Like millions of other North American parents with boys of a certain age, I have seen the first Cars movie at least 97 times. We own a ridiculous number of items with Lightning McQueen’s face on them.
So I’ve been looking forward to Cars 2 with a mixture of anticipation and dread. I’m glad there’s a new film so we can put the first one to rest for a while. But I’m nervous about the fresh wave of obessession it might spawn in our four-year-old.
We finally got around to seeing it this week. I was pleasantly surprised, given the lukewarm reviews it received. I actually enjoyed the sequel more than the original. The plot is insanely complicated and barely makes sense—there’s a lesson about true friendship crammed into an international conspiracy involving lemon cars and Big Oil. (No, I’m not joking). It’s still only mediocre by Pixar’s high standards, but it’s action-packed and mostly entertaining.
Yet the film raised more questions for me than it answered. You see, after watching these movies so many times, I have a burning desire to understand the existential nature of the Cars universe.
For starters, who makes these vehicles? In the first movie, there’s a throwaway line where Mack exclaims, “Thank the Manufacturer!” And in the Cars 2, there’s a whole subplot about poorly made vehicles (Gremlins, Pacers, etc.) who are vexed by their own existence.
Where do these Cars come from? Do they have a God? Who determines if you’re born a farm tractor or a Ferrari?
When the Pixar geniuses inevitably sit down to write Cars 3, I hope they give us a metaphysical drama in which McQueen grows tired of racing in circles and sets off on a spiritual quest to meet his Maker. It could be an epic meditation on free will versus predestination. Maybe Terrence Malick could direct.
The other possibility is that the Cars do not inhabit an alternate universe but a futuristic version of our own society. Perhaps humans once lived in this world until vehicles developed consciousness and overthrew them, a la Terminator or Battlestar Galactica. Maybe Mater is really a Cylon.
Now that’s a prequel I would pay to see. I bet Pixar could pull it off—they’ve already given us a film where humans trash the entire planet and abdicate to deep space, so why not tackle the Robot Apocalypse? Ka-chow!
These are the things I think about when I’m watching McQueen repave that one road in Radiator Springs AGAIN.