When I went to see My Little Pony: The Movie, I had certain expectations. I expected a heartwarming story about the power of friendship. I expected toe-tapping musical numbers from Taye Diggs and Kristin Chenoweth. I expected a collectible cup that looks like Pinkie Pie (and here it must be noted that AMC let me down – what the hay AMC). But I did not expect a remake of McG’s 2003 masterpiece, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle.
The Ponyverse and the Charlieverse both center on a group of highly capable, adventurous women/mares. Each member has a unique style and personality (Alex is the sciencey Angel, Rainbow Dash is the sporty Pony, etc), and they come out on top by combining their various strengths and abilities. The heart of both franchises is an unwavering belief in the power of female friendship. It’s magic, you might say.
Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle and My Little Pony: The Movie both introduce an antagonist who was a member of the group in the past, and returns unexpectedly with a big chip on her shoulder/mane. In Full Throttle, it’s ex-Angel Madison Lee, played by Demi Moore. She’s described as maybe the greatest of all Angels (she even won a Nobel prize in Astrophysics, which even for this series is pushing it). But as Charlie explains, “Madison, you deliberately went rogue on the DeSoto case and put your fellow Angels in danger.” Three bullets to the chest ended her career, but her real downfall was turning her back on friendship.
Charlie: You were never able to accept that this agency is about teamwork. We’re a family.
Madison: Yeah, yeah, “Angels forever,” I’ve heard the sales pitch. It was very seductive… once.
In My Little Pony, the main villain is Tempest Shadow (voiced by Emily Blunt), a powerful unicorn who takes out Equestria’s three main princesses in seconds. In a flashback we learn that Tempest broke her horn as a filly, and after that the other ponies wouldn’t play with her.
Twilight Sparkle: So sorry you felt so alone.
Tempest Shadow: I saw the truth. My “friends” abandoned me when times got tough.
So once again we have the powerful older version of the protagonist turned evil, obsessed with one traumatic injury that left her physically and spiritually broken. She believes her eyes have been opened, and the younger Angels/ponies who still believe in friendship are naive. Beyond serving as enemies, these characters are cautionary tales. I used to be like you. Lose your friends and we’ll be the same… and our heroes are definitely being pushed in that direction. In Full Throttle, Dylan is convinced that her obsessive ex-boyfriend is putting the team in danger and they’d be better off without her. And in My Little Pony, Twilight starts to become everything she stands against.
Twilight Sparkle: It’s all on me. I’m the one Tempest wants. I’m the last Princess!
Pinkie Pie: You’re also the only one who doesn’t trust her friends!
Twilight Sparkle: Well, maybe, I would’ve been better off without friends like you!!!
And the look of anguish on Pinkie’s face will haunt my dreams.
Our heroes at first believe that the only way to beat Madison and Tempest is to become more like them: more independent and more ruthless. But these dark versions of themselves are too strong and too smart to fight toe/hoof to toe/hoof. The key to victory, of course, is to double down on the very thing they reject. In the case of Full Throttle:
Natalie: I have something you’ll never have.
Madison: And what’s that?
Then all three Angels team up to cast Madison into a literal fiery pit, because some screenwriter skimmed Paradise Lost once and thought they were being cute. My Little Pony ends a little differently. Tempest is actually working for a Big Bad called the Storm King, who betrays her and nearly sends her careening into a swirling maelstrom of death. But Princess Twilight catches her at the last second.
Tempest: Why are you saving me?
Twilight: Because this is what friends do.
Then Tempest helps the Mane Six save the day, and sticks around to listen to Pony Sia perform the end credits song. Everypony’s happy! (Except for the Storm King who is shattered into many pieces, and me because I didn’t get my cup.)