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  • Mar 13, 2013
The object of most video games is very simple: Beat the bad guy who's in charge of all the other bad guys. Now, actually getting to the point in a game where beating the head bad guy is one of the proudest and most joyful feelings a gamer can experience. It means we're now so close we can taste it, and all we have is one more guy to knock off before World X is saved! If we pull it off, we're rewarded with a great ending, or at least a congratulatory ending reminding us how important we are and how important the effects of our heroic quest are.

Did you ever wonder how the bad guys themselves feel about that, though? Think about it. You need a great bad guy with a great presence to make a great game. The bad guys are important, because without them, we would have no quest to go on and therefore, no game. It's the bad guys who arguably determine the right and wrong actions in winning a video game, so they need to be good at being bad. They need to make being the good guy truly worth it. And they need to not mind the fact that they're never, ever going to be thanked, especially if they fit into that top echelon of great video game villains. Instead, they're likely to be hated.

Wreck-it Ralph is a little tired of constantly being seen as the evil man. He's a pleasant, polite, and downright nice guy who was just programmed to be the wrecker in a certain video game. Ordinarily this isn't so bad because hey, there are a lot of video games in which wrecking everything in sight isn't discouraged. Hell, sometimes it's just the opposite. Wasn't the whole point of Rampage to wreck city after city? Unfortunately for poor Ralph, the game he stars in is called Fix-it Felix. This isn't Donkey Kong, where the game is named after the bad guy, either. This one is named after the hero who, by the way, fixes anything that gets wrecked. So using a meticulous and arduous process of elimination, you might be able to deduce the fact that Ralph is the bad guy in Fix-it Felix. He's been playing his role very well for the last 30 years, and being a rather curious guy, he wants to know what it feels like to earn a medal and be hailed all across gamedom as the ubiquitous good guy, savior of princess, world, whathaveyou, or maybe finder of the hidden treasure.

After getting into a nasty scuffle with the rest of the cast of Fix-it Felix at the game's anniversary party - which he wasn't even invited to! - Ralph vows to earn his medal and become the gooiest of goody two shoes! He game-jumps into the hip new first-person shooter to get that medal, unleashing a big new virus in the process. In another game, he encounters a sweet little girl who just wants to be a kart racer. Unfortunately, all he can really do is wreck things, so without meaning to, he leaves a trail of destruction wherever he goes.

Ever since the release of Super Mario Bros. back in 1993, video game nuts have been yelling and screaming about how there are so few good video game movies. Hollywood has treated the games themselves, the audiences, and the entire medium with about the same amount of respect game developers have given movies which are based on games. In Wreck-it Ralph, we finally have a good, viable video game movie which gives video games the respect they deserve. Wreck-it Ralph treats video games with bemusement and wide-eyed wonder, although it does so implicitly since there aren't any real avatars in the movie that a gamer could really attach to, with the possible exceptions of the kids who frequent the arcade where all the games and characters in Wreck-it Ralph hang out. Instead the audience is kind of asked to look on in awe, much the way gamers do upon seeing an impressive new level for the first time.

Cute little shout-outs abound everywhere in Wreck-it Ralph. Many of the minor characters are real characters from real video games. Pac-Man is there at the Fix-it Felix anniversary party, Q-Bert plays a small role, and in one of the most delightful features of the movie, the king of one of the games accesses a secret area using the Konami Code! To keep his head straight, Ralph has to attend a support group for villains in video games which includes such popular stalwarts as Bowser, M. Bison, and Zangief. The characters all go to the bar from Root Beer Tapper to drink - Ryu can actually be seen downing root beers in the background of one scene - and there's a hub where the game characters can all take the transit from game to game.

The concept of Wreck-it Ralph has existed in many other forms before. It's one of those standard-issue when-the-cat's-away-the-mice-will-play concepts, much like Rugrats or Monsters Inc. but with video games characters who leave their designated posts in the arcade's off hours. One of the opening scenes features Street Fighter II, a demo between Ryu and Ken, where the characters stop fighting and walk off the side of the screen. Naturally, they're off to visit the Root Beer Tapper bar. Apparently the characters all try to conduct their business before the arcade opens every day, because once the games are flipped on, they're on duty and have to be there for their games to function properly. If they're not, the feared "Out of Order" sign pops up on the game, people don't play it, and eventually the game is removed and all the people in it are sent off to the hub to beg.

The whole story in Wreck-it Ralph is written according to the rules of this little video game kingdom dreamed up by the writers, so there aren't any easy outs. Or cheap computer moves or challenge padding if you're using gaming parlance. Even when it feels like things are going to go the easy way, the rules have already been established earlier in the movie. In fact, the big plot twist is something based on one of the earlier rules which was established. There's a sequence with Laffy Taffy that really stretches it, though, no pun intended. There are rules established as to what happens to characters who aren't back in their games when the arcade opens, and they even have their own code term for characters who serially appear in other games during arcade hours - going turbo. Ralph's personality is also kept in check throughout the movie. He's a genuinely nice guy who just happens to have a bit of a temper, and who's only great talent is at wrecking things. There's no sudden skill update when he needs one, and he doesn't learn to be gentle or softer.

When Wreck-it Ralph really gets going, it can start to feel like a montage movie comprised entirely of its own sub-plots. Fortunately, everything is brought to a nice, neat, conclusive end. More to the point, though, is that I didn't actually mind the sub-plots. Wreck-it Ralph is ultimately more a salute to a medium which, in about 40 years on this planet, has turned from an outcast hobby for juvenile delinquents into a multi-billion dollar industry whose merits as an art form are now being taken seriously. I loved seeing this little video game world brought to life in a very unique interpretation, and the movie feels like it's more about someone presenting gamers with a movie that captures the essence, fun, and appeal of video games. The presentation of the movie and its million subplots makes it feel bigger than the story does, and so the way everything is used to give us these unique inside-the-game views makes Wreck-it Ralph feel a lot more expansive. They give the movie a good excuse to jump around from point to point, so we see more of the inner video game world and get a better idea of its rules than we would otherwise have had if the plot was presented straight.

We gamers always wanted a truly good video game movie. Wreck-it-Ralph, even though it's based on a fictional game, is finally the video game movie we've been waiting for. It captures everything we love about video games while giving us playful winks and shout-outs. Now if only other suits would take notice and follow, we might finally be able to start putting up a real fight against all those nasty stereotypes.

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March 17, 2013
this one is on my rental queve--I think I'm just going to buy since it sounds really good!
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Nicholas Croston ()
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Hi! I'm here in part to plug my writing and let everyone know that I'm trying to take my work commercial.      Now, what about me? Well, obviously I like to write. I'm … more
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