Zootopia/Zootropolis Review - Disney magic takes on prejudice and politics

Disney’s latest movie is a delightful mystery film with a beautiful touch of magic, genuine comedy and well executed political themes. It features the ambitious and strong willed rabbit Judy Hopps travelling to the city of Zootopia. Animals have built their metropolis in a spirit of harmony and togetherness. They have overcome the aggression of predators over prey and live together in habitats like baking Sahara Square and freezing Tundra Town. The film follows Judy Hopps graduating into her dream job as a police officer. However, when she is met with prejudice, ridicule and a lowly job as a metre maid, she tries to overcome her disappointment. She stumbles upon a mystery of animals that have turned rabid. With the help of a criminal turned friend fox Nick Wilde, she stakes her claim to be a police officer on solving the case in 48 hours.

The film is saturated in gorgeous colour and the city feels realistic and detailed, transporting you through each of its zones. The standout joke of excruciatingly slow sloths working in the Department of Motor Vehicles was sold hard in the trailers but still works well on screen. Judy is a superb protagonist and solid female lead. She is empowered and follows her dreams. Even in the face of adversity and a lack of confidence in her from Chief Bogo, the police chief played by Idris Elba, she controls and shapes the direction of events.

Nonetheless, the political themes of the movie are the real stand out and make this one of the most progressive Disney films in recent years. It manages to err just on the side of subtlety. Zootopia is quite a meta film, even featuring overly heavy handed animal puns on its recent films and upcoming slate. However, its political messages are weaved wholeheartedly into the plot. Tolerance is an important part of the film’s world as animals are confronted with the need to get along to make the city work.

It explains early on that predators and prey have conquered their natural instincts and differences. Judy Hopps threatens to destabilise this order by leaving her hometown of Bunnyburrow and moving to Zootopia to make her mark. This will clearly appeal to most young people forced to be mobile to make it in the world. The theme song embodies the point of the movie. ‘Try Everything’ is written by Sia and hitmakers Stargate and performed by Shakira. It has the perfect message of having an open mind. Only by trying everything can tolerance overcome ignorance. It is also outrageously catchy.

The most heartbreaking part of Judy’s life is her parents. They have rationalised their own low expectations of life because of the prejudice they clearly face as bunnies. When they try to encourage Judy to grow carrots instead of becoming a police officer, it reflects the social conditioning they have faced as a species. As fear of predators begins to tear apart the social fabric of the city, the political theme of fear rears its ugly head. This is extremely apt as we terrorise foreigners with nasty rhetoric and damaging political policies. Characters like Donald Trump could easily be slotted into the place of some of these animals and the hypocrisy and corruption of the political establishment is touched on gently. Most importantly, the film exposes our stereotyping behaviour against groups such as Muslims and migrants. Not all predators are evil and not all prey are innocent.

Importantly, it says we should not judge by appearances. Many of the most recent Disney films have achieved their dramatic payoffs by subverting the hero-villain dynamic and revealing that good characters are secretly evil. This happened in Wreck it Ralph and Big Hero 6 and it happens here also. We should judge people on an individual basis rather than the cheap cognitive shortcuts of stereotypes. Judy Hopps is a brave and agile police officer rather than the laughing stock she is considered originally. This colourful caper has all the trademarks of an outstanding Disney film, which offers up its cuteness and beautifully realised world alongside some weighty political themes at the perfect time.
Zootopia/Zootropolis Review - Disney magic takes on prejudice and politics Zootopia/Zootropolis Review - Disney magic takes on prejudice and politics Reviewed by Ciaran McCormick on 16:42 Rating: 5

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.