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November 14, 2014

VGFlicks: Spy Kids 3D: Game Over, Part 2

Missed Part 1? No problem! You can read it here.

Hello, and welcome back to this review! When we left off, Juni Cortez had been sent in a video game where his sister had gone missing, and he encountered lots of dangers on his way. However, he wasn't alone; he was allowed an ally to aid him: His grandpa! He also became friends with three beta testers and a mysterious girl called Demetra. Now they're in Level 3, let's see what happens from there...

You know something's wrong with a game when it treats
a half-life like a life.
Level 3 brings the cast to a land of metallic blocks constantly shaping themselves into a field. They soon reach a new section, where an announcer asks both the best player and the strongest player in the team to step forward on new moving platforms. Juni steps, and so does one of the beta testers, Arnold. Then, the game puts them away from solid ground... and forces them to battle. The loser will suffer a Game Over. Arnold is in there to find the grand prize past Level 5 to save his family from poverty, so he won't give up. The fight starts, and the two are giving their all – no wait, I take that back; Juni is pathetic. He loses all of his lives, barely escaping with .5 of a life left. You read that right, guys: Point five. Miraculously. Half a life.

Ah, shut up.

I'm not even gonna get into how ridiculous and plot-convenient it is that Juni survives with half a life; it's not even supposed to be possible. I'll just go in detail on how both smart and stupid this idea is for a level in the game. If the player got there alone, who does he fight? The game kind of discourages teamwork, even though when you reach that point you pretty much need to be part of a team or to be with another player that you'll end up fighting. Then, the game forces the best and the strongest player in a fight; thus, the team will lose either of them. However, the game lets the players make the choice of their best/strongest player, so any large team with many good players and a few bad players could get rid of a bad player by putting two bad players in the fight. The game wouldn't notice! Then, as I noticed, it seems that even though it discourages teamwork, the entire game is made to force teams to be created so that they can pull through the levels more easily... but then all the levels past the first one are basically dwindling the party. The mega-race from which not all players come out, this fight, and so on... This game is awful in all the possible ways.

Cheater! Cheatercheatercheatercheatercheater CHEATER!
Anyway, by an odd twist of luck, Demetra offers herself to take Juni's place in the battle, so Juni is switched out, Demetra goes on the platform... and gets a Game Over in a single hit by Arnold, who vaporizes the platform under her. HEY, THAT'S CHEATING! Goodbye, token girl... so much for her awesomeness in the past levels... After Demetra's defeat, Juni's grandfather Valentin addresses himself to the Toymaker, implying he knows the Toymaker even more than was stated before...

By the way, how do you get an arm like that in the game?
I don't know a lot of video game heroines with robot arms.
Video game heroines with full robotic armor, however...
After another scene in the Toymaker's lair (in which we see him release Carmen from a virtual prison), we're back with Juni and Co. reaching Level 4. Juni tries to contact Carmen, until he realizes she's near them. And there she appears, ready to join the group. By the way, she has a robot arm. Which she didn't have at first... Come to your own gory conclusions by yourself. Anyway, while they're walking through Level 4, Carmen states that the Toymaker is responsible for GrandpaValentin's crippled state. No, you're kidding, right? ...You're not kidding. Oh crap. Now I'm starting to see why Valentin wants to find the Toymaker...

Lava surfing? Really? Well, if some can kart on a rainbow...
The gang reaches a volcano surrounded by rivers of lava. And they need to cross that world to reach Level 5. Carmen adds that falling in the lava is an instant Game Over. ...I could have guessed that, thanks. The gang is about to head another way when the Toymaker releases in their way the “Taker-Toy”, a video game baddie all made of metal with sharp teeth. Oh, wait, not just one – AN ENTIRE ARMY OF THOSE. And thus Juni, Carmen, Valentin and the three beta-testers find themselves having to jump down towards the lava. Thankfully, all the characters manage to break a part of the cliff during their descent, effectively creating stone boards to surf on the lava (this has so much video game logic that I would take three 2,000-word posts explaining why it doesn't work, but whatever, I'm just gonna ignore it for the sake of my sanity).

