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October 3, 2014

VGFlicks: Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase, Part 1

I'm going to go on a rant here: Even in science-fiction works, where authors take liberties with the “science” aspects of the story and the audience is supposed to accept it, I never believed in virtualization and materialization. This sort of plot can make some very good episodes, very good movies too – but at the end of the day, I will never believe it possible to pick apart and transform the cellular structure of any item or human being into computer data, or the other way around. It goes beyond the impossible for me.

But like I said, it makes for some pretty damn good episodes. I loved Code Lyoko – I even binge watched the whole series on Youtube between June and August this year. The infamous Johnny Test cartoon even used a virtualization story to make a few jabs at the Pokémon series. Those episodes were very funny, even though the show is not exactly great. Sadly, not every version of this story is good. A lot of movies based around video games have this as their main plot (Off the top of my head, I can name a few more), so there's got to be a few duds in the bunch. But the one we're going to look at today is particularly strange...

And when I mean strange, I mean it's mind-bogglingly weird. Not godawful, but weeiirrd. And it's brought to you by the world's most infamous Batman impersonator, the Dooby himself: Scooby-Doo.

Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase came out in 2001, so it's not exactly new. We can see that technology has evolved a lot since, but we still can't send someone into a computer. What happened for such an odd thing to occur in this film? We all know Scooby-Doo chases fakes monsters all the time – except the (admittedly fewer) times the monsters were real, but that's beside the point – so how did the not-so-courageous dog and his group of meddling kids wind up in a story about virtualization?

Left to right: Eric Staufer, Dr. Robert Kaufman, and Bill
McLemore. Looks like Eric is about to faint!
We open on ominous imagery of a laboratory, where an old professor in lab coat, Mr. Robert Kaufman, goes to look at the progress made by his students. The two are working at computers. Trouble arises as a laser in the room activates by itself. We don't know yet what the laser is for, but it shoots inside the room, creating the image of an electric creature with a demonic face. A monster with enough voltage to destroy glass, enough to break electronics and steal data from the nearby computers! It can even control the nearby machines! It threatens the professor and his students, then the screen fades to black...

Note to self: Once I find a title card artist, I need to have him/her draw a picture where I trap that creature inside a telephone, as a funny nod to Gremlins 2.

Always looks like a fun gang to hang out with. Though it
seems like wherever they go, monsters follow...
But then, mood whiplash! We cut to the Scooby Gang as it heads towards that very same college. I can already hear the late Casey Kasem's voice as Shaggy- Wait. That's not Casey Kasem? Oh, my bad. Seems Mr. Kasem didn't voice Shaggy in this film. Guess I don't have to pay tribute to Mr. Kasem then. Though, truth be told, I usually watch shows and movies in French, so I don't hear the original voice actors that often. Here, Shaggy is voiced by Scott Innes. Anyway, Fred Jones, Daphne Blake, Velma Dinkley, Shaggy Rogers and Scooby-Doo are heading there because their friend Eric Staufer, one of Professor Kaufman's students, has made a video game about them. The team will be solving crimes in cyberspace now! Or... well... not quite. You'll see why later.

Scoob, if you did that sort of thing these days, you'd get
tazed. Or shot.
They get there and meet the many characters around the campus: Officer Wembley, an overweight security guard who likes rules and wants the team to follow them. And that means the dog is a problem. There's been a running gag going around these movies that Scooby doesn't seem aware that he's a dog. It showed up here, and in Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island, among others. Then again, that part of Scooby's history had a lot to do with monsters actually being real. The recent Mystery Incorporated series didn't invent anything. And come to think of it, neither did these films; even before that, we had The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo, and then a bunch of older films that also featured real monsters. Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School was alright (though it also proves Monster High didn't invent anything either), but I believe Scooby-Doo and the Reluctant Werewolf is completely awful. And so is Scooby-Doo and the Boo Brothers. ...I really went off-topic there, didn't I?

