Friday, May 24, 2024

Descendants 3 is a Fitting and Joyous End

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Tonight the third and final installment of Disney Channel’s Descendants aired leaving viewers plenty to think about, even while tying up loose ends. This review is mostly spoiler free and should be fine to read for anyone who watched the trailer. I dedicate this and all my Descendants reviews to Cameron Boyce who passed away unexpectedly last month.

Descendants 3 picks up after the events of the second film which highlighted the ways that allyship can go wrong after the first movie set up the Good vs. Evil premise. Our favorite VKs head back to the Isle to pick four more kids to bring with them to Auradon, in hopes of creating a new pipeline of kids who want to leave the Isle. Why anyone thought an application/lottery process was the way to go… It echoes the larger concerns I have about the Descendants world.

After all the entire premise boils down to the winners of the stories throwing the losers off to the Isle and locking them in. Not only that but they literally brought back dead villains to punish them. That’s extreme, even for a fairy tale. King Beast and the rest did so without any thought for the villains’ offspring who canonically are survivors of trauma and abuse. If it wasn’t for Ben being a good white dude…we’d have no VKs in Auradon.

Dizzy, Celia (Dr. Facilier’s daughter), and Mr. Smee’s twins are the next four to go to Auradon. What follows is Ben asking Mal to marry him (it’s very wholesome) setting up Audrey, Ben’s ex as the movie’s main villain. Hell hath no fury, I guess. Reminiscent of the curse her mother was placed under, Audrey spells Auradon to sleep, keeping charming Chad around as a lackey.

The original four leave with Celia to go get Hades’ ember. The only item powerful enough to counteract Maleficent’s scepter. Doubly funny considering Hades is Mal’s father and absolutely wants to break through the Isle’s barrier to wreak havoc in Auradon. Once again, Mal’s personal connections both help and harm her. Especially now that she’s engaged and on her way to be the future queen, making decisions for both Auradon and the Isle. A lot for a teenager so her decision to close the barrier for good weighs on her throughout the film, making the final scenes incredibly satisfying.

Along the way, the gang meet up with Uma, Harry, and Gil, eventually find Jane. Everyone works together in various capacities to stop Audrey and save the day. What follows are some of my favorite moments from the entire movie series including a set of dancing suits of armor, incredibly funny interplay between Mal and her friends and Uma and her friends, and character beats for everyone! #Jarlos, definitely #Huma, and though Lonnie isn’t in the film, Jay gets to banter with Gil plenty. Even better, the social commentary continues.

Social Commentary and Privilege

Again, the first four Villain Kids both in the movie and accompanying book canon are survivors of trauma. As young as 16, they’re fighting their parents and the notion of nature vs. nurture. Mal’s speech at the end really emphasizes this dilemma. She points out that all of us are capable of good and bad regardless of where we come from. Why wouldn’t we expect kids of villains to act terribly? Auradon’s children for the most part are all terrible to the VK’s all based on prejudices taught by their parents. Their privilege allows them to turn away from the way that people live on the Isle. Not until this film are most of the other Auradon students less hostile towards Mal and the others.

Though Audrey’s not in the second film, the jump to her as this film’s main baddie mostly works. Her descent (hah) into anger and “Queen of Mean” after feeling scorned by Ben and Mal is relateable. A teenager’s anger and hurt is nothing to scoff at so the eventual apologies between the three are realistic. More importantly, her anger comes from losing a future where she saw herself ruling beside Ben. Really, all the privileges that came with the role of Queen. The scene with her grandmother making her feel worse is actually the one scene where I recoiled from my screen.

“Your mother could hold onto a prince in her sleep!”

Oof. So not only is that line played for laughs for the older audience, it gets at how the adults in this universe all suck. They made all the messes that their kids are cleaning up! Grandmother is so focused on status and the related she’s not helping Audrey move on properly! (Grandmother does apologize to Mal, thank goodness.)

At least Hades helps Mal with her mess, and their duet is one of the best songs in the film. I also loved Celia who with Dizzy should get their own spin-off. In fact, something that I loved about all the VKs is how casually affectionate they are with each other, the younger kids, and even with Ben. The villains never showed their kids any affection so the VKs making their own families really gets me, and is great for younger viewers to see. Likewise, I am so glad Mal and Uma finally make up.

I would have loved to see more of Dizzy but her and the Smee twins staying asleep provided scenes of Celia taking care of them, while Mal and Evie did their best to take care of everyone else.

Ultimately, I found the final film in the series really satisfying in its barely hour and fifty minute run time. Do I have a million logistical questions about integrating the Isle kids (and some of their parents) into Auradon? How about seeing an outtake of them relaxing now that there’s no fear of danger? Absolutely, but that’s what fanfiction is for!

Stray Thoughts
  • Evie and Mal running in heels is a mood.
  • Please give the wheelchair user DIALOGUE PLEASE.
    • Yay for all the other characters from different backgrounds though.
  • Beast Ben is a lot of fun.
    • I do wonder how Mal’s relationship with her in-laws developed so much in a few months that she hugs them after the engagement…I’m sure it had to do with just how much Ben loves and adores Mal!
  • That each of the VKs has their own area in the Isle for other VKs and that they have posters highlights their impact on the other kids.
  • Everyone involved with this trilogy worked so hard to give us this third movie and it shows. I can’t wait to see the cast in everything else they do. Dove Cameron especially has grown in the last five years and her performance was truly spectacular.

Image courtesy of Disney

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