Wreck-It Ralph – Review
February 10, 2013 1 Comment
Review by FilmFellaDarren – 8.5/10
No film genre is in as healthy a state right now as animation. Fans of the genre are enjoying something of a golden age. Just look at the strength in the animation category at the Oscars for evidence of how many inventive animated features have been made in the last year. Disney were the original animated trailblazers, but their achievements of late have been surpassed by the likes of Pixar and DreamWorks. Recent Disney features like Tangled and The Princess and the Frog were beautifully made but they were not as progressive as Wall-E or DreamWorks’ Shrek and Megamind. Disney really needed to up their game. They have done just that, seeking inspiration from the old videogame trends of the late eighties and early nineties for a really colourful, vibrant and hugely enjoyable adventure story.
Old 16-bit computer game villains are rather unlikely candidates for a bout of world-weary, soul-searching, but that’s exactly what happens to Ralph (John C. Reilly) –a cartoon graphic who is finally tired of terrorizing the characters he has been stuck with in the same game for thirty years, so decides to do something about his end of game crisis. He abruptly leaves the arcade machine he calls home, hoping to find a place where he can be a good guy for a change. But is there a place where a villain can redeem himself as a hero?
Disney have literally gone back to the drawing board with Wreck-It Ralph. They’ve looked around to see what works and clearly taken influence from their contemporaries. They’ve realized there is still a lot of life in the idea of children’s playthings having secret lives – as seen in Toy Story – and borrowed the idea. They’ve realized that misunderstood ogres make loveable protagonists – Ralph owes a great debt to Shrek in that respect. They’ve also realised that playing around with the dichotomy of good and bad makes for interesting plot developments, as seen in the underrated Megamind. Wreck-It Ralph is clearly influenced by a lot of other recent animated features released by Disney’s rivals, but director Rich Moore adds plenty of new ideas of his own to ensure that Wreck-It Ralph feels unique.
One such is the idea that the Arcade is a Universe. Within this charming little film, each game station is a porthole to another world, where each game genre is home to a different race of gaming creations. Ralph’s quest becomes a delightful journey that sees him enter gaming world’s significantly different and more advanced than his own. Watching an innocent platform computer game character wander into a sinister bug-splattering first person shoot-‘em up, is very exciting for anyone who has played games within the last twenty years. It’s electrifying watching two strands of the evolution of gaming encounter each other in the same realm.
If you want to dig a little deeper, you could read Ralph’s journey as a metaphor for how travel broadens the mind and the way the gaming characters from different titles interact in each other’s worlds could be read as representative of previously separated words merging – globalisation style. But enough about the subtext, how does it look? I hear you cry.
Visually the film is bright, effervescent, cheerful and delightfully rainbow coloured. To use a gaming term, the graphics are really good – particularly the sugar-coated candy themed karting game our troubled protagonist enters, in which the bulk of the plot takes place. It may look like a sickly sweet game, but there are surprisingly dark and creative plot developments that counterbalance the saccharinity. It’s here we meet two of the film’s most interesting characters. The cute but cutting, Vanellope von Schweetz -sassily voiced by Sarah Silverman – and a wacky King who is a lot more than the caricature of zany eccentricity he appears to be. The bond between Vanellope and Ralph is one of the many strengths of the film. Both are forced to live in the margins of their game, ostracized by the other characters who deem them too weird to fit in. The film reaches out to those watching who feel shunned by their peers, through these kindred spirits – their story and relationship is surprisingly moving.
Nostalgia for the gaming trends of yesteryear, gives rise to some witty, knowing, humour that cleverly references gaming styles and characters that people of a certain age will instantly recognise. Nods to Sonic and Street Fighter will bring a big affectionate smile to those who once spent hours controlling these gaming icons with joy-pads. Director Rich Moore previously directed many episodes of Futurama and The Simpsons – Wreck-It Ralph has a savvy sense of adult humour in the same vein as those shows and Moore is clearly well versed in the stylistics of old games. He uses the sounds and the designs of old arcade games to great effect here. He presses all the right buttons for a misty-eyed reaction from audience members old enough to remember the characters seen to the left of Ralph in the picture below.
It’s definitely a film that is going to delight the older generation and although the younger generation will probably not get the many inspired gaming references, they are sure to be entranced by the eye-popping visuals and the lively story. It’ll give you an overwhelming desire to dust off the old consoles and revisit some old friends. And if you watch the film with your children, there’s probably never been a better time to plug in the old systems and introduce the games of your childhood to your young ones.
Wreck-It Ralph ensures that Disney are back in the game. Computer games have never faired that well on film – until now. Director Rich Moore has cracked the code. The film is funny, fun, big-hearted and wonderfully nostalgic for gaming styles of the past. There is so much potential for future stories covering other gaming titles – more instalments will be most welcome. It is anything but Game Over for Disney’s thrilling new franchise.