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I'm Gonna Wreck It!

  • Nov 3, 2012
As a gamer, I've sat back and watched for years as television, film and basically every other medium on the face of the planet has been unable to understand video games.  When a movie about music gets made you get the sense that at least they understand music.  When television is featured in a movie or talked about in a song, there is this sense that the medium is being understood by another medium.  Video games don't get that.  In fact, if you are a gamer you've long sighed with exhaustion each time CSI or Law and Order or something like that features video games as a central point, because you get the sense that they don't understand video games.  It's always people pushing random buttons or people being too obsessed with "levels" or stereotypes that you think someone is brain dead.

It's now 2012 and I still see video games as getting no actual good representation in the medium of film.  And mainly it's because people in Hollywood just don't play video games.  The industry has largely been run by people who don't know what the hell the medium really is.  Wreck it Ralph actually changes a great deal of that because while it isn't based on an actual existing game, the people who made it actually understand video games.  It's every bit as nostalgic while talking about the differences in gaming today.  But best of all, it doesn't turn away people who are non-gamers.  It doesn't make too big a deal about the fact that it is about gaming.  Instead it actually weaves a good story.  The movie is good not because for the first time ever in Hollywood (and I do mean ever) video games actually get good representation... it's actually good because of the story it tells and because it's filled with great characters.

Wreck it Ralph is a simple premise.  Ralph is the villain in a game called Fix-It Felix Jr.  His goal is to destroy a building while Felix goes forth to fix it.  Everyday when the arcade closes, however, the characters in the game stop doing their "job" and instead go ahead and relax for the night.  Ralph, however, isn't accepted by the other characters in his game at all because he only knows how to wreck stuff.  It's what he's programmed to do.  Ralph, however, is tired of being the bad guy and decides he wants to be a hero.  And when the Arcade closes characters travel from one game to another as a means of relaxing and interacting with other game characters.  Ralph goes into another game called "Heroes of Duty," because he believes he can get a medal there, only for him to snag it and accidentally release a monster in another game called "Sugar Rush."  Ralph now has to stop the mistake he's caused, but there's a catch (as there always is).  That being that because he's absent from his own game and in the world of another game... the game he actually belongs to can't function.  There's no one to save the building from because Ralph is gone.  Which means that someone may pull the plug on their machine if he doesn't get back. 

I'd rather not spoil too much of Wreck it Ralph.  It's actually a really good heartwarming piece.  Rather simple at everything it does, but will connect with several audiences.  Not just gamers.  Certainly there are some nice gaming references thrown in.  When all the villains meet up you'll notice references to Street Fighter, Pacman, Mario,Sonic the Hedgehog and a few other games.  There are also obscure references to games such as Metal Gear Solid... and even the Classic Konami Code actually shows up at one point (if you don't know this code without me telling you... you're not a gamer--period).  They even use terminology like "glitch". 

But what's more amusing is that at some point the film goes with references and gags you're more likely to recognize that aren't gaming related.  Such as two police officers that are donuts named Winchell's and Duncan or how laffy taffy actually... laughs.  It makes for something that's actually quite delightful.  That's not to say Wreck it Ralph is so jammed packed with references you couldn't laugh.  It would take a lot not to get them as is, but the movie is filled with enough comedy that it doesn't matter.  But here's the thing about Wreck It Ralph... it offers to try what Pixar has mastered for over a decade and what Dreamworks is just NOW starting to learn... and that's how to add heart to the story in and of itself.  If the movie was just about Ralph seeking to become a hero it would be a dull movie.  No, instead it reaches a little higher.  And there are some parts where it's a little more willing to show you that than others.  What's more amusing about Wreck it Ralph is that everything you see in the movie that they refer to has a purpose at some point.  It might seem out of place to have a reference to the "don't put mentos in diet cola," in there... but it's actually important to the story as a whole.  And yes, there actually are quite a few surprises in store in terms of story.  A lot of it is familiar stuff but that's not going to be much of a problem in my eyes as it's all executed really well.  And, of course, Ralph learns a valuable lesson--as do his allies.

About the only thing that Wreck it Ralph isn't perfect on is that it takes a moment to really set the rules for the universe we're in.  This is understandable as Wreck it Ralph isn't Toy Story.  Toy Story was much easier to do.  But Wreck it Ralph has to do things like... explain how the characters are able to transport themselves from one game to another and why they easily regenerate and come back to life in their own game, but why it's not possible in another.  It's not too annoying with this and actually weaves in "explaining" it's rules rather well.  But at the beginning it might feel a little awkward that they have to stop for a brief moment to explain that to make sure the audience understands it.

For gamers there will be a lot of references for them to get and a lot of familiar cameos that they'll love to see.  It's nothing too big, however, because Wreck it Ralph isn't interested in showing off the gaming characters so much as it is about showing off the original ones it has created.  Much like how Pixar did Toy Story, Wreck it Ralph isn't about the video games anymore than Toy Story was about just the toys.  Meaning that Toy Story wasn't about making sure they could cram every toy into the movie they could, but rather that you saw some you recognized but kept the story primarily about the main characters.  Wreck It Ralph is the same way.  You'll find tons of familiar faces throughout but none of them are really that important to the story.  They're mostly just there as easter eggs for gamers in the audience, but the movie itself is trying to be accessible to more than just the gaming crowd.  Meaning that even if you DON'T get the Classic Konami Code reference, it won't hinder your enjoyment of the movie.  Even if you (somehow) don't know who Bowser is it won't hinder your enjoyment of the movie.  If you don't know what Street Fighter is, or the the significance to the alert when Ralph pulls an exclamation mark out of a box... you'll still enjoy the movie.  Because you don't have to understand the references to get the joke and them being there doesn't interrupt the story at all.  So non-gamers can safely enjoy the movie just as much as gamers can.

This is partially why Wreck it Ralph works so well.  There's actually a story and it's not just about showing off their knowledge of gaming.  And it's actually a good story filled with good and lovable characters.  And the movie isn't shy about pulling at your heart strings.  Everything about it is amazing from start to finish.  It's an immerse movie with lots of good characters, great humor and most of all... a lot of heart.  Go see Wreck-It-Ralph.  It's a good example of how film and gaming can come together on film instead of on the console (for once). 

The only real question is this: Why didn't Disney put out an actual Arcade game of Fix-It Felix?  It actually looks like a pretty fun game to play and I would love to play something like it. 

What did you think of this review?

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November 05, 2012
I'll return to comment more once I've seen this one. I went to see something else instead of this flick--I was more in the mood for some brainless action.
November 03, 2012
I got a similar impression from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.
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About the reviewer
Sean A. Rhodes ()
Ranked #7
I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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