By Robert Richmond
I went into Puss in Boots: The Last Wish with a lot of expectation, with how highly rated it is. Yet somehow, it managed to completely meet them.
It is absolutely gorgeous in every way, we should all thank Into the Spiderverse for reminding every animation studio they don’t have to adhere to realism. Animation as a medium is capable of producing visuals you’d never see in live-action, telling stories that would be otherwise impossible to adapt. It’s also genuinely quite funny, has incredible action but also a relatable premise about living your life to the full and fear of death.
Recent fare from Disney has shied away from the traditional Disney villain to either manifestations of grief/loss/trauma, broader concepts or even the dreaded ‘twist villain’. Think back on the likes of Jafar, Scar, Frollo, Captain Hook and Ursula: all iconic villains who defined generations. There’s nothing wrong with moving beyond stock villains and archetypes, dealing with more nuanced topics, but every now and then a truly memorable villain can elevate a story.
Every villain in this is good in their own way. Goldilocks and the bears work as antagonists but very quickly you realise there’s more to them than simple villains, they serve as the sympathetic villains you’d expect nowadays. Jack Horner is wonderful, it’s so cool to have a completely irredeemably evil villain in an animated movie again, just an absolutely monster with nothing sympathetic about him. His design is great, he’s genuinely funny and offers up some wild action with his trinkets. Even his Jiminy Cricket stand-in ruled. But Death might be the greatest Dreamworks antagonist of all time, the fact that this Puss in Boots movie is about him facing the literal manifestation of Death in a fight for his life might just be the best thing ever. He would be the ‘concept’ villain, a manifestation of all of Puss’ fears in the shape of an enemy he must overcome in order to save himself and grow as a person. It’s such a simple and classic storytelling technique, but it adds an incredible level of depth and dimension to proceedings.
I never thought we could top Shrek 2 but somehow we did. The score is absolutely incredible, peak cinema is back on the menu, I challenge you to not be humming ‘Fearless Hero’ when you stop watching! The Shrek universe has finally returned from a long hiatus and it came back with a bang, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish not only measures up to previous films in this franchise: it surpasses them.