For some Pixar fans, the Cars series represents a fork in the road; the moment when Pixar ended its “run of greatness” and “lost its way” after a decade-long string of critical and commercial hits. Writers hold up this franchise as evidence of a corruption in the beloved animation studio’s “soul”; many believe it’s responsible for Pixar’s “first bad movie.”
While Pixar’s animated world of anthropomorphic automobiles may very well continue on past Cars 3, there’s a whole lot of finality going on in the final trailer for Pixar’s latest chapter in the racing saga. “One new turn…One more dream…One last chance” reads the title cards in the new trailer for the sequel, in which Owen Wilson’s Lightning McQueen suffers a crippling accident that threatens to end his career. I swear this movie is still totally for kids.
Last month, I had the opportunity to travel to Emeryville, California to screen footage from Pixar’s Cars 3, at the company’s headquarters and studio. At these sorts of advanced screenings it’s made clear from the start that you’re not seeing the entire movie, only select portions, and the amount they show you can vary. I attended a similar preview for The Good Dinosaur a few years ago in New York City and only saw three brief scenes from the movie.
Who knew automated vehicles were also subject to the scrutiny that comes with aging? They may not have to worry about wrinkles, greying hair, or sagging skin, but when cars reach a certain age, it’s straight to the junkyard. (This incites a whole other philosophical discussion around the Cars characters and whether or not they are sentient beings – is their consciousness the engine or the frame, the ghost or the shell?) In Cars 3, racing champ Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) is forced to retirement as a brand new racer enters the game.
As the previous teasers already implied, Cars 3 is going to be a little…darker than previous Cars movies. In Pixar’s third installment of the hit franchise, Owen Wilson’s legendary race car Lightning McQueen is forced into retirement following a traumatic crash, and with all the shiny, young new cars — like Jackson Storm — dominating the track, Lightning has a tough road ahead if he wants to remain relevant. That’s a pretty heavy-sounding plot, but as the full trailer for Cars 3 proves, it’s not all doom and gloom in Cars World.
To kids, Cars is a signature Pixar franchise, known for that little red race car, Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson). To older Pixar fans, Cars is known as Pixar’s red-headed stepchild, well below the rest of the venerable animation studio’s output. Cars was never particularly well-liked in the first place and then along came Cars 2 which was wild and weird and not particularly great (although the movie is so wild and weird it’s kind of interesting).
At the risk of flushing all of my critical cred right down the toilet, I will confess I don’t hate the first Cars. And Cars 2, while insane, is sort of fascinating in its madness. It’s not good, but I have watched it more than once. On the advice of my attorney, I will not comment on my physical or emotional impairment at the time of these screenings.
Journey back with me now to the heady days of the mid-2000s. George W. Bush was President. Iron Man was still known by most people as a Black Sabbath song. And a little raunchy comedy called Wedding Crashers became a phenomenon in theaters, crossing an astounding $209 million in the U.S. alone. The film cemented the bankability of its leads, Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, and helped launch the careers of much of its supporting cast, including Rachel McAdams, Isla Fisher, and a young Bradley Cooper. The film, about a pair of bros who, y’know, crash weddings, is still remembered fondly to this day.