Thursday, 21 February 2013

Wreck-It Ralph - The scoop and digest

Is it too early to predict this will be the animated blockbuster of the year?

Even the most ardent pessimist would think twice about disagreeing.

Director Rich Moore knew from the very beginning he’d always be onto a winner with a film about a bad egg video game villain changing the error of his ways.

While the premise is nothing original, the use of intrinsic video game refs remains the premier attraction.

Before the actual feature presentation, the audience is invited to participate in an unexpected bonus game in a delightful sound shy animation short Paperman.

Filmed in glorious Spectrum vision, it tells the story of a guy using paper planes to win the heart of a female.

It’s a charming extra that didn’t even have to be unlocked and hopefully will be bundled with the home release.

The main event is about to be loaded so indulge.

Plot details and/or spoilers will not feature slowdown, attribute clash or flicker.

Those voicing their opinion in a pixelated universe include:

John C. Reilly – Ralph
Jack McBrayer – Felix
Sarah Silverman - Vanellope
Jane Lynch – Sergeant Calhoun
Alan Tudyk – King Candy and/or Turbo

Mickey Mouse in his earliest form displayed as 8 bit graphics immediately sets the tone...

When Litwak’s arcade swamped with classic pixels closes at night, chars take the opportunity to amble freely between other games.

In the past 30 years, antagonist Ralph, professionally known as Wreck-It Ralph has always taken a back seat in the popularity stakes to hero Felix, of fictional video game Fix-It Felix, Jr.

It's basically the original Donkey Kong as Ralph and Felix step into the shoes of Donkey Kong and Mario respectively.

Ralph ‘wrecks’ with his fists and Felix ‘fixes’ anything what is destroyed with his hammer.

Ralph’s place is a dump populated by bricks and while it looks uncomfortable, it suits our hulking man mountain just fine.

He should also swill some Listerine as he has a bad case of halitosis.

At a support group for video game baddies, Ralph announces to others that he’s sick of being shunned and yearns to change his ways.

This is met with audible gasps and prompts Clyde to becomes 'edible' as though Pac-Man has just popped a power pill...

Returning to his ranch, Ralph observes members of Niceland throwing a 30th anniversary bash for Felix and when he effectively gate crashes this soiree for some cake, sprites are not too pleased.

On the commemorative cake, he’s portrayed as a nasty looking sod and once again, placed at the bottom of the pile.

After one dig too many by others, he smashes the cake up into tiny pixels.

To be accepted, he’s got to earn a medal.

For the purposes of retro gaming, the Niceland family are purposely animated with limited frames.

Tapper’s seems to be a good place to drown your sorrows and while Ralph is not tasked to relieve the bar tender by preventing empty glasses thrown across the counter from smashing, he does learn that a revered medal can be earned by competing in FPS Hero’s Duty.

He of course jumps in and meets tough talking, no nonsense Sergeant Calhoun (all under the watchful control of a keen gamer) and proceeds to the game’s beacon to acquire a medal.

To me, this comes across as Metroid Prime.

In the process though, he unwittingly hatches the egg of a Cy-Bug.

Starship Troopers rings a ding dong...

Whatever, that’s bad news as these insects have the power to take over any game they infect.

Ralph, you are without a doubt a ‘Stinkbrain’.

Felix and co are getting a bit concerned when principal bad guy isn’t around so pixel goodie sets out to track him down.

When games are broken, they are unplugged, rather like MTV.

Ralph thinks all his pixels have come at once as he arrives in popular C4 lesbian coming of age drama Sugar Rush.

Okay, I lied about the lesbian aspect...

Sugar Rush is a candy coated, kart racing world bursting with more colour than a bag of Skittles.

He quickly meets a squeaky glitch called Vanellope.

Is she supposed to look like Agnes from Despicable Me?

Anyway, this ‘freakishly annoying’ brat nicks his medal which will be handy to buy entry for a future race.

King Candy rules this roost and refuses to let the glitch race as she’s apparently not part of these pixels.

At Kart Bakery, they participate in a mini-game and eventually build her a vehicle that’s good enough to eat.

Hang on a mo, pause the game as I’d like to throw this into the blender.

Without sounding arrogant, I’m sceptical that anybody would associate the construction of her kart with this...

Thirty years ago, there was a Spectrum game called Cookie.  Whoah, that’s a freaky coincidence in itself.

As Charlie the Chef, it involved you knocking ingredients into a mixing bowl using flour bags to bake a cake.  It’s not that simple though, with bad tempered ingredients bringing rubbish into the fray.

I mention this because throughout, Ralph discards rubbish and only adds the good bits, which if played correctly, is almost identical to Cookie.

Whether you agree or disagree, c’mon you’re impressed, right?

Unpausing, let’s continue.

King Candy turns hacker and offers Ralph his medal in return that Ralph ensures Vanellope does not participate in the race.  He convinces him that if she wins, gamers will be put off by her frequent glitching.

After a wrecking later, her brum brum is a right off and leaves Vanellope heartbroken.

Ralph grows suspicious of Candy’s spin when he gets the truth out of a cough sweet which explains that Candy is really Turbo, a jealous video game char that was put out of business by Atari’s 1987 Roadblasters.

Seething at this revelation, he tracks the imprisoned glitch down and asks Felix to do what he does best for her kart.

She’s all revved up and ready to burn candy.

Those nasty bugs have hatched in their hundreds and attack Calhoun, Felix and Ralph.

If it wasn’t obvious by now, this is undoubtedly a recreation of Mario Kart as it features power-ups, speed boosts on the track and there’s even Rainbow Road...

During the race, Turbo reveals his true identity while pixelating.

