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Opinion: New ‘Planes’ movie never quite takes off

Ian Soltes is a 25-year-old Norwalk resident and former Norwalk Community College student. He is write game reviews for an online review site, Darkstation, and has written more than 50 reviews for Gamefaqs. 

Ian Soltes at the movies
Ian Soltes at the movies

NORWALK, Conn. – “Planes: Fire and Rescue” is the sequel to the prior “Planes” movie and the fourth movie in Pixar’s “Cars” line of movies. The prior two movies in the line, “Planes” and “Cars 2,” have both received negative attention, so does this new movie finally turn the series around? Does it finally produce a good and interesting movie?

Well… Kinda?

The movie starts off with a small bit saying that the movie is dedicated to various firefighters who put their lives on the line every day to keep others safe. Once the movie actually starts we see Dusty Crophopper, the hero of the prior movie, living high off his prior win and competing in many races, winning them all. However, due to the immense amount of torque placed upon his engine to allow him to go so fast, his gearbox finally breaks and Dusty ends up almost crashing and starting a fire in the process. However, the town’s current fire engine is woefully old and out of date and the fire only barely gets put out in time. The town must be brought up to standards and that requires getting a second fire-fighter. With his gearbox busted meaning he will never be able to race again, Dusty decides to step up and become the new fire-fighter, but he must first go through training in order to become one.

Dusty then heads to Piston Peak National Park, which has a group of firefighters struggling to keep the fires under control as their budget has been constantly cut by the parks superintendent for his own personal pet-project, each of the various vehicles within the fire teams being refurbished and having come from various walks of life who have decided to put their lives on the line to keep others safe.

The movie keeps a heavy theme of death and rebirth throughout its entire plotline, and …

And do I really need to explain the plot? Everyone who has seen even a few movies will be able to predict every plot-twist and turn. The vehicle in charge of the park is more focused on personal image than on keeping the fires under control and chooses to divert funding and water from the fire wardens to save his personal pet-project at the film’s climax; the couple looking for the place of their first kiss that Dusty knows the location of end up in peril; the hard fire chief lost a friend many years ago that has made him tough on the rest of the group – you’ll be able to predict every bit of the plot with ease.

In fact, seeing this as anything other than your standard, generic, movie is difficult. So I have decided to focus on how the movie stands up as a movie to watch with one’ kids/grandkids and how it stands up as a tribute to the men and women who put their lives on the line to fight fires every day.

The movie, sadly, plays it too safe in both these categories. Early on, the movie shows us a “wall” in the firefighters place that is a memorial to those who have given their lives in the line of duty. When Dusty takes off for his first mission to combat the flames, he even has his photo taken for the wall in the event that he should crash. When the movie climax is reached he, predictably, overclocks his weakened gear-box to save several civilians and, in doing so, ends up crashing when his gearbox can no longer take it.

Had Dusty died here, this movie would have sent a strong message about what it takes to be a firefighter and that things will not always turn out OK and people will die in the line of service. Instead, Dusty survives. But he is badly wounded, right? Showing that even if one lives it can cost them horribly and they have to live with that sacrifice?

Nope. The engineer who, throughout the movie, has made things ‘better than new’ from used parts not only fixes him but gets his gearbox doing better than before. In fact, if Dusty had just come forward with his gearbox problem right at the start, the entire plot-point and conflict between doing his duty and the risk of never being able to fly again could have been avoided.

Despite this, I do not feel it is a backhanded tribute to the men and women who put their lives on the line to save others, as the film both constantly shows the amount of hard work it takes to keep the fires under control (the majority of the movie is Dusty learning how to fight fires) as well as the dangers that the people who do fight fires every day do, in fact, face.

As a movie to see with the younger audience, it’s not too bad and can open up a chance to talk about the real world. It does try to present the dangers in a child-friendly manner, but when you get down to it, that’s the movie’s problem. It’s basically just a field trip down to the fire department.

For an adult, there is little reason to go see it without a child in tow. It won’t be bad and you won’t find yourselves rolling your eyes at ‘kiddy’ stuff, but you’d probably get just as much enjoyment watching a flick about firefighters online and save some money as well.

On the whole, a 3 out of 5. Entirely generic, but the message it’s trying to get across, as well as its attempt to pay tribute to firefighters, should be respected.

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