Where Toy Story, Lord of the Rings, and Star Wars have succeeded in the art of the threequel, many others have failed the difficult and dangerous task. The success of the threequel largely depends on whether it has a strong enough storyline, enough continued character development, and enough novel concepts to maintain interest and stand up to the first two films. Cars 3 has each of these. Lightning McQueen is now a fading racing legend forced to confront a new breed of technologically superior racers with the help of an entertaining bunch of introduced friends.
While the first two Cars films were not as ambitious or spectacular as Toy Story, LOTR, or Star Wars, they were certainly relaxing and enjoyable films. The middle-of-the-road nature of the Cars films has since been extended into the dull spinoff, Planes. Cars 3 continues the tradition of unambitious but enjoyable movie experiences, with the added benefit of significant advances in animation in the decade since the first film. The animation is incredible in its detail and richness, from individual drops of mud splattering a windshield to the heat shimmer of a flame. It’s reminiscent of the exceptional quality of animation of individual strands of hair for Disney’s Brave or, more recently, Moana. It is commendable that a film series featuring simplistic and goofy but loveable cars could reach the stage where facial expressions are both nuanced and believable.
While I felt a little saddened that former favourite characters were relegated to minor roles, the new ones are compelling and reveal emotional depth. A real surprise considering that they are, of course, animated cars! Again, Pixar reveals its greatest strength – forging emotional bonds between the audience and anthropomorphised characters, and using this relationship to lead us on a thrilling ride. This film revels in the emotive nature of that journey, offering feminist overtones and a non-romantic male-female mentor relationship that is both refreshing and charming. Despite some repetitive and uninspired race sequences, Cars 3 remains a surprisingly enjoyable movie experience. A worthy threequel to the series that will likely stretch to a fourth film.