I finally got around to watching Zootopia this past weekend. I enjoyed it, but I wasn't overly enthusiastic about it when the credits started rolling. But it's stuck with me, and I've been thinking about it a lot in the past few days, so I figured I'd jot down a few thoughts:
Thought 1: Zootopia has a remarkably tight plot
This didn't jump out at me as I was watching it or even right after it was over, but the more I think about it, the more I realize--man this is a quality flick!
For example, the scene where Judy's chasing that weasel: as I was watching it, I thought, "Well, here it is--that old classic scene where the underdog protagonist tries to make a hero of themselves and ends up making a huge mess of things and getting in trouble. Ten bucks says the next scene has her landed in the chief's office getting put on some kind of probation."
And I was right--to a point. The scene played out as expected, and the next scene was indeed inside the chief's office for the very reason I had predicted. And yet it was different, too. When it looked like the little rodential apartment buildings were going to topple like dominoes, Judy righted them. In the end, she actually handled things quite well and didn't make much of a mess at all. She even made a friend with a little vole by complimenting her hair--and that ends up being really important later on.
"Huh," I thought. "Kinda clever that the vole showed up again later."
But that wasn't the end of it--not by a long shot. In the third act, when Judy finally solves the mystery, that weasel turns out to be the key. In the end, that scene played an entirely different (and surprisingly crucial) role in the total plot structure.
And that seems to be how the whole movie works. I've only seen it once, so I can't say for sure, but I think pretty much everything that happens early on comes up again recently. In fact, a sound bite uttered in the very first scene is, I think, repeated exactly in the climax. And the twist that happens in the climax--totally built up to, but still completely fooled me. Very impressive.
Thought 2: Zootopia has a lot to say about race
I haven't checked, but I assume other people on the internet have discussed this. It was, in some places, extremely overt. And yet, here again, the more I thought about it, the more layers I found.
You can't just say, "The predators represent Black people." They do for sure at the end of the movie, but remember that Judy only became a cop through an affirmative action program. So Judy is also Black, or at least a minority of some kind. And then she ends up perpetuating racism against the predators.
I think rather than interpreting bunnies or predators or any other group of animals as representing particular minorities, I think it's best to accept the movie as a separate world that is dealing with similar issues. When you do that, it'll give you a lot more to think about regarding our own world.
Final Thought: That world is pretty stinkin' cool
The detail that really sticks out to me is the sprinklers in the Rain Forest District during Judy's initial train ride into Zootopia. I'm a bit sad we didn't get to see all 14 districts, but we should appreciate the writers' restraint in this regard. Still, if this was the 90s, I'd be totally stoked to watch the spinoff TV show that inevitably would have explored all 14 districts.
All in all, a solid flick. Don't know that I'll get around to revisiting it myself, but I'd say it's well worth multiple watchings.