Many people hate on the franchise, and it’s easy to see why.
Cars 2 and Planes exist simply as a cash grab. Cars and Cars 3 have more heart to them, but people also say the same things about them—and there is no doubt is this true to some degree.
However, the first Cars movie is one of my all-time favorite movies. I really enjoyed the story it had to tell, and the characters it told the story with. I love the lessons Lightning learns, and I love how he and Doc Hudson help make each other better characters (and I might be a bit obsessed with Doc). The animation looks great, and I love how expressive the cars are able to be.
With Cars 3, I love it, but I don’t. When that first trailer dropped, it had me freaking out. But when I watched the movie… I couldn’t quite gather my thoughts about it at first. It made me even more obsessed with Doc, and I love that we got to learn more about his racing days, and those few moments of those scenes between Lightning and Doc, using new bits from old recordings, is super precious to me. Also, I love that things went full circle, with Lightning taking on the role of mentor, and with that new paint job in honor of Doc.
However, it’s still odd to think of Lightning as old. Yes, the first movie came out twelve years ago, but that doesn’t seem long enough for a young rookie to have become an old man. I get that racing is an intense field, and it’s probably not a career you can do as long as others, but Lightning still looks and sounds the exact same as he did when he started out. Looking the same, I get, as it’s shown over and over that cars can have outside damage repaired like nothing ever happened.
The problem is Lightning’s voice. Doc Hudson had an old man’s voice (which, we don’t hear how he sounded when near the end of his racing career, but still). Strip Weathers also sounds older—and Strip was ready for retirement in the first movie, which makes it easier to compare. In short, the biggest reason Lightning doesn’t seem old is simply because he still has the voice of a young rookie.
I have two other problems with Cars 3.
The first is, the movie kind of meanders—especially for the first two-thirds. Some people would probably say this about the first movie too, but everything that happened in that meandering with the first film was to make Lightning into a better person. With this film, it’s just Lightning getting frustrated over and over again that he can’t get any training done. I get the point is so that Cruz can learn what she needs to for the twist at the end, but it just feels kind of boring, really—and the part with Thunder Hollow just seemed random.
I get the Thunder Hollow thing. Doc raced there, so it wasn’t a random location. Lightning needed to get through that demolition derby so that Smokey could restore just a bit of his confidence later by telling Lightning he didn’t see a scratch on him—and I personally really liked that small detail, that Lightning still has it in him, even if he can no longer keep up with the new cars. However, even with there being a ton of reasons for the Thunder Hollow bit (and I didn’t mention them all), it still felt like the most random part of the movie.
Then we come to Cruz. I really want to like her, and I certainly don’t hate her, but I was never really rooting for her. It’s cool that Lightning passes on the torch to someone who couldn’t have that chance without him, but I just can’t quite care for her. Honestly, I think it’s because she seems like a Mary Sue. She has the tragic backstory of nobody believing she can be a racer, but she’s very skilled at it and is a super nice person overall. The only time we see her angry is after Lightning blows up at her and breaks her trophy—and so her anger is justified. She’s just too good of a character. There’s not much for me to latch onto, because she has no flaws.
Like I said, however, I love how Lightning used his final race to make room for somebody who needed that chance. I also love how both are considered the winners, and that Lightning is free to continue doing what he loves. Yes, he won’t be racing in the big leagues anymore, but I was actually okay with that at the end—and I think that was because Lightning himself was okay with it. He found a new purpose to life. I love those two pictures at the end, with Lightning and Doc, and then Lightning and Cruz. That was the perfect last frame for the movie.
Now that I’ve got my thoughts about Cars 3 out of the way…
The biggest problem with the Cars franchise is the world.
Where do new cars come from? Are they being made in factories or something? I mean, Cars 3 is constantly mentioning the next gens, which have better technology and whatnot. Where are these advanced cars coming from? It doesn’t make sense that they would come from older cars as babies. Evolution doesn’t work that quickly, and it would also be odd for so many unrelated babies to be born with this new tech.
Also, how do cars grow? While I don’t recall seeing any babies, there have been a few times we’ve seen smaller cars that I’m pretty sure are meant to be kids. Aside from the mouth, every time we’re shown a glimpse at what’s underneath the outer layer of a car, it’s still all machinery. However, we don’t ever see any cars opening their doors (or trunk, if I recall right). So, maybe they’re all machine except for that area. Then, as they grow, they occasionally have to have outer parts replaced, kind of like how we have to wear bigger clothes.
Then there’s the manmade world around them. How? How are all these objects made when they don’t have hands/fingers? Ball your hands into fists. Now, try to pick up something using only one of your fists. Pretty difficult, right? Yet, while we never see the cars do much with their tires on-screen, there are objects everywhere in their world. How do they put a photo in a frame? How do they stick a nail in the way to hang said frame on? How did Lightning tape up the trophy in Cars 3? The questions could go on for eternity.
So, the Cars world is extremely broken—and I think this is another reason why many people don’t care for the first movie, even if it’s not one I see talked about a lot.
Yet, even with all of these problems, the first Cars movie is in my top 5 of all-time favorite movies. I can ignore the brokenness of the world because I enjoy the story/characters too much to care. I can ignore those saying the movie was made just as a cash grab because it has a lot of heart and it touches me every time I watch it.
I’m sad Cars 2 and Planes dragged the franchise so deep into the mud, causing more and more people to dismiss the first movie. It sucks when something you love is so universally brushed aside/hated on.
Which, I know this mostly talks about the flaws/problems of the Cars franchise, but I just needed to get my thoughts out.
I didn’t talk much about Cars 2 because I’ve only seen it once, and I was mad through the whole thing (I didn’t know that the voice actor for Doc Hudson had died, so I was mad they killed Doc). I do plan on watching it again, so I can have a more fair view of the movie. Cars 3 I’ve seen a ton of because my toddler nephew watches it all of the time. So, I’ve had more chances to figure out my thoughts about the movie, even if I am still torn about it.
It’s one in the morning and this journal has gone on for way too long. If you made it all of the way through, congrats.
P.S. When I went to Disneyland with my family last year, the Cars area was like a dream come true. I could have spent the entire trip there. Also, they had a giant model of Radiator Springs, and I want it so bad.
"You know what is right. You know what is wrong. Make your choice." - Me