really do view the business of finding a partner as this kind of Kafkaesque nightmare, where they are obliged to follow impossible rules and end up grievously harming themselves to conform to the established norms.  I'm not one of them, and really had to engage in some mental gymnastics to accept the film's twisted logic.

For instance, there's the prevalence of coldly brutal oppressor figures in "The Lobster," all of them female.  They employ shocking violence without a thought, only one of them with any hint of emotion.  The men end up engaging in various types of self-harm in order to prove their love.  Couples are deemed compatible based on seemingly trivial shared characteristics, and are viewed suspiciously if they appear too dissimilar.  Initially the hotel seems like the major institution of tyranny, but David discovers that the Loners are just as bad in their own way.  Having declared war on the system, they decide instead to outlaw romantic relationships altogether.  It's a fascinating collection of ideas that don't quite all fit together, but allow the filmmakers to explore relationships from an angle I've never seen before.  I especially enjoyed the ending, which the rest of the film slowly builds up to in such a gradual, systematic way, that I didn't see it coming.  

Colin Farrell makes for a very fitting Lanthimos leading man, with his baleful expressions and nervous, guilt-ridden posture.  David always seems obliged to hide his emotions from other people, so much of what he's feeling has to be conveyed silently, in subtle ways.  All the characters are very detached and repressed in behavior, prone to seething privately, and lashing out when cornered.  The participation of the name actors, like Léa Seydoux and Rachel Weisz, doesn't take away from the unsettling, paranoid atmosphere that Lanthimos creates.  I love how quietly malevolent some of the characters are, and even relatively good natured personalities like John C. Reilly's poor schlub are eventually obliged to join in the violence.

Lanthimos's dark, dry sense of humor made the transition to the English language intact, and I continue to appreciate it greatly.I love the way that David carefully relays his rationale for choosing the lobster as his animal alter ego, as if he's reciting his driver's license number.  The Hotel Manager or the Heartless Woman have the habit of making the most outrageous pronouncements in completely businesslike, disinterested tones.  We don't learn much about what happens to successful couples, but the brief glimpses of family life we see are very telling.  One particular line involving the topic of parenthood is completely absurd on its face, but in the world of "The Lobster," makes a sick kind of sense.

And once you do buy into this world and its demented logic - which is not an experience I would recommend to everyone, particularly sensitive viewers - the movie works.  It's oddly comforting to know that Yorgos Lanthimos, as extreme as he is, does believe in love, and believes that it's something worth sacrificing yourself for.  I found the movie too brutal to truly enjoy, but in its own special, horrific way, "The Lobster" really is lovely romance.


Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Crowdfunding Age

The great Czech stop-motion animator Jan Švankmajer recently finished up a successful crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo for "Insects," which he expects will be his final feature film.  He joins a long lists of filmmakers who have successfully used Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaigns to fund film projects over the last few years, including Spike Lee, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Charlie Kaufman, Paul Schrader, Phil Tippett, and Zach Braff.  As an animation fan, I've also tracked campaigns by Masaaki Yuasa, John Kricfalusi, Bill Plympton, and PES with interest.  It's been roughly four years since the concept of crowdfunding films has really taken off, and I think it's a good time to take stock.

First and foremost, crowdfunding is not for everyone.  It's become a much more visible and popular source of potential funds for indie filmmkers, and makes it easier to get certain projects made, but there's a lot of risk involved in going this route.  Stephen Follows' blog crunched the numbers last year and reported that only roughly 42% of film-related crowdfunding campaigns are successful at reaching their target goals.  Short films are more likely to be funded, as they tend to ask for less money. The bigger campaigns have a much higher failure rate, which is pretty much anything asking for over $50,000.  And as many have pointed out, the high failure rate is not a bad thing considering many of the campaigns are for fairly risky projects.  Most are delivered late and it's still too common for them to never be delivered at all.

The most successful campaigns for full length feature films are generally the smaller ones, and funds are often used to patch holes in the budget of an already mostly funded film or to create pitch materials to woo bigger investors.  Campaigns like the one for the "Veronica Mars" movie that funded the production of the entire film are rare.  Jermaine Clement used a Kickstarter campaign to finance distribution of "What We Do in the Shadows" in the United States.  A campaign for "The Babadook" paid for art department and special effects costs.  After a Kickstarter campaign for a rom-com featuring Melissa Joan Hart was a spectacular bust, raising less than 3% of the $2 million requested, and Uwe Boll struck out twice on two different projects and fundraising platforms, campaigns have generally been much more modest and limited.

