Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Movie Review: King of The Railway (MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS)



Written by
Andrew Brenner

Directed by
Rob Silvestri

Produced by
Kallan Kagan (Arc)
Ian McCue & Halim Jabbour (HIT)

Release Date:
 2/09/13 (UK)
  2/10/13 (AUS)
17/09/13 (US)

After the success with 'Blue Mountain Mystery' in the past year with its DVD sales and TV ratings in the UK and with fans and parents acclaiming the movie, thanks to Andrew Brenner's editing of the script despite some Miller moments, Thomas fans were left thinking of what will Andrew Brenner bring for the movie with new animation and of course new writing. Andrew Brenner has been well-known for creating Thomas stories and adapting episodes from the first and second series for the Marvel comic series between 1987-1992, his years with Marvel, with many of his stories making it as series three and five episodes of the Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends series during the Britt Allcroft and David Mitton era. 'Henry's Forest' is the more notable one, albeit with the criticism of Rev.W.Awdry seeing how the episode ignored railway logic. However Brenner had won the hearts of many Thomas fans with his episode 'Gordon Runs Dry' which has been released in America back in April with the Wal*Mart exclusive DVD 'Railway Mischief' and it also has been broadcasted on UK television back in June. Before the episode was released, the two trailers for this movie came out back in January and March this year, most fans think that movie is another Sharon Miller script but after the episode was released in the two respective countries, there seem to be some positive atmosphere for the special. The animation had been criticised earlier this year saying that the animation looks 'cheap'. But looking at the movie in high quality, it seems that fans should not trust low quality videos on YouTube. So far, the DVD has proven to be a success in children's animation on Amazon UK as the number one best selling DVD, before its initial release.

The movie has been released first in Poland on television unexpectedly, it made its cinema debut in Australia and in the UK and made its debut in Los Angeles, USA and will be on television in the US on PBS Kids in October. The reason why I've published the review on September 18th instead of October is because I've seen the movie on Dailymotion with thanks going to good friend Chris Tomson. 

Thomas is over the moon when the Earl of Sodor chooses him and friends Percy and James to rebuild Ulfstead Castle. During their latest adventure, the Steam Team meets Millie, a bubbly French engine, and Stephen, an older steam locomotive with fascinating stories to tell. Meanwhile, Spencer and Gordon are stunned when they encounter two new engines, Connor and Caitlin, who are even faster than they are!  

But disaster strikes when Stephen goes missing. Will Thomas find Stephen in time for the Grand Opening of Ulfstead Castle, and what is it that lies buried deep in the mine under the Castle…?

Hands down, this has beaten the likes of 'Blue Mountain Mystery' and 'The Great Discovery' or any Thomas special that has been released since 2005. The story was written well, the new characters have great explanation as to why they're on the island (e.g - Mille being kept in her shed while the Earl was away and Connor and Caitlin coming to the island for time trails before the opening of the castle). I love the introduction of the pre-railway days, it shows that Andrew Brenner had really stuck with his promise of research from the TTTE Wikia. Jack had a nice comeback, it wasn't flashy or a big deal but nice. His new shape, I liked it and it makes him more realistic when I first saw the picture from the Polish dub back in July and to be honest it wasn't a huge problem for me, which in this fan base they see something new and it's out of their comfort zone and go on and blame HIT for it, which is a shame really. The new characters are likeable and, as I stated before, they had explanations of why they're on the island unlike in the Sharon Miller specials such as 'Day of The Diesels', Den and Dart were engines that Percy had never seen before but they have no explanation why they were never seen and the same would go for Belle, there was no reason why they've came to island in the first place and the same can be said for 'Thomas and The Magic Railroad', both in the official and directors cut for Splatter and Dodge.

People had criticised since the second trailer made its debut in America about the basis of Connor and Caitlin, as they are American locomotives on British rails. To be fair I do like to see some British locomotives in the series but when you look at Connor and Caitlin, they both have Irish accents and with Caitlin from the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, there were many irish rail workers. I don't know much about Connor, but with his basis being from New York they have irish americans there as well. So its a nice little cultural twist for them. But in the end, Connor and Caitlin's basis had grew on to me and I think they looked rather splendid in their respective basis. Though if they were chosen a British kind of basis and with it being a medieval theme special, Connor should've been a GWR Castle class and Caitlin should've been a Princess class.

Stephen has been a likeable character with a nice sense of humour, more better then Charlie's 'jokes' and I especially love the history he has about himself such as 'The race', which is really the Rainhill trails, a competiton between many locomotives to build the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, which plays a big part in British history and culture as it was part of the industrial revolution and it was the first passenger railway line in the world. With Millie her persona has been developed well, showcasing her to be hard working and excited and it was nice that it was shown more in the recently aired episode 'The Switch'.

Sir Robert Norramby is an excellent character that they've introduced, he has such great spirit and sense of humour that he reminds me of British actor Brain Blessed. The songs were OK though but I don't know why 'Working Together' was rehashed with different lines really. But 'It's Gonna Be A Great Day', the second version, is much more better then the original draft version considering that it is Sam Blewitt singing in his own voice rather then the help of auto-tune and the lyrics weren't too childish. But I'm surprised that the song is not focused on the special's title during the CGI period, sure there was 'Go Go Thomas', but they did sing about the movie. 'Searching Everywhere' is a nice song but it has its cliched lyrics about helping one another, which is a good for the target audience to learn and listen too. Plus I like the little jokes they put into the special such as "Don't tell me he needs special coal again?!" "No Gordon that was fixed years ago!" and the three engines one truck jib, a nice joke about the major errors in the Sharon Miller era of the series, as I heard on twitter that Andrew Brenner disliked Sharon Miller's writing and I heard that there were three, I don't know much of the third one really. The voice acting is great as well and it sounds better now with the vocabulary expanding for the characters in the story with the great voice direction of Sharon Miller, really she is! With the animation, it was nice and I think Arc had done a great job, I do love the mouth movement of the characters it's a bit more flexible and smooth and there has been some improvements from Nitrogen such as the gravel and grass, which seems to stand out more, however there were some errors with their animation with a narrow gauge engine hauling standard gauge trucks at the BMQ, I know the tracks are dual gauge, but it is unrealsitic. In the end, the movie stands out well as a DVD special rather then a one hour toy commercial to sell characters and play sets, bar 'Blue Mountain Mystery'. The characters had great development and it's good to see the original characters to have their original personas again such as Percy, James and Thomas. Andrew Brenner had done his homework and had kept his promise and if you ever see a title of a special or an episode and even though it may sound a bit bad (e.g - Monster of Sodor), think about Andrew Brenner, the man who is bringing Thomas & Friends back to his normal roots.