The Mitchells vs. The Machines (2021)
FIRST IMPRESSION - FEATURE
The Mitchells vs. The Machines was directed by Mike Rianda and co directed by Jeff Rowe, both of which co wrote the feature. Chris Miller and Phil Lord acted as producers, essentially helping to shape the story that highlights their brand of comedy, whilst I'm sure, also protecting the team and ensuring they could tell the story the way they needed to.
It's a total step forward from where the team at Sony Animation were whilst working on Into the Spider-verse, with a lot of it's D.N.A. visibile here. What a great step forward that is. Visually, the mix of Katie's art style, supporting and revealing the beating heart of the feature, mixed with the sculpted, caricatured CG models reminiscent of into the Spider-verse, whilst also adopting a modern tech design with retro inspiration is a perfect balance of all these styles. Each frame is beautiful to take in.
Mixed into that the Animation team manage to perfectly balance real, deep emotion scenes with subtle acting while ensuring the more dramatic moments have strong poses carried through, again, through the DNA of Genndy Tartakovsky's Hotel Transylvania.
The visuals are truly unique in The Michells vs. The Machines. But so too are the choices in animation, blending so many styles to suit the story rather than changing the story to suit the styles.
Behind everything is the story of a regular family, and I do mean regular. This is something the filmmakers celebrate at the end. They acknowledge families are made up of a lot of individuals, and with individuals comes personalities, and with personalities comes wants and desires, and with wants and desires comes conflict. The conflict around this family is rooted is a lovely truth, an inability to express yourself correctly in order to communicate. All the family members rely on some tool in order to communicate, Katie uses her technology to create fun stories that reflect her inner turmoil. Her brother Aaron uses dinosaurs to communicate, her mother Linda is the most expressive but the least confident, while the father Rick uses his outdoorsy way to try and connect to the people he loves. But each method forms a barrier that the other can't always penetrate in order to see what they're actually trying to say.
It's not just devices that separate them, there's what the devices enable them to do as well. I think choosing that as the framework of the feature is really great. Although there is a machine apocalypse, really it's not the machines that are the problem, but the barrier each one puts up. I like that at the end, they are primarily communicating through a laptop, showing the full circle join where the machines connect them.
While I do have some problems with the final battle scene, I understand the intent the filmmakers had in trying to make a fun final battle, which is rare, especially after the emotional mountain they climbed to get there. Though, it totally distracted me from the heart of the story, and made what they had just fought through feel obsolete when they are suddenly able to blast through swarths of robots. I think that's my only gripe actually. Apart from that I was totally engrossed in the feature. Both Eric and Deborahbot5000 crack me up constantly when they're on screen, I think they're the real stars of the movie, sorry Monchi.
I really loved The Mitchells vs. The Machines. I think it's a really wonderful step forward in how both CG and traditional animation are just tools to help tell a story, and when merged they can create super unique styles that can amplify the voice in your story.