What was I talking about? Oh, right! The overweight cop! After a brief encounter with him, the team gets to see Eric's laboratory. They also get to meet Bill McLemore, Eric's partner in research, and a baseball aficionado. He made a baseball game! Uh, okay... I guess that could be impressive. But now that we have Mario Super Sluggers, should we actually care? Mr. Kaufman shows up and says that Eric's game about Mystery, Inc. will not be played as long as their “problem” hasn't been solved. But wait – we still don't know the virus was brought to life in the opening... Eric explains that the lab uses a special laser that can transport any object into a virtual world.

I put the box of snacks there... and it'll be gone soon!

By the way, Franz Hopper called from the other world; he wanted his stolen technology back.

Eric and Dr. Kaufman explain about the electric virus that spawned in the real world the night before. This virus, having taken a physical form, can steal data from any nearby computer, and thus is a threat to our technology-dependent society. ...Or, well... The way it was back in early 2000s. Nowadays, this virus would be an even bigger threat. Eric shows how the laser works. He takes a box of Scooby Snacks (A.K.A. The thing that would make Scooby or Shaggy almost useless if they weren't constantly bribed with it into doing all sorts of things for the gang) and explains how the laser works... and if you believe it, you probably need to see a psychiatrist. Or be instructed on what hard science-fiction is.

Eric then explains the core idea of the game: In each level, the team has to battle a monster all while finding a box of Scooby Snacks. Defeating the monster doesn't end the level, but finding the box does. P.S. Eric, you got that wrong: The Mystery, Inc. gang is not fighting real monsters; they are investigating crimes related to monsters and so-called "supernatural" occurrings that more often than not turn out to be fake. To prove that he was telling the truth about virtualization, Eric virtualizes the box of snacks into the game. ...Without letting Shaggy or Scooby get any! You meanie! Thankfully, it's brought back. We also get a bit of exposition: How was the virus defeated the first time? It's an electronic monster, therefore magnetic objects can weaken it! ...Seriously, don't wave a magnet around a CD, unless it's a Justin Bieber album, or... that damn Gamer flick...

Deep down, every professor can be a badass in the name of
science. They just need the tools and the willpower.
...My point is: This scene is awesome.

If they want to send the virus back in the game, they need to bring it into the lab, in front of the laser.

Armed with ultra-powerful magnets, the Scooby Gang splits up – surprise, surprise! – and the search for the monster begins. Fred, Daphne and Velma encounter it but manage to make it run away... while – surprise, surprise – Shaggy and Scooby find the cafeteria and begin eating everything edible in sight. To the point that the cafeteria runs out of food. But once the Phantom Virus shows up, let me tell you they have a hard time running away with these extra pounds! Still, by the next scene, they're back to being thin. Wished I knew a diet that did that to me.

Wait. You can electrocute an electric monster? I doubt so.
Thankfully, despite their cowardice, Shaggy and Scooby prove very resourceful and give the virus a hard time, electrocuting him somehow, then having animals run over it, and more... Phantom Virus, welcome to the real world: Where slapstick reigns!

It ends with the whole gang chasing the virus through a maze-like section of the college, until the five of them bump into each other... and someone pushes a button, zapping them with the laser. The Mystery, Inc. gang appears in the first level of the game, which is set on the moon; they even get space gear to appear on them!

I suppose you need to explain everything to that security
guard. But it might be difficult to vulgarize your research
so that he actually understands.
Eric, and Bill explain the situation: The Scooby Gang is stuck in the game unless they can beat all of the levels. Shouldn't be too difficult, right? I mean, just find a box of snacks, avoid the monsters, and go on to the next level, right? Sadly, the danger is all to real, as the crew can be hurt in the game – or worse. In other words, not only are they in constant danger, but they've pretty much got only one hit point each! And of course, the Phantom Virus is in the game as well, having been transferred along with them. In fact, it seems like he is in control of all the villains the teenagers will meet through the ten levels! He even gives them orders, like “Let's play ball”! ...Wait, how is that an order?

I suppose you can't really eat snacks in space... Sorry, Scoob.