This is one of the most blatant examples. Behind Juni, Valentin comes
closer and then moves to the right. Clearly he was part of the
green screen.
God, the more I look at this movie, the more I realize how much the effects are crap. It's quite amazing, actually. There are moments that are pretty smart (like Stallone smacking one of his holograms into the camera, which is hilarious) and utilize special effect tricks that you don't get to use that often. Sadly, most of the portions with 3D in it will look unbelievably fake (which is probably the intent), but then you look at it like a film connoisseur and you realize that other things are off. The camera angles are impossible or the camera moves like it's handled by a crazy guy teleporting all over the place; some characters seen from behind look cartoonier, probably because they didn't bother to get the actor to stand there with his back at the camera, and thus replaced him with a similar 3D model; in some cases, characters moving closer or away from each other will move weirdly, like they were asked to stand still, after which their likeness was added in post-production on a green screen and then moved around by the special effects team. The list goes on and on... The resulting movie contains some pretty damn smart moments, but also some ungodly stupid ones. Great visuals and special effect failures coexist in this film, and as a result it's both amazing and painful to watch.

Back to the plot. After realizing that Grandpa Magellan wants to break the Toymaker out of the game to get his revenge, the OSS decides to hack the game and add more monsters to make Level 4 impossible to beat for any of them. They summon a huge monster that tosses all five characters into the lava, but oddly enough, it turns out this ain't lava; it's more like red-and-yellow water. And so Juni finds himself able to swim in it. In fact, the others have found the door to the next level in there! ...Wait. Does that mean that Level 4 is technically impossible because the way out is hidden in the lava, where no player would be stupid enough to risk a Game Over? The rest of the game plays so dangerously that in the end, all forms of danger are thoroughly avoided, so obviously players in this game wouldn't go look under the lava. That's... kinda smart from the Toymaker, actually.

Wait. If he's "The Guy", does that mean he's just a program?
I mean... If he isn't a normal player, maybe he is not real!
Francis and Rez, two of the beta-testers, discuss the possibility that Juni is actually a “Deceiver”, a programmed character put in the game whose purpose is to dwindle any party it attaches itself to, usually by pretending to be The Guy or by weakening the already-frail links of trust between the team's members. We could have heard about that earlier... Near the door to Level 5, Carmen says that it only leads to a prison where the players get trapped forever, but the beta-testers don't believe it and get ready to fight the siblings, believing they're Deceivers. But The Guy (played by Elijah Wood! Wow, talk about an all-star cast) shows up, with a magnificent 99 lives. The Guy gives a rousing speech and goes to open the door... He then enters Level 5, promptly gets hit by thunder, falls to the ground, and loses all 99 of his lives. Game Over, Guy. Wished we knew ye better.

And we shall never forget your last word. "Oops."

"Look, she's immaterial! Like a hologram!"
"Ah, so that's why I wasn't able to hold her hand!"
However, for some reason, all the others can enter now. To add to the insanity of the moment, Demetra appears! ...Wait, wasn't she removed from the game? Demetra and Carmen get into an argument over whether or not Demetra is real (as Carmen says Demetra is fake), until Carmen moves towards Demetra and slashes her with that robot hand of hers... which reveals Demetra to be a hologram. She has been the Deceiver all along? Whaaaaaa? There were hints to this, sure. Problem is, we're not told a single damn thing about Deceivers until, like, five minutes ago, so how the Hell were we supposed to guess she wasn't real when nothing before that point told us about the possibility of any character not being real?

An image of the Toymaker appears and tells them they they won! Their price is... to stay forever in that level! Guess Carmen was right, after all... But wait, that's not all! They also get to play with a huge bunch of mean giant robot monkeys! However, Valentin shows the whole gang a way out- Wait. Didn't we just hear that this level was a prison? That there was no escape? THEN WHY IS THERE AN ESCAPE? THIS... NOT... SENSE... MAKE!

"I swear I'm sorry! I was made to do all these horrible
things, but I'm sorry! It's in my program!" 
However, Demetra is sorry for her actions, even though she was programmed to act the way she did, so she shouldn't be sorry; in which case, Juni has either corrupted her program with love, which is silly (though in a movie 100% "for kids", that wouldn't surprise me)... or the Toymaker is just that good at creating humanlike AI. Now that I think about it, the Toymaker's game has awful graphics, but somehow his holograms, The Guy, and Demetra had real faces? Does that mean he's actually capable of perfectly lifelike CGI? That he can create an entire human psyche and personality through computer programming? That's kind of impressive. Or maybe it's just bad special effects not explained well enough because this is a movie for kids. Either way works, I guess.

