Equestria Girls returns with its fourth installment. This one introduces a few new things for the spin-off franchise. The first thing is of course that it released on Netflix. (In the US anyway, it was broadcast in Brazil about a week ago on TV.) The first two films had theatrical releases while the third went straight to TV. It’ll be interesting to see what the future holds for MLP on Netflix. (Who knows, if the show for some reason goes off Discovery Family we could see new seasons on Netflix.) The biggest new story aspect is the debut of this world’s version of the Everfree Forest. Legend of Everfree is another solid entry. It’s not as strong as the last film, but fans will definitely find a lot to like.
Official synopsis: When Canterlot Highschool goes on a trip to Camp Everfree, they’re surprised to find a magical force is causing strange things to happen around camp. With the help of the Mane 6 and especially Sunset Shimmer, Twilight Sparkle must confront the dark “Midnight Sparkle” within herself and embrace her newfound magical abilities to save the camp.
Legend opens up with a strong dream sequence: Twilight being taunted by her darker self Midnight Sparkle from the previous film. This is a continuing element of the story until the climax. Even though the concept of keeping an evil version of one’s self at bay is nothing new, it will always be an engaging character arc. The viewer can see the terror on Twilight’s face in the final act as she’s forced to use her magic. As the one thing she’s been fearing is coming true: Midnight Sparkle taking over, her friends jump in and throw her some encouragement. Quotes such as “You are a light Twilight!”and “We’ll be here, no matter what!” were powerful and showed what kind of positive impact good friends can have. MLP never fails to showcase what friendship is supposed to look like in the real world.
As the title states, the core story takes place in the Everfree Forest as Canterlot High goes on a camping trip. The previous three films took place completely at school, so the green was a nice change of scenery. The plot moves at an okay pace. There are a few aspects of the writing that bring down the score a bit. For one thing, Filthy Rich is painfully generic. His pony counterpart didn’t seem to be that pretentious. Yes, the idea is to portray the person who only cares about profit. But, there are better ways to do that than the unrealistic portrayal here.
The bigger negative is that the writing decided to add another romance. Twilight (pony) liking Flash Sentry in the first Equestria Girls was incredibly forced, but even that was better than what is seen here. Timber Spruce isn’t a bad character, but the viewer has to question him right away flirting with Twilight. (Camp seems like a scary place if the counselor goes ahead and decides to flirt with one of the students almost instantly.) The writing attempts to develop this romance subplot throughout the duration, but it never works. All this happens over the course of just two/three days; by that night Twilight and Timber are just about to kiss before being interrupted. Again, all that happens in such a short amount of time. The romance aspect wasn’t needed and brought the story down every time it appeared. The only clever parts about it were the friends’ reactions.
The only other main negative with the writing is that there’s a missed opportunity. Everfree Forest is where Zecora lives in the pony world, so it would have made sense to introduce her here. Sadly, she’s nowhere to be seen. Moving on to the positive aspects, the writing aside from what was previously listed contains the quality viewers have come to expect from the franchise. From excellent humor (Rarity’s campfire story on “same color family” was ingenious) to iconic friendship speeches, there are a lot of great things to find here. The best part is the portrayal of Sunset Shimmer.
Sunset Shimmer has come a long way from being the magic-obsessed villain from the first film. Interestingly, in many ways she’s at the moment the Twilight of the group. This is because the Twilight of this world is still new to friendship while Sunset is portrayed as a veteran when it comes to understanding how friendship works. Sunset throughout the story demonstrates how kind and caring she is. She’s just all around a sweet character and one of the best in the entire franchise. If you have a friend like Sunset, give her/him a hug (or at least a handshake) and let them know that you appreciate them. Friends like that are rare, and a blessing.
In some ways, the story is about Sunset and Twilight. The other friends don’t really do much aside from talking. This could be a major negative if the viewer was hoping for a more group-centric focus. Pinkie Pie is the biggest disappointment. She has no notable scenes and ended up just being comic relief. The antagonist this time around features a tragic backstory, a nice change of pace from previous films. Her dialogue was excellent with subtle comedy added in. Her character arc demonstrates the unfortunate happening when one wants too much power, even if it’s for seemingly noble reasons. The ending has her get off a little too easy however. By now we know the pony world and its human counterpart are very forgiving of crimes, but there were literally no consequences for what she did. It just subsided right after it was over.
One of the greatest parts of the film is the soundtrack. Legend might have the best songs from the series yet. The two main highlights are Twilight’s emotional “The Midnight in Me” and Sunset’s “Embrace the Magic.” These two are a couple of the best songs in the entire MLP franchise. Even if a person is not interested in the film, the music is worth listening to.
Overall, Legend of Everfree is another enjoyable film in the Equestria Girls series. Sunset Shimmer is the biggest highlight, showing that she’s just as a fantastic character as any of the Mane 6. (Depending on how you look at it though, the writing leaves the other friends in the dust while giving Sunset all the best dialogue and screen-time.) Twilight’s journey to fighting off her dark self was an engaging plot element. The climax features a great battle and hints at what’s to come for the series. There are some things holding back the film from being truly great, such as the poorly developed romance, but there’s a lot to appreciate despite any negatives.