Puss In Boots: The Last Wish Review – A New High For The Shrek Universe

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is extraordinary. Not only thanks to its stellar animation and surprisingly nuanced take on mature themes, but also in how it manages to justify a reason to exist in the first place. It’s a sequel to a spin-off that already came around several years after Shrek had reached its apex, capitalising on a supporting character who many believed didn’t have the depth to support his own adventures. Yet here we are, blown away by an Oscar contender that not only builds on the saturated beauty introduced to Western animation with Into the Spider-Verse, it teases an exciting future for this universe that I cannot wait to see. A favourite fearless hero indeed.

The Last of Wish is an evolution for its universe, following in the ambitious footsteps of similar gems from recent years that teased a new generation of emergent talent in the medium, showcasing how 2D and 3D animation need no longer be constrained by traditional methods and ideals. Turning Red and Entergalactic are just two examples of this new age, and I think it's just getting started. Often the only limit is imagination, and it’s clear throughout almost every single frame of this masterful caper that DreamWorks, first through The Bad Guys and now in The Last Wish, has embraced such a mantra. Every character, object, and colour bounces off the screen with rhythmic vibrancy.

Puss has spent eight of his nine lives as a fearless legend, unafraid to confront death as a failure just meant he could simply dust himself off and do it all over again. This immortality is precisely why he grew to become such a confident, cocky, and lovable musketeer. There is no fearing death when the act of passing away is nullified by your very existence, and thus Puss marched forward into peril only to emerge victorious again and again and again.

Time eventually comes for us all, though. Everyone has to stare down their mortality and accept exactly what life really means no matter the hardship this ultimatum conjures up. The Last Wish deconstructs a character we once viewed as a charming sidekick in a tale where he possesses clear motivations, flaws, and a past hiding far more secrets than I could have imagined. Even without the animation the world is showering with praise, the narrative here is hugely compelling inside a tight and traditional structure.

As the name suggests, Puss is after the titular Wish to regain his nine lives and the identity that has begun to fade away in the wake of his newfound fragility. Along the way he meets unexpected allies, makes new enemies, and takes part in all the wonderful moments of action, emotion, and comedy you’d expect from a film like this. It’s formulaic, but constantly this predictability is subverted through a deeper perspective on familiar storytelling or a will to question classic character arcs and behaviours we’ve seen so many times before. I knew where things were going, but the constantly shifting Forbidden Forest locale defined by inner fears and memories turns a pedestrian treasure hunt into something memorable.

Supporting characters like Kitty Softpaws and her controversial past romance with Puss, or Goldi and the Three Bears upholding the precious validity of family units no matter the shape or size. There’s also Perrito, a bulbous-eyed little mutt with a kind heart and moral compass grounding most of the film’s themes and characters. Big Jack Horner is the weakest link, frequently depicted as a traditional villain with evil motivations designed to keep the plot moving and little else. He’s a formidable foe, but often fades away into the background until The Last Wish needs him to up the stakes or give it a reason to instigate another set piece.

My personal favourite is Wolf, a physical embodiment of Death, who hunts Puss down with a pair of razor-sharp twin scythes. I wouldn’t even call them a villain, instead a necessary presence for a character who for decades has teetered on the edge of danger only to conquer it each time. When his luck begins to peter out, he is met by an ominous figure that represents the balance of all things and whether someone even deserves the lives they are so content in wasting is a powerful mode of personification, and one the movie uses to deliver some unusually haunting sequences. Wolf draws blood from Puss when they first meet, instilling a fear in our protagonist that permeates throughout the entire storyline. No longer is he laughing in the face of death, he’s desperate to run from it and never look back.

Viral tweets and interviews have already done a stellar job of outlining how The Last Wish deals with the likes of panic attacks and personal expectations, and many of the scenes in question are relatively brief and isolated, but that doesn’t take away from how valuable they are. We’re all afraid of death, although few of us are ever going to face it under these dire circumstances. Puss runs into the woods, collapses into a heap against a tree, and can do nothing as a wave of panic washes over him. His heavy breathing and state of confusion is authentic and real, reminding me of my own panic attacks and how the only solution is to find a place of comfort and let it pass. Perrito is there for him, reminding this fearless hero that confiding in others isn’t to be ashamed of, but welcomed given how vulnerable and fleeting life can be.

The groundbreaking animation work speaks for itself, but special mention must be given to myriad action sequences that deliberately slow down the delivery of frames so acrobatics, sword clashes, and goodness knows what else are matched up with the orchestral score. It switches throughout being animated on ones and twos, adding to the textured pacing The Last Wish finds in its structure. I can’t think of anything else like it, especially on this scale, with unorthodox framing and a willingness to discard the importance of physics and character dynamics in favour of sheer spectacle. You’ll be taken aback by it, convinced a film like this couldn’t possibly originate from the same universe as onions with layers and talking donkeys. It’s on another level.

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is both an instant classic and a tantalising glimpse at where DreamsWorks will take its films in the years to come. All of a sudden the idea of a Shrek reboot doesn’t make me roll my eyes, it excites me thanks to the possibilities teased by a spin-off that will turn it into far more than an overflowing volcano of dated references. There is a clear wind of change flowing through animation right now, and The Last Wish could be the strongest gust we’ve seen yet. With any luck, it will only lead to bigger and better things.

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