Anyway, Demetra keeps the portal open so that the real humans can leave. Rez, Arnold and Francis give Carmen their e-mail addresses and then leave through the portal leading back to reality. And then, so does Carmen. Guess that robot arm was getting a little heavy. Juni talks with his grandfather, who first wants to stay; but Juni convinces him to go back to reality as well. Though Juni promises to always see his grandpa as the badass hero he is at the moment, not like some old guy in a wheelchair.

Seriously, Ricardo Montalbán looks awesome like this, even if it's an obvious CGI puppet from the neck down. It must have been worth it for him, considering he was paralyzed below the waist in 1993. He isn't playing a wheelchair-bound man, he literally IS wheelchair-bound. That injury's real, guys. In fact, the role of Valentin Magellan was made just for him; Spy Kids 2 features him riding a jet-propelled wheelchair, and here, the 3D model makes him look like some kind of superhero. That's very nice of Robert Rodriguez to offer him this tailor-made role.

"Woah." You said it, dude.
P.S. Their arrival at the OSS HQ is completely pointless.
Valentin Magellan and Juni Cortez come out of the game. Apparently, the Cortez kids did manage to shut the game down; all the players have been disconnected from their game, the network is off, all the players put in Game Over state have been released. The beta testers are at the OSS headquarters, too; tracked down through their e-mail addresses and brought there, probably due to their knowledge of programming and games. (P.S. None of them looks the way they did in the game.) They obviously find it awesome when they learn that Juni really IS a secret agent.

"I swear I will retrieve ADRIEEEEEEEENNNE!"
No, I didn't choose that picture on purpose! I swear!
There were two switches in Level 5, and Grandpa Magellan reveals that he pulled the switch to release the Toymaker on purpose. The OSS gets a message from the President, whose face gets glitchy, until the illusion falls and reveals the Toymaker. Stallone is still at his hammiest, at his funniest. And this time, he's serious. ...Yes, despite the hamminess, he's serious. When his little speech ends, the OSS headquarters starts shaking. Juni, Carmen and some spies go outside but see nothing, until Juni puts on the 3D glasses, and sees a giant ape robot coming the OSS's way! And there are dozens more around the city!

That's not exactly an accurate re-creation of Planet of the Apes...

How many people did this thing crush on its way here?
The game has entered the real world, somehow, in a completely unexplained way that is there just to give an epic ending to the Spy Kids trilogy! Carmen calls the entire Cortez family to come and help them. That includes their parents, obviously, but also their grandmother, as well as all their allies: Machete (Yes, that guy from the ultraviolent parody exploitation flick also by Robert Rodriguez), Floop, Minion, their army of robot children, Tiddywinks, Romero on a flying pig (no, seriously), the Giggles family... Those names don't ring a bell? Neither do they for me. I saw the other Spy kids films, but that was a while ago... I don't remember most of these characters. Most of the giant ape robots are dispatched, but there's one left: The one piloted by Toymaker. You can tell it's the Toymaker's because this one has a human face.

Grampa Valentin goes in to save the day!

I cannot make a joke at that scene. You need to see the scene
for yourself. It's played seriously... unlike everything else in
this film. And that's quite impressive.
Valentin arrives on the scene and flies up to the robot's head on his jet-propelled wheelchair. He gets inside the robot and has a heartfelt discussion with the Toymaker, a serious one that clashes with the rest of the movie. He appeals to the Toymaker's heart, tells him the things he's lost due to his injury, and what he's gained from it. Valentin ends his speech by telling the Toymaker that he forgives him. ...So Grandpa didn't want to get revenge, then? Huh! Moved by what he heard, Toymaker switches his robot to Off, and the robot falls apart, with them still inside. Still, they somehow get out unscathed from the giant head. They end on a rather happy note: It's how whether you win or lose; it's about how you play. Take that, every gamer who talks down to other players because HE is playing seriously, unlike the others who play for, *gasp!*, FUN! And thus the movie ends on a final moment with the whole family.