It's hard to forget about the success stories, though.  Crowdfunding has helped some prominent breakout films and launched careers, including those of Jeremy Saulnier with "Blue Ruin,"  Ana Lily Amirpour with "A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night," Josh Mond with "James White," and Justin Simien with "Dear White People."  Now both Kickstarter and Indiegogo  show up to the Sundance, SXSW, and other festivals every year to help promote slates of films that their platforms have helped to finance.  They've been especially important to documentaries, like "An Honest Liar" and "Finding Vivian Maier," and I'm very happy to see that more international projects are showing up in the mix.  There are hundreds of films that have been helped by one of these campaigns, and I think it's safe to say that without crowdfunding, many of them probably wouldn't exist.

It's apparent now, though, especially as the buzz around crowdfunding is starting to taper off, that it's not going to be any kind of major replacement for traditional investors.  The current models are simply too risky for both the funders and the funded, and the amounts of money involved are usually tiny.  However, crowdfunding seems to be a good option for other kinds of media producers, like podcasters and vloggers, whose work is much smaller scale.  Patreon, a crowdfunding site where funding is tied to producers delivering content on a regular basis, has been slowly gaining steam since its debut in 2013.

On a personal note, I haven't contributed to any crowdfunding campaign since "Anomalisa."  It wasn't to my tastes, but I don't regret spending the money, since it's clearly a film that meant a lot to many other people.  It's strange, because at the outset I thought my money was going to a 40 minute short film, but it turned out to be a full 90 minute feature.  I can't fault the creators for making this change, because it was surely with the best of intentions, but I have a strong feeling I would have liked the shorter version better.  I suppose that's one of the things that's been giving me pause about the whole crowdfunding business - I'm never going to have any guarantees about what my money is actually going towards.  


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Which X-Men Get Their Own Films?

So, after the less-than-stellar performance of "X-men: Apocalypse," but the overwhelming success of "Deadpool," it looks like the "X-men" cinematic universe is alive and well, but the actual "X-men" film series may need a break.  The second trilogy of X-films, that takes place in the past, can't really advance without running into significant continuity issues with the first trilogy, that takes place in the present. Then again, there are already continuity snafus everywhere you look.  With a third "Wolverine" solo feature on the way, "Gambit" with Channing Tatum pretty far long in the pipeline, and more "Deadpool" a dead certainty, FOX is already pursuing the spinoff strategy.  I think the "X-men" universe is big and diverse enough to support all of them, and a few more.  So what other characters do we want to see get their own films, before they all inevitably team up again?  Well, here's who I'd pick.

Quicksilver - This is the obvious one, since Quicksilver has been at the center of knockout effects sequences in the last two "X-men" films.  Since the "Avengers" quickly dispatched their version of the character after only one outing, there should be much less of an issue with confusing the two.  On the other hand, while Quicksilver makes a great secondary character, he may not work in larger doses.  Then there's the whole Scarlet Witch can of worms.  Also, keep in mind he's got some competition coming in the form of DC's similar Flash.

Magneto - The nice thing about the second "X-men" trilogy is that so much time passes between each installment, there's plenty of narrative space for the characters to have other adventures during the breaks.  So the young Magneto played by Michael Fassbender could have been having all sorts of adventures.  A Magneto spinoff was actually in the works at one point at FOX, and some of the material was incorporated into "First Class."  I'd love to see more Nazi hunting, more encounters with other mutants, and more globe-trotting.

Storm - At this point I don't care who plays her, but I want a Storm movie.  She was always one of my favorites from the cartoons, having such great, theatrical presence.  She was one of the first major black superheroes, and if we're getting a Black Panther movie, then we absolutely need a Storm movie too.  And I'm hoping Marvel and Fox can come to some agreement so we can see those two together.  And then there's Storm's primary adversary, the Shadow King, a villain with loads of potential who I'd love to see onscreen.

