Yesterday I ranted extensively about The Hobbit, so lets move onto the better and final film I saw in 2012: Wreck-It Ralph. To fully appreciate how grateful I am for this movie's existence, we need to travel back a few decade and look at other movies based on games.
Unlike the superhero genre which officially entered mainstream hollywood in the early 2000s, there was never the same level of success for video game movies. We had stinkers like Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, the Pokemon movies (except the first one), Double Dragon, The Super Mario Bros Movies, Tekken, King of Fighters etc, which can be fun to laugh at, was way over the top and poorly adapted the game from which they were based on. Then you also have the infamous productions by Uwe Boll such as Alone in the dark, BloodRayne, Farcry and The Third Reich. And finally you have the straight to home video masterpieces with limited or no theatrical release such as Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, Tekken: Blood Vengeance.
Perhaps the only ones that come even close to moderately decent are Tomb Raider and Prince of Persia. So when Disney decided to give it a go, I was not very enthusiastic and nearly opted to skip the film altogether. But then while travelling in Hong Kong some friends decided to watch it together, so I ended up seeing it anyway. And am I glad I saw it!
First of all, I need to address a secret about this film which I think most people who saw it were somewhat upset about: lots of the familiar arcade game characters (like the ghost from pacman, bowser from Mario bros) that you see in the trailers, well that's basically their only scene. Most of the story isn't really about them and is more focused on fictional games that never existed.
However I was quick to forgive this when what followed was not only 90 minutes of fun dialogue, clever references, visual wonders and memorable characters, but also a surprisingly believable and compelling story about the life and death of arcade games and its characters.
In some ways this film is like a summary of many jokes and parodies and fan productions about the video game characters which has been flooding the internet for a long time, but I was taken aback at how convincing and human these characters were, and how invested I got in the development of the story. The characters had depth, their relationships were genuine, their struggles identifiable, and aside from the villain being slightly one-note, I think this was the video game movie everyone wanted to see for decades. If only they do it this well for my game (which by the way is Runescape)!
The most interesting character to me in this film was Ralph. While I've seen his character story in other reincarnations before, I think this is the first time I've witnessed it in a movie for children. When Ralph destroys Vanellope's racecar to stop her from running a race which might result in her deletion, I was on the edge of tearing up a little bit.
The message about how protecting someone you love may involve destroying their one dream and losing their friendship is not only a harsh one, but also a brave one. Sometimes to be the hero, one must be the villain in the eyes of those they are trying to save. While being Disney everything works out in the end and they reconcile, but when seeing this scene I was reminded of Watchmen, another great movie which offers the same decision. I don't know how well the kids would have reacted to that scene, but even if only the adults grasped it I think it's a welcomed development.
Another great scene was the backstory to the Sargent Tamora from Hero's Duty. I just couldn't stop laughing at the harshness and extremeness of the way her past was programmed. And it's really fun that these character recognize that their reality was constructed by some game designer, and yet they still convey the same emotions about things they know never really happened. I think Tamora was meant to be a parody of the more modern FPS shooter games representing the brute, harsher genres, but still human and for the most part believeable. But did they really have to stir up a forced romance with Fix It Felix? That story arc just made me feel awkward as their chemistry is about as strong as Katniss and Pete from The Hunger Games.
While praising so much about this film overall, I do have one major issue (aside from the nitpicks) with this film, and that is the behavior of those game characters who mistreat Ralph and Vanellope. For some reason The other racers in sugar rush are very bland and reminiscent of poorly designed high school bullies. They are just mean because they are programmed to be mean because Vanellope is (at the time) the glitch, the weird one, the outcast.
Prejudice is an important lesson for children but the film's portrayal of bullies are surprisingly extreme and oversimplistic; there isn't much exploration behind why they are mean to her. The only rationale is that their memory of her as a princess was erased so they are not aware she has rights to participate in the races. Does that immediately warrant hostility and segregation? The same could be said of the civilians in the Wreck-It Ralph game. They know Ralph is only the bad guy because he's programmed to be a bad guy, so again are they just programmed to be jerks to him?
I guess the intention is to warn children not to act like that, because it hurts other people, but as an adult we know that there are often more than meets the eye with bullies; often they are bullied themselves or have other personal issues and need to be addressed separately. I guess this additional character layer would make the movie too hard to digest for kids who are still learning how to spell "discrimination".
Apart from that, I really enjoyed this movie. It is living proof that the video game genre has not yet game overed. The ending song was also surprisingly catchy, and every scene and dialogue mattered. It was a satisfying movie and I hope to see a sequel in the near future.
8.5 / 10.0
None! I think I've covered everything I can remember. All the best for 2013