The end! Take those silly 3D glasses off, now!

God, this is stupid. Hilariously dumb. Comically overblown in every possible way. Madly insane. In other words, this movie is BAD, but very, very enjoyable. Like a haunted house in which the animatronics work all kinds of wrong, but in the end you loved it because of the defects that turned the ride into something silly. Spy Kids 3D is bad, maybe not on purpose. Or maybe it is. The jury is still out on that one. Point is, this movie has awful special effects most of the time (the quality of the CGI is the biggest offender), but in the end it's creative, funny and oddly heartfelt by moments. It has quite a few twists and turns which, while they should have been brought up in a better way, still manage to add to the story as a whole.

Yes, I'm bringing this one up again.
As I said numerous times, the effects are awful, maybe not painful, but bad. I'm guessing it all looked fake because it was a movie for children and they were literally going for a cartoony style, both in the game and in the real world pictured in the film. Then again, some effects still could have been executed much better. Nothing is more obvious, however, than the 3D objects flung in your face at an attempt to include as much 3D as possible. Yeah, that's really a problem. Make a drinking game out of the number of times something gets thrown at you, and you'll be at the hospital before the halfway point of the movie. Don't try it.

Even Clooney had a lot of fun doing those! Truth be told, it
must always feel awesome to mimic Sylvester Stallone.
The story is over-the-top, and so is the acting. The child actors have talent that range between “good” and “rather bad” (especially Daryl Sabara, who fluctuates between the two constantly). On the other hand, the adults clearly had a TON of fun acting in this movie and hamming it up for the young viewers. You can see it in the bloopers inserted through the credits. As for the plot, it feels more like a disjointed series of random events. The game itself is quite a mess; you're never quite sure what is a level and what is a side-mission. Level 1 is the cartoon town, but Level 2 is anywhere between there and Level 3, which seemed to be the fight between Juni and Arnold. Oh, and of course, we never learn what did the Toymaker do to Valentin. It must have been pretty brutal, though, considering the characters in this story can suffer all kinds of pains and still come out unharmed. Other than that, the world pictured in the movie is extremely weird, but again, it must have been to replicate the feeling of a cartoon. Guess you need to embrace the craziness of that world in order to fully enjoy the movie, something that isn't possible in flicks like Gamer. You don't want to feel invested in something that feels too mean-spirited, too depressing, too dark. Thus, it's easier to get invested in a movie like this one, even though it's the complete opposite.

Besides, who wouldn't want of a world where children spy
may have helicopter hair??
All things considered, it does have some scary implications...

The film's theme song is pretty cool too, sung by Alexa Vega with music by, guess who? Robert Rodriguez. Geez, he sure does a lot of things, doesn't he? Seriously though, Robert Rodriguez seems like a cool guy. Apparently, he made these films (as well as The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl - no, I won't review it) so his children could watch some of his films... because, you know, the rest of his filmography is ultra-violent and definitely NOT for kids.

In the end, Spy Kids 3D: Game Over is harmless fun. It doesn't hurt anyone (except maybe your eyes in some places, and maybe it hurts you to think such bad special effects could exist), it doesn't attempt to deeply insult anyone or anything. In the end, it's just a movie for kids. Not the best thing they'll ever watch, and in fact they might forget about it someday, but for 80 minutes, it's just okay for them. And those like me who tend to be critical or cynical can watch it to try and spot all the moments that make no sense, and all the moments with truly horrible special effects. Seriously, there are a LOT. Seriously, the bad effects are just as funny as the actual attempts at comedy.

Just Valentin Magellan's robot body should give you plenty of material to laugh at.

Talking about bad stuff, next week I'm reviewing a Wii game called Anubis II. What is it about? You'll see in due time. You never heard of that game before? Be thankful that life has gifted you with never encountering it. For the unlucky ones who know about it, or any of its "siblings"... You know my pain. Let's give that game – and its makers! - the bashing it so rightfully deserves. Next week, on Planned All Along: Without a doubt, one of my most violent reviews ever.

Anubis II...