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Wreck-It Ralph - Spoiler Free Review

Nathan Strum

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Well, I've voted. So instead of sitting at home watching insipid coverage of the results, I've decided to catch Wreck-It Ralph in 3-D. Normally I avoid 3-D screenings, but since this is true 3-D and not some half-baked conversion I figured I'd fork over the extra money for the privilege of wearing an extra pair of glasses over my own for a couple of hours.

 

Speaking of forks and half-baked, at the moment I'm at Johnny Rocket's, waiting for my dinner to arrive. It should be along any moment now, so I'll pick this up again once I'm in the theater.

_________________

 

Well, so much for dinner. They were pretty swamped, which probably explained the delay and less-than-piping-hot food.

 

But now I'm in the theater, and with about 20 minutes to go, I literally have the place to myself. I would have expected at least a few other early people, but this is strange, especially for an 8:00 PM showing. But it is a Tuesday night, election night, and Wreck-It Ralph isn't exactly Skyfall, y'know (which they're already selling tickets for).

 

For animated films I try and avoid early shows to avoid kids, so I considered hitting the 10:35 PM show instead, but thought that most people would be hanging around home watching election coverage. I just didn't expect it to work this well! (15 minutes to go... still the only one here.)

 

So I guess I might as well waste some more time typing. This is the first significant typing I've done on my iPhone 5, and I'm just not used to the different width yet (landscape mode). I keep hitting the wrong keys, and auto-correct hasn't quite figured that out yet. Guess I need more practice, but I rarely text.

 

10 minutes to go. Still just me. Maybe if I ask nicely they'll just start the movie now.

 

Whenever I go to movies (usually with others) we try to guess how many trailers they're going to run. Since I'm by myself (quite literally) I'll just say... six. Should be quite a few holiday movies, maybe one or two for next summer, and inevitably, several I've never heard of. Maybe seven... nah. Already said six.

 

I'm hoping Ralph is a good movie. Generally I've heard good things about it from people at Disney. There's a positive vibe about the film at the studio I haven't seen in a long time. It made good money at the box office its opening weekend. Good thing they got it out before Skyfall hit.

 

Yeah, so... still just me. About one minute before showtime, so time to post this and shut off my phone.

 

Not that there's anyone here to complain.

_________________

 

(A few hours pass...)

 

That was a fun film!

 

I wasn't sure what to expect with Wreck-It Ralph, since the trailers seemed to be pointing the film in a pretty obvious direction. However I'm pleased to say that the film took me in directions I wasn't expecting, and the film played out much differently than how I thought was going to.

 

The movie takes place in a video arcade that's been in business for over 30 years (so you know that this is something that can only happen in the movies…), and centers around the denizens of the games that occupy the arcade. In this case, the game is Fix-It Felix, Jr., a mix of Donkey Kong and Crazy Climber, whose antagonist is Wreck-It Ralph, a giant of a character whose job for those 30 years is to wreck the same building over and over.

 

When Ralph tires of his lot in life, we get to follow him into Game Central Station - a massive power strip all of the arcade games are plugged into (again… try not too hard to think about it - just enjoy the ride). Here, after hours, all of the characters of the games can mix and mingle. It's also where we learn some of the rules that apply to this world - you're not allowed to violate your programming, jump to other games, and if you die outside of your game - you die forever. No extra lives. We also find characters who had their games unplugged, and now wander Game Central Station homeless.

 

At the same time it's both funny and wistful, especially for those of us who lived through the heyday and crash of arcades in the early 80's. There's a passage of time montage showing the games changing over the years, and I couldn't help but wish I could stop time and go visit that arcade when some of my favorite games flashed by.

 

And oh, the games! I lost count of the games I recognized. There were a number of fictitious games there for the purposes of the film, but plenty of real games as well. And while I could nitpick about some of the cabinet artwork not being dead-on (I'm looking at you, Frogger), I suspect that was dictated more by the license holders than a design decision of Disney's, since they so often got so many other things right.