He and a bug have become one and we see him transform into crab-like flying thing which attacks Ralph during the ‘boss’ stage.

Knowing that the bugs are going to overpower them, they flee but Vanellope cannot leave her own game.

The only way to complete this game is to attract the bugs via a beacon and Ralph sets about saving the day at Diet Cola Mountain pounding Mentos to fall and cause an eruption below.

After breaking free from Turbo, Ralph hopes his demise in the spring will bring fortune he won’t be around to witness.

A glitch has its uses and Vanellope uses her curse to save Ralph.

Turbo and the remaining bugs are powerless to resist the pillar of illumination and are unable to continue the game.

It’s a naturally happy ending as not only do Felix and rough ass Calhoun get hitched (without any bugs); Ralph finally gains respect from the Niceland family.

I thought it was perfectly watchable but didn’t exactly have the same impact as the jump from SD to HD.

It’s not really boring but its story is perfunctory, the script could do with a poke from the humour stick and Vanellope is more annoying than a Youtube advert.

John C. Reilly and others do what they can with providing voice talent but give me Scott Pilgrim any day of the week.

Make no mistake; gamers won’t really be paying to watch the film, but pixel deep by fiercely competing in another way...

So to understand, let’s Press Start.

I feel it important to mention that this is everything what I heard and noticed so ‘not’ just copied from elsewhere...

The order of these happening maybe more mismatched than salt going on a hot date with a slug.

Miscellaneous references, video game spots and cameos:

There is a nod towards David Fincher’s Fight Club as somebody asks Ralph something like “What’s the first rule of Hero’s Duty?”

I don’t know what the actual answer was but it’s definitely not “You don’t talk about Hero’s Duty.”

Sonic gets hit by Ralph piloting a spaceship and loses rings in the process.

I suppose Game Central Station is a lazy variation of Grand Central Station.

There are numerous portraits of video game chars hung in a corridor in Tapper’s bar including Eggman, Cammy, Chun Li and Sonic.

When challenged for his identity in entering Game Central Station, Ralph retorts with Lara Croft.

In this hub, classic arcades of yesteryear include Dig Dug and Burger Time.

‘Aerith lives’ and ‘All your base belong to us’ is represented as graffiti in GCS which relates to Final Fantasy VII and the poor translation of Mega Drive port Zero Wing respectively.

Ryu and Ken are seen having a scrap in the original Street Fighter II on Ryu’s turf.  They suddenly stop fighting and Ryu offers to buy Ken a drink in Tapper’s and is gratefully accepted by his greatest rival.

It’s a nice touch and the voice talent of these classic bruisers is not provided by the original actors.

Later, Ryu is enjoying a beverage in Tapper’s but I couldn’t see Ken.

Also in this 1983 haven for alcoholics, Ralph searches through a box and finds a very famous mushroom that turns a certain Italian plumber rather ‘Super’, he also finds an exclamation mark complete with alert noise and finally, Zangief’s dirty drawers are thrown in for pointless measure.  This ‘mark’ is from Metal Gear Solid.

Q*Bert, together with Coily and friends are homeless displaying the notice ‘Game Unplugged’.  Ralph takes pity and gives them a pair of cherries which he stole from Pac Man.

Our friend Q*Bert also speaks authentic gibberish displayed as word balloons like %&! to Felix.

Ralph uses a tube while underwater in Sugar Rush and the sound of Darth Vader’s famous breathing can be heard.

King Candy uses a variation of the Konami code of Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Start on a NES joypad to crack a safe and retrieve Ralph’s medal.

The support group of Bad-Anon, One Game at a Time includes notable cameos of Zangief, Bowser, Clyde from Pac-Man, Neff from Altered Beast, Kano, M Bison, Eggman and Johnny of The House of the Dead fame.

During which, Kano performs his famous heart removal fatality on Johnny which is sensible for classification purposes because only slime drips from his heart and not blood...

Of Clyde, I’ve never really got why his name is completely random as his cohorts are Blinky, Inky and Pinky.  In fairness to Namco, Orangey wouldn’t roll off the tongue...

Other cameos in Grand Central Station include Chun Li, Paperboy and Cammy.  I’d also stake claim that Yuni from Dance Dance Revolution appears in Litwak’s joint.

To settle up, the credit roll features Ralph and co playing a very old Mario game and while Ryu is busily destroying a car in SF II’s famous and tedious bonus stage, a helping hand is given from Ralph and Vanellope.

There is more because at the beginning, many arcades are cycled through at high speed so I’m really not going to start chatting possible pop up about what they are because that would make me sound and look dafter than a Silent Hill puzzle.

Anyway, that’s what slow motion, rewind and a pause function is for on a DVD remote...

My feet stamp with frustration because I’m certain Rich Moore declined using SNK.

I’m sorry, that is virtually blasphemous and I really did believe that there’d be some kind of clever cameo so it’s really disappointing.

Any gaming veteran (Neo Geo fan or not) can appreciate the possibilities of exploiting Metal Slug, Art of Fighting, Fatal Fury, King of Fighters, Samurai Shodown and even the lamentable World Heroes.

It would also help line SNK’s coffers.

In addition, I find it even more incredible that Dan didn’t feature as he is a known parody of Ryo and Robert.

How about Terry tossing his cap which lands on Ryu or Ken’s head?

This was SNK’s monumental chance for its illustrious chars to finally feature on the big screen and even the meanest gamer could deny them at least their 15 minutes of fame.

On that high score, it now seems more likely that a sequel to Viewpoint will be imminently announced for the Wii U and Aliens: Colonial Marines is actually really brilliant.

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