Gaming Editor Louis Wright finds Puss in Boots: The Last Wish to be a triumph for Dreamworks and animation, with its visual style and approach to its themes
Over 10 years since the cinema screen was last graced with the ‘Shrek Universe’ in Puss in Boots (2011), Dreamworks’ most iconic franchise makes its triumphant return with Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (2022). Despite suffering through many issues in production, including several rewrites, the film manages to defy all expectations to produce an experience that has rarely been seen from the studio since its early days.
While part of the Shrek franchise, the film is more comparable to the early outings of Dreamworks in its tone and presentation, namely The Prince of Egypt (1998) and The Road to El Dorado (2000). It is less comedic by nature, focusing more on its characters, the journeys they go on, and how they change and evolve throughout the narrative.
Puss in Boots (Antonia Banderas) especially, as the focal character, is tremendously written. His character has depth and nuance to his actions and motivations that make him believable in ways that he was not in any of his previous features. The film strips Puss back to the fundamentals of his character, in turn exposing his greatest flaws, in an examination of what it means to live up to your own expectations and how to overcome fear in all of its forms. This works exceedingly well, inciting discussions rarely seen in family-orientated media.
This character work is translated brilliantly into the visual medium. Throughout the 100-minute runtime, the film is consistently flawless in its presentation. The sound design and colour consistently reflect the mood of Puss’ character, not being afraid to delve into darker and more ominous tones despite the younger target demographic. Moreover, the way environments and backgrounds are incorporated into the story, fights, and characters are masterful and make the world that these characters reside in feel alive.
Special mention must be made of the animation, however. Taking heavy inspiration from Sony Pictures Animation’s Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse (2018), the film utilises striking colours and fluid camera motions to make fast-paced action invigorating while also easy to follow. This is further assisted by the use of varying frame-rates within fight scenes. Changing the rate at which characters move helps their motions feel more pronounced (through lowering the frame-rate) and therefore more impactful, or more fluid (through raising the frame-rate) and therefore more dynamic.
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, as previously stated, is tonally different to its counterparts in the Shrek franchise, taking on a more grounded atmosphere in the fairy tale setting. This does not prevent the film from having genuinely unexpected comedic moments throughout though. Many of the jokes hit their mark, being timed excellently as to not only make for memorable moments but also to help adjust the atmosphere of the film accordingly, bringing levity and lightening the mood when necessary.
Therefore, when discussing Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, the most marked feature has to be the restraint that the creators have shown. It is a very common occurrence in many family-oriented animated features for the creators to continuously offer an endless deluge of jokes (or other elements such as brightly coloured set pieces) to the audience. This bombardment, regardless of quality, creates films that are tiresome at best and grating at worst.
By having all of the film’s elements, its humour, its emotional beats, and even its dynamic fight sequences, in moderation; Puss in Boots: The Last Wish strikes a near-perfect balance in its content.
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is proof that Dreamworks is capable of producing some of the most engaging and excellently crafted animated films put to cinema, therefore making the continued insistence to churn out the likes of Trolls: World Tour (2020) and The Boss Baby (2017) even more baffling. However if this film is indicative of the level of quality the studio will hold itself to going forward, then the upcoming Shrek 5 cannot come soon enough.
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is in cineams now.
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