Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron was a 2002 film that followed a liger mustang’s adventures of hardship and preservation during the 19th century. The franchise has since then expanded with a series that lasted for eight seasons and is now getting a follow-up in the form of “Spirit Untamed”, a spin-off that follows the offspring of the original Spirit (I guess?) crossing paths with a young Latina girl also searching for her identity. Sounds fairly basic and straightforward, I thought. That’s practically the only reason why I went forward to see this outside the trailer music: it looked completely ok from a writing perspective with an identifiable cast and so-so presentation to boot.
Unfortunately, the movie does not live up to either its title or the namesake of the franchise it’s apart of and I don’t know which is worse: how bare-boned and phoned in it was with the whole execution or the fact that Dreamworks actually looked at this thought this was acceptable.
I will say the voice acting isn’t problematic since everybody does the best they can do, with the exception of McKenna Grace who thoroughly slays her performance. There’s enough action to keep the kids glued to the screen, the symmetry between the production design and animation whenever nobody’s in the frame given how off-putting they look is not terrible and as predictable as the story becomes, it is totally harmless at the end of the day. It’s fairly straightforward in every regard, going through the beats it has to.
Now let me clear the air: I don’t hate this.....but if there’s one thing that was definitely lacking, its the quality of its own namesake.
Off the bat, the animation is staggeringly lower in quality than what I’m used to seeing from DreamWorks. Gone is the traditional hand-drawn CG animation from the first film and here we are thrusted into a three-dimensional environment that is criminally under-detailed. I mean, it works in the grand scheme of things; it isn’t as ugly as Earwig and the Witch if the admittedly good-looking vivid backgrounds and landscapes are anything to pass on but from the studio that made Kung Fu Panda, How to Train Your Dragon and freakin’ Prince Of Egypt, I expect a lot more.
Doesn’t really help that most of the characters don’t have much that resemble a personality. The fact they also mishandled both a simple coming-of-age story and the specifics of Latino culture came off as alarming. It’s been a while since I’ve seen somebody try and tell a story of self-discovery while at the same time, handicapping and circumventing the very identity they’re trying to search for. Also, was it just me or did the film move way too fast even for a 90 minute flick? Pacing was completely hasty and premature, it was like they were rushing to get this over with as quickly as possible; there was not enough time for anybody to receive any REAL development nor for the messages to take hold.
The kick below the belt for this film is just how restrictive it feels. There’s hardly any conflict from getting to point A to point B and at times, it hardly feels like there’s any point to the story. At no point does the film try to go beyond the typical formula for modern animated flicks and not to mention the original message in regards to the original Spirit was completely disregarded here. Spirit was always meant to symbolize the wilderness and freedom but also the strength of said animal and while that is technically true here, the path to reaching that nirvana is not only lazy but with little to no effort also.
Admittedly, I could find myself using this as background noise whenever I’m busy so there’s its benefits to anyone who isn’t six or seven. There’s nothing offensively wrong with that’s being shown here but when the best aspect about a movie is the song you put in the trailer, that is not a good sign.