The most repeated question I’ve heard regarding Pixar’s latest work is “what’s left to tell?” However, following its largely disliked predecessor, this final chapter in the Cars series manages to tell a story I’m convinced is necessary and heartfelt.
Following a fatal loss, the world is forced to question Lightning McQueen’s necessity to the sport of racing, drawing heavy parallels with McQueen’s former mentor whose career was halted in a similar fashion. Naturally, the theme of passing on the reins is incredibly strong throughout the film, through the intriguing character arc of natural talent Cruz Ramirez, and inclusion of the late mentor Doc Hudson and his mentor before him. This makes for a refreshing change of pace, as it broadens the scope of the film, and allows Pixar to tell the age-old story of “try hard to succeed” while also addressing an arguably far more relatable topic for older audiences: knowing when to move on.
McQueen’s main competitor, Jackson Storm, emphasizes this theme and provides an easy target for moviegoers to dislike, but feels lacking in depth and suffers from never really being fleshed out beyond “I’m fast and cocky”.
As always with Pixar, the movie itself is stunning, with a noticeable variation in colour tones and scenery. Director Brian Fee isn’t afraid to use accelerated cross-cutting and other such techniques to intensify race scenes, but also knows when to rein in the theatrics to convey some sincere atmosphere (look particularly for the roadside talk and Thomasville raceway). Unfortunately, some touching moments are undersold, which, following previous studio entries like Up and Toy Story 3, feels like a lost opportunity from a capable creator. However, the film still packs an emotional punch where it counts.
Cars 3 brings the franchise back up to industry standard. A broader scope of locations, new, likeable characters, and a contrasting theme to its predecessors, breathe fresh life into the series, lending a satisfying close to the trilogy.