Dusty: I’m afraid of heights!
Beware: Spoilers may follow.
In 2013, there was an idea by Disney’s former chief creative officer John Lasseter to make a spin-off of Pixar’s Cars franchise known as Planes. The movie originally was set to be direct-to-video but the people at Disney saw something great in it and released it to theatres. I say this because I have no idea what they saw in it. It may look like a Pixar movie but Pixar doesn’t even have their name on it.
The story involves a small Plane named Dusty who dreams of one day becoming a great air racer. However he is in no way built for racing and is afraid of heights. He meets a naval aviator known as Skipper who helps Dusty take on a champion plane racer known as Ripslinger in a tournament.
The story is recycled from several other movies including one Dreamworks movie that came out the very same year. However, just because a story is recycled doesn’t mean it can’t be told well. Unfortunately this is not one of those occasions. Not only is the story predictable but when it comes to this storytelling formula there are parts such as meeting the various characters, the training to improve and develop the protagonist over the course of the movie, a subplot to spice things up, etc. All these things lead up towards the big competition at the end of the movie. Here however this is all rushed through to get to the big race by the second third of the movie with no time to flesh out any of the aforementioned elements. Because of this there’s little to no reason to root for Dusty. During the race there are some side plots thrown in but their purpose is only to keep the race itself from getting tedious. Because of this the story really lacks structure
While I will admit I am not a big fan of the Cars movies, the animation detail on the cars in those movies are far better than the animation here. Whereas in Cars the characters had ways of moving to convey emotion, that movement is lacking here. The planes movement is rather empty outside of their eyes and mouths. When it comes to the backgrounds the movie has a couple of interesting locations but there isn’t much to look at. When it came to the Cars movies, when they went to different locations they gave enough time for viewers to immerse themselves in the various countries. However the overall quality and flying scenes do look somewhat decent. Given that the latter is in the vast majority of the movie this is a good thing.
When it comes to the characters given that the movie jumped into the race so quickly, there’s almost no time to develop any of them. Chug is the idiot best friend to Dusty whereas Dottie is the voice of reason. Some of the planes at the race only have one joke around them regarding their nationality such as the British Bulldog who doesn’t want to show a soft spot. The other characters are rather. Rochelle is relegated to being El Chupacabra’s love interest, Ripslinger is the bully champion, and Dusty is the underdog. When it comes to Dusty this is particularly bad as the movie makes no attempt to give us anything outside of his desire to be a racer. The only somewhat developed character is that of Skipper who is Dusty’s mentor and a war legend who hadn’t flown since the days of World War 2. And as the movie went on we learned more of his backstory. However the characters are too simple to the point that they are hard to get invested in.
Planes may have some decent animation but that does not excuse the bad storytelling and characters in it. It can appeal to little kids and even some fans of the Cars franchise but the movie is pretty much a waste in so many aspects. There are plenty of great Disney movies to watch and many great prospects for Disney in the future but this won’t be one of them.