Hi! It’s Annie!
Because I have absolutely nothing better to do, I recently returned to the ‘Descendants’ series. When this came out it immediately interested me due to the connection with other Disney stories without attempting to force a retell onto audiences. Instead it focused on the lives of four kids who have the misfortune of having villains for parents; Evie the daughter of the Evil Queen, Carlos the son of Creulla DeVille, Mal the daughter of Maleficent, and Jay the son of Jafar. Though I watched the first one and did somewhat enjoy it, I was also getting pretty tired of Disney Channel and didn’t watch any of the other movies. Despite this, I had people from my college talking about how good these movies were, even if they are made for kids. Now that I actually had time to go back, I definitely wanted to share some of my thoughts, especially when it comes to characterization. There are so many characters that they did well, and others that I thought they did pretty badly. Overall, I enjoyed this series more than I thought I would, but I want to go over which characters I fell in love with and the ones that need a little more work. SPOILERS AHEAD!!!
Happily Ever After:
Evie: I loved Evie from the beginning, especially with the lesson they attempted to teach through her during the first movie. Evie has been told her entire life by her mother that the most important thing for a woman to be is pretty. When she gets to Auradon, that’s what we see from her. She tries to find a prince because her mother has told her that she needs a guy to be happy and she pretends to be dumb. In the end, she comes to the realization that she would much rather be smart than be purely focused on her looks. In a world where women are often reduced to being love interests or objects due to their looks, Evie tackles the subject of what women can be and are single-handedly. In the following movies, Evie was one of the only people actually campaigning for the other Villain Kids from the Isle of the Lost to be given the same chance she and her friends now had. Evie is consistently shown to be smart and incredibly kind. Also, the arc of realizing that beauty isn’t all there is being given to the child of the Evil Queen really was clever. Her relationship with Doug is beyond adorable as well.
Carlos: Not only is he an absolute expert at dancing, he’s also one of the characters that you feel for the most. From what Carlos talks about when it comes to his mother, it is obvious that he’s been the most abused of the core four. He is afraid of a lot of things, but dogs and his mother are on the top of the list. When Carlos goes over to Auradon he realizes that he has a love for dogs and uses that to get over his fear of his mother. In other words; she doesn’t scare him and no evil thing will. It’s cheesy, but it’s another clever arc to put the child of Cruella through. Though Carlos is often sidelined in other movies, he always is a comforting and supportive presence for the other characters. He even stands up to Evie and Mal by declaring that he wants to also be a part of girl talk. His character is nothing short of adorable and the sarcasm to go along with it absolutely makes it. I think we all can agree when I say we all miss Cameron Boyce every day.
Uma: Uma almost feels like a plot point that we needed in the first film. She has been abandoned on the Isle, but instead of having a promising life on the Isle before she came over; she has always felt like a prisoner. In the first movie we barely get anything of Mal talking to Ben about what it’s actually like to be trapped on the Isle. Ben and Uma actually get that conversation in the second installment of this franchise. Uma eventually becomes one of the most sarcastic and relatable characters in the cast. Not only that, but her pirate crew is nothing short of badass. In the second movie I was always having the most fun when the pirates were on screen. Uma having a very real reaction to what being trapped on a prison island is like, is something we needed from the beginning. She added a much needed element to the story.
Harry: So, he doesn’t get too much time in until the third movie. He works for Uma and that’s the most of what he does. But he is such a fun character to watch. Harry is a loyal friend for Uma, but he’s also unsettling and always has so much fun playing with his prey. When he’s on screen it’s really difficult to tear your eyes away. He looks absolutely insane but in the best way. Every scene with him in it is interesting.
Doug: Dopey’s son and Evie’s love interest. Doug is one of the only people that believes in Evie from the beginning. Their relationship ends up being one of the cutest and healthiest relationships I’ve seen in anything like this. There’s very little drama here, just pure acceptance. By the third movie it is clear that he and Evie have become best friends as well as true loves, and that’s always my favorite type of depiction of any couple. He also gets a bit of his own arc where he learns to be braver and more confident during the movies, which is a cute arc for Dopey’s son.
Mal: I know people are not going to like me at all for saying this, but Mal is only good in the first movie and even then she needs work. Mal learns what love is in the first film, which is a good arc for her character. The end of her arc has another quick love fix, much like Elsa in ‘Frozen’, so that isn’t that great. But Mal’s character never really expands beyond herself. After the first movie, the other characters end up with arcs that expand to helping other characters. Mal remains focused only on herself and her relationship with Ben. She makes several selfish decisions and is only ever convinced to do the right thing when she realizes her friends are disappointed in her. Because Mal only ever is given arcs that focus on herself, she comes out of the entire series looking incredibly selfish.
Jay: Jay has very little time and personality in comparison to the other core four. While the other three get arcs in the first movie that have to do with their lives back in the Isle and who their parents were, Jay gets virtually nothing. He goes from stealing to liking sports and that’s about it. It doesn’t really have anything to do with Jafar and doesn’t show us a lot of his personality as a character. In the next two movies he is very sidelined. I will say that in the second movie he gets some great moments where he makes Lonnie, Mulan’s daughter, the captain of the fencing team. That entire storyline was amazing simply for tackling the issue of women not being allowed in men’s sports. He also, in a sweet moment, tells Mal that he will drive her back to the Isle himself is she is still unhappy. We just don’t get enough of this. We don’t get enough of him. I feel like, by the end of the series, we barely got to know him.
Ben: Every single time he came on the screen I couldn’t help but cringe. This actor isn’t exactly the best by any means, but what Ben is given is just as bad. Though Ben is often one of the only people other than Evie to campaign for the freedom of the VKs, he always feels very out of place. He is kind but has some of the worst dialogue and it’s really confusing that he’s being crowned King at the age of sixteen. He also has very little in personality outside of being a nice guy. The best I’ve seen of Ben was when he felt guilty after his talk with Uma.
Audrey: She’s just not that great. She doesn’t appear at all in the second film and in the first film she’s written to be a generic mean popular girl. There’s really not a whole lot that’s special about her. In the third movie they attempt to give her characterization, but she’s not an intimidating villain. In the first few films there was a sense of urgency because the other villains were trying to take down the barrier. She just feels like a nuisance. Which is the way her character feels in all the movies.
Jane: None of Jane’s arcs ever feel really deserved except for when she grabs the wand in the first movie. Her and Carlos never have any chemistry before they force the romance between them. She just doesn’t seem like she has much of a character beyond being insecure. I almost wish Disney would have done what fans were calling them to do, which was make Carlos and Jay gay. Jane did not deserve the arcs that she was given.
Lonnie: I just want more of her! Just like Jay, we didn’t get enough time with her and she wasn’t very good in the first movie. There was nothing in her personality that ever even hinted at her being the daughter of Mulan and she acted just like every other girl. In the second movie they actually gave her something. She kicked ass and became the captain of the guys team. But I just wish they had shown her more like that and had given her more.
I actually liked ‘Descendants’ more than I thought I would! It’s really well done for being a Disney Channel movie and the acting as a whole was better than I thought. If you are interested in this storyline but don’t want to watch it because it was made for kids; go watch it anyways! It’s not perfect, but you’re bound to get some enjoyment out of it!
See you across the pond!