Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Wreck-It-Ralph Review

I finally had a moment to see Wreck It Ralph. Yeah I know. I’m late to the party. That’s usually how it goes.

I’ve given it some praise long before the release for its innovation, and I have to tell you, I wasn’t disappointed. It’s not the perfect movie and a side-step from what we consider a normal Disney movie, in terms of animation, story design, and composition, but as a whole, it was enjoyable! And I feel slightly guilty for killing those puffy sheep in Mass Effect, because apparently they’re really alive. Sorry guys! 

Wreck It Ralph is the villain in an arcade game called Fix It Felix Jr. Think Donkey Kong meets building blocks. This game has been active in the arcade for 30 years, and no one appreciates Ralph. On the night of their 30th anniversary, Ralph wants to join in on the festivities but is shunned by his game companions. He feels the only way he can be considered their equal is to win a medal (Jr over there gets a medal every time he wins his game), so he jumps out of his game to find his own. And of course, chaos ensues. He jumps into several games, such as Hero’s Duty (Call of Duty rip-off with bugs) and Sugar Rush (Mario Kart on a sugar high), meets new characters, and well you know how this goes. It’s a Disney movie. Of course the ending is going to be a happy ending.

Positives:

Original Video Game Movie: I’m glad that Ralph proves my theory that gaming movies need to go into one of two directions: completely envelope itself with the game or be original. Ralph went with the latter and it turned out nicely.

Ralph does employ other video games that we do know, such as Street Fighter, Q*Bert (they even speak in the squigglies), and Mario, but they interact with each other seamlessly.

To kind of give this some context, all of the machines are hooked up to a mega surge protector. At night after the arcade closes, the characters can leave their games via the electrical cords. The surge protector basically acts as a hub for commerce and travel. This is where you’ll see a lot of the characters interact. Oh and the villain support group in Pac-Man.

No Disney Princesses! Unless they turn Vanellope into one. I hope not. But this is a story about a man, a bad guy who wants to do good. What is he good at? Breaking things, and being bad helps him by the end of the film. Even bad guys can be the heroes by doing bad things. Thanks Disney! :D

I was glad to see that this story didn’t fall into a classic princess tale. No offense to Disney and all of the little girls out there, but I never was a fan of the princess stuff. I don’t even consider Mulan a princess story. She’s a female warrior fighting for her family’s honor. No princess blood in her. But as for Ralph, it’s a classic fallen hero’s tale. In the end he’s still a bad guy, but he earned the respect of the arcade games. That makes for a much better story then a fairy tale about princesses.

Gaming Cred and Quirks: If you’re an arcade gamer, which would mean anyone from the 25-40 crowd, there are plenty of nods to you. Much of Ralph focuses on the nostalgia of the arcades. Even the arcade manager looks like a representative of Twin Galaxies, with the pinstripe referee shirt and his upbeat demeanor. Even the way kids called out for “next” game by putting down their quarter. Ok, kids, that’s an old tradition. You marked your spot on a machine by your quarter. And everyone had a different way to note their quarter. Some people would tag it with a marker. Others, like me, would turn it a certain way – Washington always looked slightly up. And no one would steal your quarters. They knew you were next and would let you play. Ah the good old days…

And then you have the Namco Code, miscellaneous characters roaming the background, things of that nature. What I was really amused by were the movements of the characters, particularly in the Fix It Felix Jr. game. The NPC’s bounced and moved around like their 8-bit counterpart. They shuffled left. They shuffled right. They bounced in place. And when the game was turned off, they continued to move just like that. It’s how you expect an arcade character to really move, and it was great that they considered those actions.

Voice Cast: Ok so when they were announced I was skeptical. It didn’t seem like the best collaborative fit for a Disney film and more of a Will Ferrell comedy. But somehow it all worked, and I think it’s because Jack McBrayer and Sarah Silverman did not sound like themselves. They altered their voices enough to not be easily recognizable. I knew it was them, but they poured their voices into the characters that they brought meaning to them, in an un-Ferrell like manner.

Jane Lynch…ok well she can’t change that voice. Again skeptical, but considering the hard ass she was playing from a sci-fi shooter, it worked. Strolling through the cast list on IMDB, this is either the best television show ever or a horrible adult comedy. I can’t decide, but it worked for Disney. Way to be ballsy. 

Negatives:

Too Much Sugar Rush: So Sugar Rush, as I’ve noted early on, is the super sweet tooth version of Mario Kart. It’s a racing style game where you can make your own cart out of candy and drive it around a track that would be a diabetic’s worse nightmare. I’ll admit that the characters were cute and the story made sense with what they were trying to do with it, but after 30 minutes I was so sick of the candy land. “I hate chocolate!” Well I was starting to hate it too Ralph. You’re not alone.

I can understand the dilemma Disney was facing. They couldn’t use game worlds from pre-existing products. It was enough trouble to get character likeness. They also didn’t want to overwhelm the audience with too much arcade jumping. People are not going to pay attention if Ralph when to 15 worlds versus 2. However, I felt that the time spent in Sugar Rush was overkill in comparison to Hero’s Duty and Fix It Felix Jr. The game that Ralph is from got much less screen time. Kind of backwards. If they had thrown in just one more level, as innocuous and pointless as it may have been, it would have been a nice sweet-tooth break.

Not Enough Character Development: Aside from Ralph and Vanellope, the minor characters really didn’t get enough say in their story. One thing that I enjoy about Disney movies is that they have this ability to include everyone, no matter how small their part is. With Ralph, it felt like the gun-toting female marine, and the gold hammer builder were just there. That had their stories and awkward romantic tension, but it wasn’t the dept that I expect from Disney. The Sugar Rush characters in particular really got side-slotted. For all of that time spent in the overly-sweet game the characters really got the crappiest part of the deal. If you weren’t Vanellope or King Candy, you were cannon fodder.

Too Predictable: But it’s a Disney movie so I guess that’s normal. I guess I expect too much of them. However with a story like this that is pushing different boundaries with content, I would hope that a unique story would have been introduced. Oh well. There’s always the next Tron. *shrugs*

Overall, this movie is well worth the watch. Enjoy your Turkey and go see Wreck It Ralph. And let the merchandising commence!!

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