*SPOILERS* and all that. like we care, it's just Ponies and every True Fan ™ has seen it by now anyway *OBLIGATORY SPOILERS WARNING*
The meat of the problem is the plot was as carefully watered down as the character designs. The thing that always "sold" MLP to me was the humor. Even in its darkest scenes (which were surprisingly dark for a kid's show) it made me laugh far more than any sitcom aimed at adults.
EQ... only at the beginning and end. I was still uncomfortable with Twilight's princess wings, but having her uncomfortable with them too made me accept the change, crammed as it was into the last episode of Season 3.
"I can't tuck!" (Me: tuck? WTF) *The wings keep pushing her blanket off her when she tries to sleep, eventually forming a "tent"*
That did it - the wings, and her learning to use them, are now comedy and fit into the familiar pattern of FIM - humor on the surface, deep meaning lurking in there.
...then we get into the world of EQ. The opening scenes, where she looks at her human hands and just... screams.
She's awkward and doesn't know how to move in her new body, and keeps trying to use magic. She staggers up the stairs clutching the railing instinctively, like the world is tilted.
And then it just... like a balloon released by Pinkie Pie, the plot was entertaining and zooming around happily, because all the while it was deflating,
She meets Principal Celestia and... I'm waiting for her to just assume Twilight is a new student who just moved into town and giver her a class schedule. Sign her up for coursework... it just. Nothing happens. The plot, finally deflated, plopped down softly, dead, not even a wimper to mourn its passing.
Here we are barely 10 minutes in and hit the key problem - this is a fish out of water story that avoids its key element - the fish out of water, Twilight. Everything is stripped away until the story is like a slick Firehouse pole, to get Twilight to the "real" story, the final confrontation with Sunset Shimmer without any detours. Without ever dipping its toes into the real story.
Like the fanfiction of a young, inexperienced teenage writer on the internet, EQ doesn't know what it's own story is. Everytime the Real Story pipes up quietly, whispering what the next scene should be like Fluttershy in a crowd, the sound and fury of the characters drowns it out, and EQ ignores one story that mattered - Twilight. The stranger in a strange land.
And like a tree stripped of its bark for that Firehouse pole smoothness, there's no room left on the plot for the branches of the supporting characters' stories. They all suffer.
We never see Twilight struggling with classes, maybe knowing all the answers all along due to her intelligence, but unable to pick up a pen without magic. We see one second of her unable to type except by mashing her fists down like two hooves.
She never has to figure out where she's going to live in this new world, maybe taken in by on the Mane Six's counterparts, maybe even getting a job to pay for it - which would lead to a whole other realm of learning the ins and outs of the new world she's in.
When the Alternate Main Six figure out the reason they were all separated was spoofed, fake texts and emails from Sunset Shimmer, Twilight never questions what the hay this newfangled technology is. Why they trust machines so much but don't put faith in each other. Culture shock, and more learning experiences and potential for humor along the way is averted.
How Sunset Shimmer was able to not only learn the Human World's technology, but learn to hack/spoof other people's accounts, and the implications of that skill, is averted, and the villain's story suffers as well. Her story suffers all the more when we never learn where she lives, how she managed to find a home and adapt.
When the factions and cliques of the school are united behind Twilight against the Main Six, it's with a 5-minute song in the school cafeteria. IRL something like that would alarm the faculty and they might try to put a stop to it - it's too noisy to be anything good. It's almost an act of rebelleon, but the plot strips it of its raw power.
And in that moment, I saw the problem.
There was SO MUCH scope to the plot of EQ and so little time, it could have been a miniseries. It could have filled Season 4 of MLP.
Winning over each clique, from popular girls, to jocks, to hippies to nerds, should have taken some effort on Twilight's part. Help from her friends in understanding them, Maybe each of them had been wronged or turned against the others by Sunset Shimmer, in a larger-scale version of what she'd done to the Main Six. Maybe some of them would never unite, except out of a sense of anger against the common enemy who had wronged and manipulated them year after year.
And by glossing over that plot, the deeper themes of EQ are glossed over.
IRL high school is a time of separation. Bullying. Each clique alienated and embittered against the others, stratified with the popular girls at the top - and Sunset Shimmer had risen to its top. Her power would have been all the more unfair and difficult to usurp in a real high school. I've seen time after time after time, teenagers come online disheartened and crushed by it, the ones who just graduated letting them know it's kind of like prison - just keep your head down and you'll escape intact.
Twilight Sparkle was definitely not keeping her head down. In uniting all the students of any average high school, melting all the cliques together in a single school spirit - it would be a very radical act. The teachers and adults wouldn't even know what to make of it - but it would have been the lessons of Harmony in action, bringing the culture of her world into this one. And a powerful, defiant act against all our modern stereotypes, the culture that says high schoolers should act this way.
Twilight, the Stranger in a Strange Land, could look at all this - ask why? - and show a new way of living. Call it The Pony Way.
EQ just didn't have time for all that, and more's the pity.
But the ending was good.
We rush to the end, Sunset Shimmer gets the crown, becomes all powerful because she, Celestia's former star pupil, had even MORE book-learning in how magic worked... and here, for the first time, we see why Celestia trained Twilight in the Magic of Friendship. That maybe, all this time, Celestia was atoning to herself for her faliure... because while Twilight didn't know all about how the crown worked, she had learned the Elements of Harmony weren't just old relics.
In a reprise of the Season 1 opener, the Main Six didn't need any magic relics, the power that conjured the crown in the first place comes from within, and if they stood up for each other, Sunset Shimmer was really helpless to them all along.
In that moment, the flatlined plot was zapped back to life. It became meaningful again. It became funny again. It became what I expected from MLP again.
In the end, I can now accept winged and crowned Princess Twilight in Season 4 thanks to Equestria Girls, but the journey went through such a lackluster middle half. Time after time, cool things I expected to happen just... didn't. I feel like I watched something made by a committee.
Given the motivation behind EQ was a deep-seated producer's and marketers' fear of "OMG the girls watching MLP are growing up, how do we keep up with them!" I'm not surprised.
The show's creators failed to absorb the very lessons they preach - that the end result of your actions will be merely a reflection of the spirit you set out with in you heart.
*And SPOILER Warning* :p
27 September 2013 at 02:23:35 MDT