Sunday, March 12, 2017

Movie Review: Monster High: Welcome to Monster High

Monster High: Welcome to Monster High
Mattel Creations, USA, 2016.

Draculaura lives in an old castle with his dad Dracula. Humans must not see the monsters because humans are dangerous. One evening Frankie Stein comes to search for friends and  knocks at their door. Together the girls decide to find more monster friends who have gone hiding in different parts of the world. After recruiting Clawdeen Wolf, Lagoona Blue and Cleo de Nile thre girls decide to start a school for monsters with Dracula as their teacher. Also the school's lunch lady is recruited at some point, but compared to the original series her character is now fused with the tentacle thing from the old series. (Another example of character fusion: Draculaura now has a pet spider that looks the same as Operetta's spider in the old series).
Dracula and Draculaura
The school grows with student recruitment campaign. Zombie girl Moanica is a bad apple and wants to take back the world from the normies with her zomboy army. Frankie and Draculaura run for the presidency of the school and want to develop normie relations diplomatically and there a help from a normie pop star Tash would be needed. But also Moanica runs for the president too and has sinister plans. New character ghost Ari Huntington is introduced.
Cleo, Lagoona and Clawdeen
Raythe and Deuce hanging out with skeleton guys
After Mattel losed the Disney Princess license to Hasbro, they tried to lure princess fans by making the Monster High dolls and animations more cute and girly. The characters were redesigned with more Frozen-style looks and some cute or weird critters were added. Basically this is what a Barbie version of "Hotel Transylvania" would look like. In fact even some of the new Barbie-movie covers have the Frozen-style face models. But the redesigns soon start the feel like the least of the problems.
Speaking of Barbie it is ironical that Barbie-director William Lau directed some of the MH-films (even some of the best ones), but managed keeping the styles of the two franchises distinctive so kudos for that. Here the new crew couldn't. Of the three directors or three writers of the story only Jun Falkenstein and Shane Amsterdam had previously worked in a Monster High production (both in "Great Scarrier Reef"). Writer/producer/director Audu Paden (who had a huge impact in the style of the original series) was not involved with this production (and neither are the characters voiced by him included). Also MH-producer Ira Singerman was not involved. And although I don't like MH resembling a Barbie-production it doesn't mean that they wouldn't be entertaining (I'm just outside the intended audience) but it would not be great if the two franchises became too similar.
Spot Venus in the low left corner
Ari Hauntington
Many fans were disappointed by this movie and it is easy to see why. I am outside the target audience but it was disrespectful to the fans of the franchise that the MH-world was altered so radically. I think the makers failed by scrapping large parts of the old Monster High lore and at the same time trying to please the old fans by including some popular characters from the old series. We have characters that were introduced only in the later run of the series (Venus and Twyla) while we are missing Ghoulia, Gil, Manny, Scarah and Heath who have been around since early episodes? The Wolf-family is missing Clawd and Clawdia. Abbey's absence at still point is still acceptable as she was introduced near end of the second season of the webisodes. Troublingly Frankie has inherited some of Ghoulia's hacking skills so was their original intention to ditch the character entirely? However Mattel seems to have acknowledged the backlash of Ghoulia's fans and there are some rumours floating around the web that Ghoulia will return. After all tech-savvy characters like Ghoulia and Robecca were characters that could inspire girls to pursue science or engineering careers.

And where are the original teachers Mr. Rotter, Headmistress Bloodgood, and Mr. Hack? In the original series the school was at least two hundreds of years old with at least Mr. Rotter being a former student so his inclusion would have been conflicting with the new storyline. In the new movie the school was founded by Draculaura and Frankie in Dracula's house. This also ruins the whole Robecca Steam storyline. Although the original continuity was not perfect there was nothing that was nothing that was too serious. There were inaccuracies in the originals as it seems that the lore and MH-world were created as needed when the show went on, but the webisodes and the movies felt like part of the same continuity: the new characters would appear in later films (if only as background characters but still) and the characters would refer to the events of the previous adventures. Why to junk the old continuity if there wasn't anything fundamentally wrong?

Another problem is that MH was never very action-focused (there were chase scenes though) but now the girls resemble more Charlie's Angels throwing zomboy-enemies around. Draculaura gets her vampire powers early in the beginning. In the original series Draculaura gained her vampire powers (turning into a bat) only in the later films and only after a considerable effort. Now all of the main monsters have stronger super powers and Cleo can tie up enemies with mummy wrappings. Also the personalities of the characters feel different: cool dude Deuce Gorgon looks scrawnier and hides from the normies in the shadows and mean cat Toralei feels domesticated. Zombies are menacing whereas in the original series they were generally nice but dim-witted folks. Contrastingly to the sugary style, Moanica feels like the most sinister villain of the franchise.

The story feels lacking the things that were fun in the original steering the franchise to more generic girls-toy tie-in. There are some annoying plotholes and fallacies and events that do not make any sense. If Dracula has an amulet that can find other monsters why haven't he and Draculaura used it before to find new friends? And if there is Internet for monsters how was it built if the monsters are hiding in secluded places? And what's with vampires suddenly loving sunlight (although they were more sun-resistant in the original series than in the common vampire lore, they still needed sunscreens or parasols to avoid sunburn).

If there was something good, it was the way Clawdeen, Lagoona and Cleo were introduced. Also some of the jokes were faithful to the old MH-style.

Contains one episode of "Ever After High" (interestingly the possiblility of MH/EAH crossover was hinted in "Boo York" but with the reboot it now seems unlikely).

Dragon Games Part I Shatter the Mirror
Raven gets to meet he evil mother who is locked inside a mirror. Apple's mother Snow White is concerned that Raven is more popular than Apple. Apple frees the Evil Queen who disquises as a new student. Raven's pet dragon Nevermore senses danger in the new student. Another dragon gets dragon babies and Snow White opens Dragon Games.
Raven and Apple
Businesswoman Snow White

Rating: Bad

Voice actors: Debi Derryberry, Cassandra Morris, Salli Saffioti, Larissa Gallagher, Cristina Milizia, Michael Sorich, Jonquil Goode, Travis Dresden, Evan Smith, Sara Cravens, Cam Clarke, Julie Maddalena, Jun Falkenstein, Ben Diskin, Max Mitchell, Spike Spencer, Hippo Cabal, Tarra Layne
Directors: Stephen Donnelly, Olly Reid, Jun Falkenstein

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