Guess that virus prefers to let others do all the dirty work...
In true villain fashion. Classy...
Anyway, Scooby gets the first box with relative ease, so the Scooby Gang gets transported to Level 2, a Roman colosseum. There are white lines drawn with chalk on the ground, but they don't have much time to pay attention to that, as the Virus releases the new set of monsters: Undead gladiators! Oh, and a lion, which is holding the box of snacks in its mouth. Zoinks! Shaggy and Scooby escape from the gladiators while the rest of the crew tries to get rid of the lion, with Fred playing toreador. Shaggy manages to trick the gladiators by disguising as a roman emperor, but it doesn't last long; Thankfully, Fred gets the box and the team gets sent to Level 3...

...A prehistoric world! Aw man, the dream of all fossil fighters! Oh, and the Virus is riding a T-Rex! In their search for the box of snacks, the team hides in a cave and finds a clue; the box is found on the side of a volcano! It could be a long walk, but the five decide to ride mammoths to get there faster. Scooby starts climbing the side of the volcano just as it is about to erupt, and reaches a pterodactyl nest, in which he frees a baby pterodactyl from a rock trapping it there. He pushes the boulder away, revealing the box of snacks! He grabs it just one time before the lava reaches the nest.

The Jurassic sure knows how to give you an inferiority complex.

I ant afraid of any darned bugs!
After that point, we get a montage of the next few levels; guess they were running short on time. Or maybe watching the same thing over and over again would have been boring. Oh well. We see the team in an underwater world, where they have to fight against a very real shark while trying to get the box, which is located on a treasure chest on a nearby sunken pirate ship. Level 5 takes place in a backyard, which wouldn't be so bad if the cast wasn't suddenly an inch tall and had to escape from insects bigger than them. Oh, just tell me why they must be giant ants? And then it's Level 6, feudal Japan, with a nasty samurai monster appearing to attack the gang! And then Level 7, inside a pyramid, with a mummy coming towards them! In Level 8, Shaggy defeats a dragon by extinguishing its fire, and picks up a box of Scooby Snacks, not even taking a look at the virtual princess offering herself to him. And then Level 9 takes them to the North Pole, where they must climb up a pole to pick up the box, while the Virus is chasing them on the back of a polar bear.

P.S. Watch the movie. After Fred pathetically loses against him,
the samurai gets his ass handed to him... by Daphne!

Actually, now that I think of it, there's something kind of funny about those levels... I don't think I need to prove it again; I know a lot about Scooby-Doo. Can't say it has always been the series I liked most, but I definitely enjoy watching the cast through their adventures. They're fun, you know? There's just a sense of fun coming from this odd team and the perils they go through. And Télétoon, the cartoon channel up here in Quebec, has a tendency to air the Scooby-Doo films pretty damn often... especially in October. So I'm quite up-to-date on my knowledge of Scooby-Doo.

It's funny, because many levels in this movie's game actually remind me of direct-to-DVD movies that came out after Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase and featured similar situations and monsters. Yeah, take a look at this: The Scooby Gang fends off a T-Rex in Level 3 of the game; Well, ten years after this movie came out, we'd get Scooby-Doo!: Legend of the Phantosaur, where the team solves a mystery about a ghost dinosaur. Level 5 takes place in Japan, like another direct-to-DVD movie called Scooby-Doo and the Samurai Sword, in which the team faces, you guessed it, a samurai monster. And Level 6 has a mummy – guess what? In 2005, the group also faced a mummy, in another direct-to-DVD movie called Scooby-Doo! In Where's My Mummy? (This one, by the way, is definitely worth a watch for everyone. It's one of the best films in the franchise.) Then, the Mystery, Inc. gang encounters the abominable snowman in the Himalayas, which is still a snow environment but would have been a much more interesting ninth level.

Point is, by an odd coincidence, some of the threats they have faced in this movie, they'd see again later, in a different way: A dinosaur, a samurai, a mummy. And a cold environment. And if you say a cold environment isn't a threat, clearly you've never seen what a freeze wave can do.

And I'm still not done talking about this film; I'd even dare say the best part is coming soon. Tune in next Friday for Part 2 of this review, in which I will cover Level 10, and then the ending. See ya then!