27 June 2010

More First Impressions: Toy Story 3, Part II: Toy Society

Last week I made my first couple ramblings about Toy Story 3 (2010) which will continue more in-depth this week. Considering the film won its Second Weekend by a large margin, I'm sure it's still pretty relevant. There are a quite a few questions I have about this fantastic Summer Flick so let's dive in:

To Infinity and Malfunction

It's time to talk about Buzz Lightyear. Buzz presents some interesting questions about the nature of Toy Society and the "Rules" briefly referred to by Woody in the first film. What are the Laws of Toys? From what I can gather, it's something like acting lifeless whenever humans are present. At all costs Humans may never see an Animated Toy except in extreme cases (see: Sid). Why? Part of Toy Story's magic is how seemlessly it creates a world for these Toys. Somehow you get the impression that this is plausible because of such ironclad rules - if Toys aren't allowed to come to life around humans how do we really know our Toys are always lying still at night? Childlike faith provides the answer.

So this brings us to Buzz. There are running threads in each film of the trilogy dealing with the simple fact that Buzz Lightyear believes himself to be a character rather than a toy. The inclusion of a second Buzz in Toy Story 2 (1999) with the same problem seems to indicate strongly that all Buzz Lightyears start out this way. I'm curious then, if all of these models are lacking this meta-cognition concerning their own identity or do all Toys simply start out this way? The Barbies at Al's Toy Barn could easily pass for real Barbies instead of self-aware Barbies. Perhaps all New Toys are imbued with a confused identity until they realise their own true nature.

Thus we come across a few problems here. If Buzz knows not that he's a Toy, why does he follow the Toy Code when Andy or another child plays with him? The Laws of Toy Society are surely complex and intricate, seemingly allowing plenty of freedom when not in the presence of Humans. It's a twisted line - Toys desire Human Adoration above all else but may never express their own love.

Speaking of Toy Love, what the hell is up with Buzz and Jessie? I talked about this a bit in Part I. I can see the "manufactured" Toy Relationships like Barbie and Ken as well as Mr, and Mrs. Potatoe Head, but where is the line drawn with other toys banging each other out? Whatever Woody and Bo Peep was was weird enough but the Buzz/Jessie dynamic is explicitly more sexual. While every character acknowledges Jessie as this Babe Toy, Buzz is clearly the coolest Action Figure Toy and should land the hottie. As Buzz's jock all-star personality is stripped away though, his confidence and swarthiness diminishes. Indeed, the Buzz aware of his identity is far less interesting than the Buzz who believes himself to truly be a Space Hero.

Viva Mexicana

While the continual plot re-hash of Buzz's programming is tiresome, his reset in Spanish Mode was very entertaining. It's important to determine the extent of Buzz's loyalty, as blind as it may be. In the first film Buzz was intensely loyal to Andy's Toys, only balking at Woody's failed attempt at plasticide. In the second, after the Store Buzz disposes of his perceived insubordinate (Andy Buzz), he displays impeccable leadership with the remaining toys. In fact, his valiance and daring at this point far surpasses Andy Buzz.

Mexican Buzz in the third film is very much the same way. Andy Buzz is almost a bit of a pussy. He whines about his "family," doesn't get anything done and is fully ineffective when his friends need him. By switching to his original programming (with loyalty based around the right Toys), he becomes a much more reliable and confident soldier. Of course with this necessary lack of heart comes...a lack of heart. Jessie, being the sultry cowgirl that she is ultimately seeks a median between the Spanish Seducer and the Meek Down-to-Earth Buzz.

The End of Things

Toy Story 3 ended on an incredibly satisfying note. It's about moving on, honouring good memories instead of packing them away and passing down the good times to new generations who will appreciate them. There is one vital scene (SPOILER AHEAD) towards the end which is a real Soul Test.

As the Toys end up at the dump charging forth towards the incinerator there's a part when it really seems as if they aren't going to make it. Holding back tears here is real tough, generally though if you're not crying here you haven't got a soul. What is interesting though is this nature of Toy Immortality. What's really cool (and this is a reason why the Franchise is so popular, because it makes the outrageous believable) is that basically whatever can kill a toy in real life will kill a toy in a Toy Story film. Taking it apart bit by bit won't do it but smashing its face or burning it up will. Other than that, the Toys are kind of like Elves from Lord of the Rings - they'll just keep ticking forever.

Anyway, besides the Deus Ex Claw that saves the Toys at the moment of greatest despair the ending is very satisfying. This is a great film in every possible way. The thing that Pixar does more well than any other studio in Hollywood is genuinely making a film enjoyable for all ages. Their films are neither dumbed down children nor over their heads while simultaneously containing themes and characters complex enough to keep adults interested. This is the only secret behind their great success - the broadest possible appeal enjoyable for all generations, races and genders. They maintain this appeal while also making a sequentially good movie with an interesting and relevant narrative. It's a studio that does everything right consistently and for once, it pays off.

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