Rogue - Anna Paquin's timid teenage Rogue isn't the one I grew up with.  The Rogue I remember is a brassy Southern belle who's always up for a brawl, maintains an epic on-again, off-again relationship with Gambit, and has some really nasty skeletons in her closet.  And that's the version of the character that I always wanted to see in the movies.  Enough time has passed that Paquin could play the older Rogue, or someone on the path to becoming that person, but the character might benefit from recasting and a full reboot.    

The White Queen - Okay, the consensus seems to be that January Jones was a poor choice to play Emma Frost in "First Class."  I didn't have an issue with her performance, but I wish we'd seen more of the character.  She's one of the most interesting figures in the "X-men" universe, a major villain who switches sides eventually, like the current version of Mystique, and ends up leading her own team of mutants.  She's got a long, twisted history, and there's a lot of moral ambiguity to her that's well worth exploring in more depth.

Longshot - And here's where I get nerdy.  I'd love a movie about the Mojoverse, which is essentially a world run by a villain named Mojo, who is a network television executive gone insane in the body of a giant alien slug.  His primary programming is gladiatorial battles waged between captured or coerced combatants.  Think "Hunger Games," with a much funnier, nastier satirical streak.  The hero is one of Mojo's performers, Longshot, who starts a rebellion, escapes Mojoverse, and eventually ends up one of the X-men.  


Sunday, July 17, 2016

"The Prophet" is a Beautiful Mess

As an traditional animation fan, I'd been hearing about the production of "Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet" for a long time.  It's based on Gibran's influential essay collection, which offers words of wisdom on many different aspects of human life, from love and marriage to crime and punishment.  I heard that it was going to be an anthology film, and an impressive list of animators were onboard to direct the various segments, including Bill Plympton ("Idiots and Angels"), Tomm Moore ("Song of the Sea"), (" Nina Paley ("Sita Sings the Blues"), Joann Sfarr ("The Rabbi's Cat"), and the Brizzi brothers ("Fantasia 2000").

However, most of "The Prophet" is taken up with the story of a man named Mustafa (Liam Neeson), a poet and teacher who has been imprisoned on the island of Orphalese for political activism by the local authorities.  He is visited regularly only by a housekeeper, Kamila (Salma Hayek, who also produced the film), and a bumbling guard, Halim (John Krasinski).  Widowed Kamila has a young daughter, Almitra (Quvenzhané Wallis) who has been refusing to speak and getting into all kinds of trouble since her father's death.  It's from Almitra's point of view that we watch the story unfold, as she sneaks into Mustafa's house one day, right as he's finally being granted his freedom.  The various essays from "The Prophet" are incorporated as Mustafa's advice and stories, each accompanied by animated visuals from different directors, who all work in their own individual style.

The Almitra and Mustafa framing story is directed by Roger Allers, best known for co-directing "The Lion King," and it looks and feels exactly like a 1990s Disney feature down to the cute animals and blustering guards.  The animation is good enough that it could pass as something from a major studio, though the designs are pretty generic.  The story, however, is utterly bland and dull.  It reeks of something mature being simplified and reframed to be spoon-fed to younger viewers in the most tedious way possible.  None of the characters have any personality beyond their assigned tropes of flawless messiah figure, worried mother, adorable brat, etc.  The essay segments are thankfully mostly immune to this, since the only dialogue is Liam Neeson's recitation of Kahlil Ghibran's actual text from "The Prophet."  However, the feature as a whole has an unfortunate didactic quality, and too often feels on par with a very fancy Bible study supplement.

I'm torn about whether to recommend the film or not, because some of the individual essay segments are really spectacular.  I especially enjoyed the Tomm Moore segment, "On Love," with its fluid Gustav Klimt-esque renderings of an eventful relationship, Michal Socha’s “On Freedom" a fable about birds and cages told with painterly silhouettes, and Paul and Gaetan Brizzi's "On Death, with its abstract, classically influenced journey to the infinite.  However, that framing segment just rubbed me entirely the wrong way. It's well-intentioned, but comes off as so weirdly patronizing and tone-deaf.  I suspect the film's producers wanted an easy entry point into the Ghibran's text, and didn't trust the individual essay segments to stand on their own.  However, the framing story is easily the weakest part of the film, and ends up reducing the enjoyability of the whole work.

