Monday, 1 September 2014

Movie Review Revisited: King of The Railway (2013)


Written by
Andrew Brenner

Directed by
Rob Silvestri

Produced by
Brian Lynch (Arc)
Ian McCue and Haliam Jabbour (HIT)

Release Date
2/09/13 - UK
17/09/13 - US
2/10/13 - AUS

The Earl of Sodor, Sir Robert Norramby, has arrived back to Sodor after travelling the world and is to open Ulfstead Castle to the public with his engine Stephen as well as Millie. 

2013 was the year of change for the television series of Thomas & Friends. A new writing staff was put in, with old and new writers and the animation is now provided by Arc Productions. When the trailer was first released by HIT in January 2013, fans were saying that Arc's animation looks cheap and poor, though to be honest I was one of them too but I gave them a chance, it may look cheap but Arc had provided better detailing then Nitrogen. So the plot of the special opens up with Thomas and Percy at the docks shunting trucks, although in a very silly manner, a crate fell and a suit of amour popped out, Percy thought it was a robot at first and Thomas questioned who it belongs too. After the fabulous intro we are then opened about the Island of Sodor being ruled by King Godred, Railway Series reference much?, and he wears a golden crown but it was stolen. The thieves were caught but the crown was lost. Now its engines who are running the Island. I love the pre-history of Sodor and it makes it feel real, like how Rev.W.Awdry and his brother were trying to make Sodor as real as possible. The use of the storybook was nice as well.
One day Thomas met up with the engines at the wash down as it turns out that Spencer is bringing the Earl of Sodor, who returns after travelling the world. I think Sir Robert Norramby is such a whimsical character, along with Dowager Hatt, he's very energetic and funny. A big party was held to celebrate the return of the earl, however he promised Millie to be back by 2:00 PM. There is some good comedy in that scene, as the earl didn't even know the party was for him. Plus the brass band slow stoppage of the 'Engine Roll Call' theme, it's very lighthearted and kids and adults will probably give it a chuckle. 
Later, Thomas was to take a shipment, that he and Percy shunted earlier in the movie, to the earl's estate, which is Ulfstead Castle. There we meet Millie, who was let out of her shed since the earl's long departure, I'm glad that the new characters have a reason rather then a new character just came to Sodor with no reason whatsoever like in previous specials and episodes of the series. The scene were Thomas was wondering about the Earl and his shipment leaves the audience in mystery, the same can be said about TOTB. One evening, Spencer came to the Island of Sodor to be the earl's private engine. He and Gordon were having a banter about who is faster, which brings a the railway nerd within me in certain delight, as Gordon and Spencer's respective basis were considered as fast machines and were based off two well known locomotives, (Gordon: Flying Scotsman and Spencer: Silver Link, though Mallard is more well-known by its undefeated speed record for steam, but Silver Link did one too) So the next day, a race was made, but Spencer went on a different line, much to Gordon's dismay. 
Later on Spencer was on important business with the Earl and was at the Blue Mountain Quarry delivering stones to the castle. Though how Spencer's characterisation was shown here would be more suited for Gordon. The engines were all wondering why the earl is in need of supplies such as railway lines, stones etc. Later Toby arrived with a message that Henry had broken down, which is a burst safety valve and a nice joke about special coal and so Percy, James and Thomas, under the direct order of the Fat Controller were to pull a heavy goods train to earl. 
With a rehashed song of 'Working Together', Thomas, Percy and James were at the earl's estate and met up with Jack, who has a brand new design change and a more realistic one. As the three engines shunted the trucks, Thomas shunted his load on a new siding, which was used by Millie earlier, and there's one load that's needed to go the the steamworks. After another little jib about three engines and one flatbed, the three engines went to the steamworks, which turns out to be another new character, Stephen, based on George Stephenson's Rocket.
Although it was unexplained, though James mentioned that he might've been in the scrapyard for years, we see him being optimistic, cheery and jolly with a sense of humour. Afterwards Thomas, James and Percy talked to the other engines about Stephen and so the next day, Emily was to take Henry to the steamworks to have his repairs. The two met up with Stephen, who is hosted up to check his undercarriage. All the other engines were there and so Stephen told them his story about his life, which based upon the Rainhill trails, a well known race when the railways of Britain was born. 
Notice how 'Stephen's Friends' are based upon 
'San Pareil' (below) and 'Novelty' (above) both who
both took part in the Rainhill Trails

Later on Stephen was restored and was to be situated at the works. Meanwhile the three main characters are to help with another job for the earl, by building a station canopy. Stephen was sad that they have a job, which is to make them useful. Thomas decided to tell Stephen that earl does have a job for him, but Stephen laughed. As they set to the castle, Stephen went to look for his new job. Meanwhile Spencer and Gordon were racing again, after almost gaining victory (Gordon), Stephen was there blocking his line. After the job was completed, with an accident, the earl had revealed his surprise, which is having the castle restored for the public and that Stephen's job is to take visitors around the estate. Meanwhile Stephen went around the docks, after being told off by Diesel but not being backed down and the BMQ, but can't haul trucks well like he used too. 

Meanwhile two streamlined engines came to the Island for the test runs and time trails for the earl's opening of Ulfstead Castle. They are called Connor and Caitlin. The basis that was chosen for the characters were a bit mixed to me. While I do understand that Thomas is British and that most of the characters are based upon British locomotives, however Amercian basis are not bad choice but they take out the realism of the show's standards, as the Rev.W.Awdry used facts for his stories in the Railway Series. My guess is because of the American audience, this is to please them so they might gain an interest in steam locomotives in their own country and America has some very unique locomotives. Meanwhile Stephen was at the mine and it turns out it was lost and abandoned and now he feels sad that he doesn't feel useful that he doesn't have a job. Meanwhile Thomas and Percy were to take the troublesome trucks of loose stones. However Percy thought someone should be at the front, Percy having common sense for once was a surprise. 

While the runaway scene is good, and definite favourite, it feels cliched to see runaway trucks rolling down a hill be it a Thomas movie/episode. The troublesome trucks being their tricky selves was a bonus. So Stephen was trapped in the mine and was deemed missing. So as work was nearing completion, Thomas went to find Stephen to tell him about his job, however he was nowhere to be seen by the other characters. Stephen was in the mines, he can't find his way out and soon found something in a chest. Next day, Thomas, James and Percy went to find Stephen, with the song 'Searching Everywhere' by Sam Blewitt. It's a nice song with a nice message about helping your friends. Later Thomas went to the old mine, as asked by Percy and discovered, by a whistle sound, that Stephen was in the mines and so rescue was on the way. After Jack cleared some rocks, Stephen was saved with a very unneeded climax and so Ulfstead Castle was opened, with some work to finish off and to finish off the crown of King Godred was found at last, with thanks to Stephen. So to conclude a race was held between Connor, Caitlin, Spencer and Gordon. With a cheesy ending of Thomas and Stephen looking down, with the song 'It's Gonna Be A Great Day' by Sam Blewitt: 

At first I thought it was better then BMM, but later on and after hearing from a few fans, the special could've worked as episodes. While they do link to the story, its subplots as well as the main would work as that. Plus compare it to a recent movie that I'll review later this month, the new movie beats this one out of the water and I'm not putting anyone's opinions down, they too have the right, I'm just stating my own opinions. The special has several animation flaws too and the interactions between characters were a bit minimal, the climax at the end was not even needed, it felt like a last minute addition to the script that serves no purposes at all but the writing was great and the main characters were in good character. It's a good special but not the best.