Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Film Review: Wreck-It Ralph (Rich Moore) 2013


Wreck It Ralph

Trying to succinctly explain the narrative arc of a Disney/Pixar film is an exercise in insanity.  But to explore all of the interesting elements of the film requires a rudimentary overview of the plot. So...

The universe of the film is set in a network of video game worlds within a video arcade.  Each game has a separate aesthetic and physics system that means that characters from each game move and interact in different ways depending on the advancement of the game system in which they emulate.  The film centers on Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly), who is a character from an ‘80s arcade game who has an identity crisis about being a video game ‘bad guy’.  He decides to leave his game console (via the power cable) and try to win a medal from another game system in order to impress the characters that reject him in his own world.  On his adventure he meets a video game ‘glitch’ (Sarah Silverman) from a candy-decorated world of a racing game aimed at girls who he must help win a race to defeat the Candy King at the same time as stopping an army of cybugs who threaten to destroy the arcade due to their ‘virus’ like nature...
(for more information see here, here or here...!)

The first thing to mention is the multi-layered enjoyment that audiences have come to expect from modern mega-budget family films – The film is full of colour, excitement and morals that are aimed at young children and the narrative is full of intertextual jokes and references that an older audience can enjoy:  In Toy Story the references were toys and in Wreck-It Ralph they are the history of video games.  (Surely no one under the age of 20 cares about M-bison or Dr. Robotnik).  The film therefore has infinite replay value built into the narrative, much like a computer game itself.  Another responsive difference between audience members would be to the candy-cane / chocolate nightmare world – I was feeling sick after watching it for too long, as if I was visually ingesting simulated sugar – the children in the audience must have been going wild.

The second thing to mention is the reliance on existentialism as a plot device in CGI family films.  Every narrative since Toy Story has featured a central character who tires of their position in society and needs to rediscover themselves by helping someone unexpected in order to reestablish their relationship with their environment, until they finally recognise that the best place for them is actually back where they were in the beginning.  This is hardly new, it’s been about since The Wizard of Oz (“There’s no place like home...”).  Sometimes I wonder that instead of being a hopeful message of feeling comfortable in your own skin, instead it is absorbed as a conservative reminder that there is no escape from your position in society.  Is it a celebration of confidence, or a reminder of the lack of social mobility...?

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