But tor all its flaws, it's heartening to see something as ambitious as "The Prophet" being made.  Salma Hayek reportedly spent years getting this to the screen as a passion project, and I admire her drive to share Gibran's work.  And I'm so grateful that she created such a wonderful opportunity for so many artists to produce more unique traditional animation, which is far too rare these days.  It's clear from the directors involved that this was a major consideration.  I haven't seen anything new in ages from Joan Gratz, who made the seminal "Mona Lisa Descending a Staircase" decades ago, and contributed "On Work" here.  And it's good to get to know Mohammed Saeed Harib, whose "On Good and Evil" has such lively visuals, I initially mistook it for the Brizzis' segment.  I've always love animation anthology films, and "The Prophet" was a good reminder of why that is.

So in light of the continuing dominance of CGI animation in the current marketplace, "The Prophet" is simply too rare and precious a beast to be written off.  On my next viewing, however, I'll be fast-forwarding through Almitra's antics.


Friday, July 15, 2016

A Murky "Midnight Special"

I've been at a loss as to how to write about "Midnight Special" because I haven't been able to adequately sort out my feelings towards it.  Usually I don't read reviews until I've written up something myself, but this time I went looking for them, trying to find some help in parsing my reaction to the film.  To be blunt, my feelings are very mixed, and I think that the film is not what it could be.  But I'm not sure if my disappointment is because of the film's weaknesses or because "Midnight Special" doesn't align with what I expected from a Jeff Nichols film.

"Midnight Special" opens to the sound of an Amber Alert, warning that an eight-year-old boy, Alton (Jaeden Lieberher), has been kidnapped by a man named Roy (Michael Shannon).  The report does not mention that Roy is Alton's father, and they're on the run from a doomsday cult that looks to Alton as a messiah figure.  Gradually, we learn that Alton is at the center of strange phenomena that allows him to intercept wireless transmissions and makes him very sensitive to daylight, among other things.  Alton is being drawn to a particular place that he has to reach by a particular time, so Roy enlists help from his old friend Lucas (Joel Edgerton) and Alton's mother Sarah (Kirsten Dunst) to get them there.  Meanwhile, the FBI is investigating the disappearance, lead by Agent Paul Sevier (Adam Driver), and members of the cult are also on the move, desperate to get Alton back.

"Midnight Special" has all the subtle, engrossing family drama I've come to expect from Jeff Nichols, but this time it's in the context of a genre film narrative.  Some of Nichols' earlier works have had genre elements, like the doomsday visions in "Take Shelter" and the fairy tale overtones in "Mud," but it quickly becomes apparent in "Midnight Special" that Alton's powers, whether supernatural or some product of natural phenomena, are to be taken at face value.  So despite remaining very grounded and very light on special effects, the story can't get away from a lot of old, familiar genre movie tropes that don't play as well as they used to.  And then there's the ending, which some viewers found problematic but I really liked.  I just thought it belonged to an entirely different movie.

The first half of the film is the strongest, where the viewer is still piecing together what's going on, and getting to know all the various players.  We get to see the situation unfold from multiple points of view, and there's a nice ambiguity as to what everyone's intentions are.  I especially enjoyed Joel Edgerton and Adam Driver's characters, who act as audience stand-ins to an extent, trying to work out the mysteries around Alton.  And this may be Michael Shannon's best good guy performance, as a father way in over his head trying to reconcile with a constantly changing situation.  Alton's condition can be read as a metaphor for many things, and some of the film's best scenes are of Roy and Alton trying to offer each other reassurances, and Roy and Sara trying to prepare for the worst.  The relationships are handled so well, it's very easy to become invested in what happens to everyone.

But after all that careful foundation-laying, the second half of the film ends up playing out like a pretty typical action and chase film.  The ending is not ambiguous in the least, which undercuts a lot of the tension and a lot of the melodrama.  Many of the characters feel shortchanged, and some simply drop out of the narrative completely.  Nichols does a great job going in the direction he chooses, especially subverting some of the old clichés, and "Midnight Special" works decently well as a genre piece.  However, the characters and their relationships simply aren't as well served by the approach as they could have been if this were a much more subdued, small-scale film focused more tightly on Roy and Alton.  I think it might have also worked better as a bigger, blunter, more typical mainstream picture that was more concerned with the action and thrills.  I suspect that trying to stick both together just left the picture a muddle.

