Welcome to another edition of "Because You All Perforce Must Care What I Think." Let's make this short and sweet, shall we, getting the unpleasant bits out of the way first.
Category A: Things That There Was Never Any Hope For Improvement On
1. Human character designs still not doing it for me. No amount of time and effort will make our girls not look like somewhat sexualized and rainbow-hued versions of Mr. ZIP what with the huge heads and stick bodies and all.
2. Still no substitute for actual pony film. Actual pony screen-time even lower than last time around.
3. All protagonists are suddenly skilled musicians, when canonically only Pinkie, Fluttershy (maybe?) and A.J. have even been shown handling an instrument. And Twilight is appropriately lampshaded in the narrative, so I guess I'm only questioning Dash and Rarity? I dunno. Let's move on.
Category B: Things Actually Worse Than Last Film
1. Vinyl Scratch. I am absolutely great with fandom nods. No allergy whatsoever to seeing Octavia, Snowflake Bulk Biceps, and lots and lots of Trixie. Welcomed. But basic storytelling dictates that you cannot have a functionally nameless character pull not one but two eleventh-hour saves without seeding the plot properly first. Story structure demands that the protective qualities of her omnipresent headphones be hinted at before they are used to save our heroes' bacon (something so simple as including a version of the the disapproving Celestia / Vinyl interaction we saw in the "Music to My Ears" short would have been absolutely sufficient) and the Bass Cannon Sedan needs to have been at least established (if not fully revealed) prior to its use as a problem-solver. When you count on an audience's in-joke knowledge and delight over a character to fill in the cracks of a story, that is when your fandom nod has crossed the line. Furthermore, I can't tell if the creators are putting her forward as a strong-silent master of her craft or actually envision her as the same loudmouthed Bohemian that the fans see and are merely having her stay mute to appease the "Nowacking or Nothing" crowd. I wish they would just pick one, because the more the plot actually hinges on her the more distracting her silence becomes. Thank goodness they actually had Octavia speak a line.
2. No Candybutt, not even in cameo. This is not a fault in the story as such, I'm just (predictably) disappointed and furthermore holistically trepid that my functional OC will continue to fade into the background as Twilight becomes more and more Cadanceified. She's got wings now, is a princess, and lives in a crystal castle. All she needs is a coat of pink paint and to get married, and the narrative will have no use for dear sweet Candybutt whatsoever.
Category C: Things Better Than Last Film
1-n. Virtually everything else. The scene compositions were more visually adventurous and intriguing, the villains had a plot which made some damn sense this time, the songs are marginally superior, plot points are followed through on and not just mentioned and dropped, and the whole thing seems to have been stitched together with a lot of love and affection for the property. And Sunset Shimmer is handled exactly the way I wanted her to be handled. The scene where she once again attempts bad-girl intimidation in the darkened hallway only to have it fizzle this time is just splendid, and I for one gratefully welcome Sunny as the unexplained sixth peripheral star in "Magical Mystery Cure."
That is all. Thoughts?