I saw the first “Monsters Inc.” film in the movie theater when it first came out in 2001. I was 20 days away from turning 8. I liked it then.
And then came the prequel, “Monsters University” in 2013. With a better understanding of films and storytelling, I comprehended the story and elements. I have studied writing and storytelling, so I have viewed the movie from a writer’s POV. I identified the plot points, characterizations, conflict, twists, and more.
Here are the elements I thought were done well:
1: The Plot Twists
Mike was desperate to become a scarer. He wrote out a plan for the rest of his college career and when he made it to the real world.
Regardless of what others told him, Mike was still determined to convince others that he could scare easily. When he was kicked out of the scaring program in the middle of the film, he still wouldn’t give up.
In the spring semester, he joined a fraternity called Oozma Kappa – except that those monsters in it were the complete opposite of scary. But he taught them the techniques he’d learned in the scaring class before he was dismissed from it. It would be the only way he could return to the scaring-major – or else he’d have to leave Monsters University.
I appreciated how the story was not too predictable. Various twists and turns occur throughout the story, many of which surprised me.
2: The characters’ origins before “Monsters Inc.”
Mike dreamed of becoming a scarer. Sully bragged about being the son of a famous scarer. Randall was Mike’s first roommate and wanted to fit in with the cool kids. Their motivations evolved into what they eventually became when the events of “Monsters Inc.” began.
I knew beforehand that Mike and Sully started out as foes, according to an “Entertainment Weekly” magazine. I didn’t expect Randall (or Randy, as he preferred to be called) to start out as Mike’s roommate and be friendly. I felt the biggest moment for setting up the characterizations in “Monsters Inc.” was when Mike tried to sign up for the scare games. Randy turning down Mike’s scare team hinted at how he was going to go bad. Sully offering to join, even though Mike didn’t want him, gave a clue that the two would form friendships after being enemies. These things all matter.
Note: It turns out Mike and Sully knew each other in 4th grade, according to what Mike told him in “Monsters Inc.” This, sadly, makes this a plot hole – unless their memories of knowing each other were wiped between then and when they started college, but were restored between the events of “Monsters University” and “Monsters Inc.”
3: Every line of dialogue was super-important to the story
This may sound obvious to some, but every line of dialogue in any form of written or visual media needs significance to the plot. Each line represented the characters’ motivations and moved the story forward very well. I find this has done it better than in some other movies.
Now onto what I didn’t exactly agree with:
1: Monsters being discriminated for not looking frightening
Although this is crucial to the plot, I found it to be the equivalent to human racism. Mike was kicked out of the scaring program just because he wasn’t scary. That was discriminatory.
In fact, I am pretty sure that in real life, Mike would actually be a little scary. I don’t know about most people, but if I saw something that looked like him walking around, I would certainly freak out, because I wouldn’t expect something like him to exist. Of course, it is not okay to fear people because of their looks.
2: Why doesn’t Mike file a complaint against Dean Hardscrabble for putting him down a lot?
If anyone at a university, student or staff member, mistreats somebody, the offended being would file a report for disciplinary action against the other person. I, unfortunately, had to do that once in college.
Yet, the events of “Monsters University” are set years before I went to college. So, maybe that wasn’t how it worked back then. I could be wrong, though.
Still – you’d think Mike would have done something about Dean Hardscrabble’s attitude toward him. She’d taken away his confidence, suspended him from the scaring program just because of his looks, and much more.
But those are my only criticisms for “Monsters University”.
I would rate this film 5 out of 5 stars. It is one of those movies I can easily watch over and over again.