 

Now, if it was just a nostalgic walk through an arcade, it wouldn't be much of a film. But the movie goes beyond that, and creates a fun world where video game characters come alive, and those characters are the heart of the film. Ralph's journey takes on unexpected twists, and along the way draws in characters from his own game and others as well, most notably Vanellope von Schweetz, voiced by Sarah Silverman. She's a character from the game Sugar Rush (think San Francisco Rush but with everything made out of candy), who, like Ralph, has become alienated from her own game. Their relationship is a lot of fun, and really makes the film work. It's a rare Disney film where the central characters are the most interesting, but they've managed to pull it off here. Felix (Jack McBrayer) is also a lot of fun with his "aww shucks" Richie Cunningham-esque naiveté, as is Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch), a tough-talking space marine from a modern day first-person shooter. They manage to mix and match these characters from different eras of videogames very nicely, with Felix's characters often moving in very stilted, abrupt poses, and making the different videogame worlds all look unique, yet still believable as being somehow connected.

 

The visual design of the film is first-rate. There's a wealth of detail, especially in Sugar Rush, and more candy-related puns than you could shake a Pixy Stix at. The characters are well designed and animated (particularly those in Sugar Rush), and they managed to do a good job of bringing some classic 2-D videogame characters into the 3-D world. The film is a visual treat, as you get the sci-fi world of Hero's Duty, the candy-overload of Sugar Rush, and countless nods to video games, characters, 8-bit artwork, and more.

 

The best way I can describe it, is that Wreck-It Ralph is a love-letter to video games. There's a definite air of nostalgia to it, and countless details that long-time gamers will appreciate. There are a ton of moments where you'll be going back and freeze-framing the Blu-ray disc in order to pick out details of many scenes and set pieces in the film. There are so many fun touches in the film that to spill any one of them here would just spoil the fun. So go see the film and keep your eyes peeled. I plan on seeing it again, and I rarely do that anymore. And be sure to stay all the way through the credits for one final video game treat. :)

 

The stereoscopic 3-D worked very well, in that it simply worked and wasn't obtrusive or annoying. 3-D movies tend to "flatten out" for me as I watch them, where I'm less aware of the 3-D as the movie goes along. Maybe that's just me, but I think that's how 3-D should work - where we just take it for granted. It shouldn't "jump out" at you, anymore than anything else in real life does. It should help define space and depth, and that's it. So from that standpoint, I thought it was just fine. The end credits were particularly effective in 3-D, however, because of their design. I can't say Wreck-It Ralph gains anything by being in 3-D, but it doesn't lose anything either. So I guess that's a recommendation of sorts. Maybe I'll see it in 2-D next time.

 

Showing ahead of Wreck-It Ralph was the new Disney short film Paperman. This is really an extraordinary little short film, and more in keeping with a lot of the short films I see at work than anything you might expect from Disney. This worked very well in 3-D, as it was an interesting mix of CG and traditional animation, and the added depth at times was very well integrated into the film. My only gripe is that there was a fake film or paper grain applied to the whole thing which "floated" over the image the whole time, so it was like watching it through a slightly dirty window whenever my eyes focused at that level. But that was a minor gripe - it's a very cool short film. Probably would bore little kids to tears though. But I really applaud Disney for stepping back into make an interesting short for the sake of animation as an art form, rather than just trying to make something funny or commercial. (And for what it's worth, it is funny, but in a sophisticated way.)

 

Anyway, go see Wreck-It Ralph. If you like videogames, especially arcade games, you owe it to yourself to see it. It's just a really fun, neat film to watch. There are some genuinely funny moments in it, and some heartfelt ones as well. Good characters, good animation, good fun.

 

Also - try to see it with an audience. Only three other people were in the theater with me, and although it made for a nice, private screening, it would've been more fun with a bunch of other people laughing along.

 

Wreck-It Ralph gets a 9/10.

 

Oh, and there were seven trailers. Including one for this train-wreck-in-the-making. Ick. Seriously... does this look good to anybody? :roll:

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Definitely a spoiler free review!

 

Wondering what your thoughts are on the 3D presentation. I plan on seeing this later this week. Saw Cloud Atlas yesterday and rather enjoyed that.

 

..Al

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I suppose I could just cop out and leave the review as-is. ;)

 

Still waiting for my food... not a big deal since I've got almost an hour before the movie starts (next door). But every minute I'm here increases the chance someone may play "In The Summertime" by Mungo Jerry on the jukebox.

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Good read. Probably I'll go to see this movie. :)

 

Nathan, I have a question, are you going to see Silent Hill Revelations?

I was waiting this movie since 2009 (big sillent hill fan here) but the trailler was disappointment for me and the first critics I read says the movie is a crap :(

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Concur with your review. I caught it Sunday morning with some friends and we greatly enjoyed it. I did have to explain the after-the-credits bit to them as they're not as up on their video game trivia.

 

There were maybe 10 others in the audience, which is a large part behind why we prefer to catch the early Sunday showings.

