Throwback Thursday: Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron
Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (2002) movie review
The Dreamworks animated film Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron follows a wild stallion in the latter half of the 1800s who finds himself captured and trying to return home. The film was released in May of 2002 to a rather weak opening weekend, not even making back its budget at the US box office. Spirit also failed to double its budget worldwide, and despite an Oscar nomination for Best Animated feature, has fallen in with Dreamworks forgotten animated features. But here we are, 19 years later, with another version of this film opening this weekend! So clearly somebody other than me remembered this movie!
Okay I really like Spirit! Is it good? Ah kinda. Is it an obvious attempts to cash in on the 1999 Phil Collins album called “Tarzan” by making a Bryan Adams album? Yeah. It is just a Western adaptation of the 1982 novel “War Horse?” Also yeah. But hey, it’s better than the 2011 movie! Look here’s the thing, if you haven’t seen Spirit and you are down for a very G but very fun movie about a horse that kids and adults can both enjoy, it’s a blast! Am I too nostalgic? Maybe…
So let’s talk about some reasons to watch this underrated gem real quick! First of all, the freaking soundtrack. It’s amazing. I don’t care what you say, Bryan Adams and Hans Zimmer are such a pair! Plus the character doesn’t talk, to this has the Drive (2011) effect of the music needing to add to the depth of the situation. Is “Get Off My Back” the most on the nose song for The Colonel trying to break Spirit that could ever be written? Yeah probably. Do kids know that? No. It is a great song? Absolutely. Does the music take the film from the 6 it deserves to a solid 7 for these two artists giving this film way more effort than they had to? You bet.
Now I wouldn’t have thought that Matt Damon in 2002 would be a good pick for the internal dialogue of a horse in a kids movie. Titan A.E. (2000)? Heck yeah! Spirit? I guess… Turns out, he’s pretty good! And between he, the horses providing the sounds, and the clever writing, it’s a pretty fun movie too! There are some good laughs, as well as a few moments that hit way too hard to be stick in an average movie like this. And I don’t even like horse movies! Look it might be the soundtrack, but I’m such a sucker for this movie and I don’t know why! Also James Cromwell and Daniel Studi are great in the supporting voice cast.
The animation is pretty solid. Stunning mid-1800s mid-Western scenery might not have looked better in animation! For the time it was released anyway. Plus the sound work is top-notch. But yeah, of course it looks good. Dreamworks usually does. How’s the story? Well it’s the best and worst thing about the movie…
The type of movie we have here is a pseudo-anthology film where one character goes from place to place learning lessons and meeting characters. It’s why I don’t care that much for War Horse (2011). And to be honest, it’s not doing wonders for this story either. It’s not bad, but it could hone in more by spending a few more minutes here and there and having these encounters seem more impactful. THAT SAID, two things really stand out in this movie for me!
First, the setting shifts offer a very unique view of the West for kids to learn without having to study. Spirit meets Lakota, who are I think very well represented, a US Army outpost (who I am sure are also well represented…), and a work camp working on the Transcontinental Railroad. So that may seem like nice backdrops for adults who are more focused on either the meaningful relationships or just getting through the movie, it offers historical context for kids without beating them over the head with things like the hardships that occurred when those worlds were thrown together.
Those hardships however are absolutely represented in the relationship between Little Creek and Spirit, who share a bond in their situations. In this sense, Spirit essentially does go to show just how much America got ruined by, well, Americans in many ways. I love how both Spirit and Little Creek get captured and both have to work together to escape. It solidifies the kindred, well, spirits that they have. At first Spirit saw him as someone who wanted to keep him from his home, until he saw the same thing happen. Gosh the way this film looks at the treatment of people just rocks.
Okay I’ll get off my high horse get to the theater to see what I am sure will be a rather disappointing retelling of this story. But even if it isn’t good, I’ll always have Spirit. And I know it seems a bit weird to be talking about now, but I cannot wait to show Spirit to kids! (Hopefully mine, but hey, maybe I’ll make a mean babysitter or uncle or something!) Anywayyy, yeah Spirit! What an awesome movie! It’s not amazing or anything, but as a kid, this was really important to how some of the serious issues that I didn’t have to learn too much about yet were presented to me. I mean, I was five when this movie came out, so at first I just remember that it was fun. Then the more I watched it, the more the story really sunk in. So while it is just a vessel for Bryan Adams and Hans Zimmer to make me feel feels without the screenplay earning it, it kinds works. So go watch Spirit! Or like, show your kids or something. 7/10.
So Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron? Did you grow up with it like it did? Or have you yet to check it out? Either way be sure to leave a like or a comment below and let us know! And if you liked this review and you want to read more like it, leave a like or a comment below and let us know what we should talk about next!
-review by Ryan Prince