I think "Midnight Special" is worth seeing if you're a fan of Jeff Nichols or Michael Shannon, but I'm not sure if I'd recommend it to anyone else.  It's pieces are wonderful, but on the whole I found it unsatisfying.  I feel a little guilty thinking that, because I enjoy this director's work and I applaud the guts it took to pursue this kind of material so whole-heartedly.  Ultimately, however, it just never came together quite right.


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

"Zootopia" is a Winning New Fable

Disney animation has a long history with stories of anthropomorphized animals, from their "Robin Hood" starring a charming fox, to the old shorts featuring talking mice and ducks.  A CGI update on the concept doesn't feel overdue, exactly, with franchises like "Kung Fu Panda" and "Alvin and the Chipmunks" still chugging along, but it has been a long while since one of these animal stories has really gone back to its roots in allegorical fable.  So "Zootopia" feels strangely novel in the way that  it is wholeheartedly a commentary on current social issues, specifically racial and gender bias.  It also deserves a lot of kudos for building its animal-inhabited universe from the ground up, thinking about how animals might really build a city for themselves.

Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) is adamant from a young age about pursuing her dream to be a police officer in the big city of Zootopia, where mammals of all different stripes have learned to come together and live in harmony.  Since she's a pint-sized bunny, this is an uphill battle, but she succeeds in becoming ZPD's first rabbit officer and fights to prove herself to her highly skeptical Captain (Idris Elba).  At first she's stuck in parking enforcement, but then gets involved in a missing persons case.  Hopps blackmails a local con-artist fox, Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) into helping her track down leads, and the two slowly but surely become friends.  The case takes the two of them all over the city, and eventually they uncover a sinister plot that threatens to destroy Zootopia's community as they know it.

The different types of animals are clearly meant to represent people of different races and social groups.  However, the clever thing is that they don't correlate exactly to groups in the real world.  Predatory animals are stereotyped as being more aggressive and dangerous, but they are also traditionally the ones in power, like the lion mayor (J.K. Simmons) and various members of the police force.  Hopps' assumed passivity as a bunny reads more as a gender stereotype than a racial one.  Then there's Wilde, the character who has been the most affected by prejudice.  He's a fox, so everyone assumes he's sneaky and up to no good.  So while "Zootopia" wears its intentions on its sleeve about being a message film, it rarely comes across as too pointed or having a particular agenda, because the worldbuilding of the film is so neatly self-contained.

That being said, it's a self-contained world that is very self-conscious about being relevant to modern audiences, and thus already feels oddly dated in a way that most Disney animated features aren't.  There are pop-culture references all over the place, including smart phone designs and a Shakira-voiced pop star gazelle.  Her new single, "Try Everything" is proudly positioned as the "Zootopia" anthem, even taking over the ending credits sequence for a remarkably lazy dance party finale.  It might have been more palatable if the song weren't so bland.  Oddly, the one bit of referential comedy that works best is an extended "Godfather" riff, proving that while spiffy technology may come and go, Marlon Brando impressions are forever.

Fortunately, the core buddy comedy of Hopps and Wilde is a solid one, backed up by good performances from Goodwin and Bateman.  They have great onscreen chemistry, play off each other wonderfully, and are strong enough to support the story when it gets into thorny territory discussing biases and prejudices.  These arguments play out so well, I wish the film could have spent more time on the particulars of predator-prey relations, and less on the familiar beats of chasing perps and surprise villain reveals.  Then again, the procedural elements are an awful lot of fun, especially in the sight-gag riddled society that's been tailored to animals.  From a pure design standpoint, this is one of the best Disney animated films I've seen in a long time.

I'm torn between wanting "Zootopia" to become a big franchise that explores more of its world in other films and television shows, and wanting it to stay a single film, undiluted and uncompromised.  I can't see the further adventures of Hopps and Wilde going anywhere but down in quality, but at the same time there aren't many animated films that have been so well suited to a continuation.  "Zootopia" is one of the only modern animated films where it feels like you could tell more good, meaningful stories with these characters.