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I saw this last weekend as well. It was a fun film. I also loved that they got Buckner and Garcia to do a Wreck it Ralph song. :)

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I was at CTN Animation Expo this weekend, helping a friend of mine sell a comic book he was editor and co-creator of.

 

Disney had a couple of their Fix-It Felix, Jr. arcade machines there:

 

fifjr-arcade.jpg

 

I was so busy I had very little time to play them. They were pretty-well occupied during the times I saw them, so it was good to see such an interest in them.

 

My (brief) impression of the arcade version was that it needed some more tweaking to really feel like a finished game. In particular, the controls are sluggish (something the online and iOS versions suffer from). Move the stick... wait for it... and... Felix moves. Repeat. Frustratingly slow, but they probably did this to keep the game from being too easy, since if you could move faster, you'd probably never get hit by falling bricks. One significant difference with the arcade version is that it has a second button for jumping over obstacles. This (apparently) lets you dodge falling bricks by jumping over them - even if they appear to be right on top of you. It's not for jumping gaps between windows, as that just happens as you move. It seems a bit superfluous, since it's hard to tell when you're able to dodge with it, and the other versions manage just fine without it.

 

Besides the obvious distressing they did to the cabinet art, there are also fake "soda spills" on the control panel (just above the yellow Jump button, on the left):

sticky.jpg

 

Clever, but a little excessive I thought, since it just kind of looked gross.

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I was at the Disney Animation Holiday Open House last night. It's for friends and family of studio employees, so it's not so much "open" as it is "invitation only". But it's still a lot more open than the studio used to be.

 

They had different rooms set up where you could watch presentations on various projects. I got into a couple of them, one on the making of the Wreck-It Ralph end credits, and another on effects animation. All interesting stuff. Plus they had food, of course.

 

They also had three Fix-It Felix, Jr. arcade machines there, so I got a decent amount of playtime (and managed to get on the high score table). What stood out most to me, is that the controls are really terrible. Felix is very slow to respond to movement or pressing the Fix button. You can get used to it and learn to play around it, but it definitely detracts from the game. I still couldn't figure out what the Jump button is supposed to let you jump over. Maybe I just didn't get far enough into the game. The machines are all "aged" - scratched, dinged, stained (I do not want to know what they stained them with), and the monitors appear to have color defects in them (convergence, color shift), but it seemed that was something programmed in as an effect, not an actual fault with the monitor. It would be hard to control the appearance, and if they used actual, aged arcade monitors, there would be burn-in on them (these had none that I saw).

 

I wasn't able to take any pictures at the event, unfortunately. Disney frowns on that sort of thing. ;)

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They're already talking about doing a sequel.

 

The question is - what to do?

 

Maybe the arcade would go out of business, and everyone in Ralph's game would find themselves alone in an old barn somewhere. Somehow, they have to find a way to save their game and their home.

 

Ultimately, they end up getting saved and restored by a collector who adds them to his basement arcade, and the end of the movie has a happy reunion at California Extreme with all of their friends.

 

Oh, and the villain is Jack Tramiel.

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Bravo! I've seen Wreck-It-Ralph a half-dozen times, perhaps more, and every single one of them amazes me. I love that film.

 

I sometimes wish that your reviews were a little less "spoiler-free," since I read them post-humously; I wish I could read more about your thoughts on particular scenes. :)

 

-dZ.

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I sometimes wish that your reviews were a little less "spoiler-free," since I read them post-humously; I wish I could read more about your thoughts on particular scenes. :)

 

Yeah - but then they'd just be regular-old-reviews, and you can get those anywhere. ;)

 

Besides, you can always ask questions in the comments.

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Yeah - but then they'd just be regular-old-reviews, and you can get those anywhere. ;)

 

 

Well, I like regular-old-reviews... I also like your insight, appreciate your personal point of view, and enjoy your writing style. ;)

 

Cheers!

-dZ.

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They're already talking about doing a sequel.

 

The question is - what to do?

 

Maybe the arcade would go out of business, and everyone in Ralph's game would find themselves alone in an old barn somewhere. Somehow, they have to find a way to save their game and their home.

 

Ultimately, they end up getting saved and restored by a collector who adds them to his basement arcade, and the end of the movie has a happy reunion at California Extreme with all of their friends.

 

Oh, and the villain is Jack Tramiel.

 

Oh, I much would have preferred this sequel than the one we actually got. :thumbsup:

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