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March 13, 2015

VGFlicks: Wreck-It Ralph (Part 1)

Ah, Disney. I don't care how much money you make. I don't care about your corporate image, I know your torts, and they're pretty big, but dammit, you make such great films. There was kind of a low point between 2000 and 2010, with some lesser-quality films, while Pixar was getting all the praise... and then, inexplicably, the tables have turned. Disney started making CGI movies that turn out to be excellent (seriously, it's almost been a year and a half, and we STILL see Anna and Elsa's faces everywhere, and we STILL hear Let It go every-friggin-where!). And during that time, Pixar went more for the money than for the art: After Toy Story 3, Cars 2 (the first Pixar film to get actual bad reviews), Brave (which, apparently, was pretty good, but not up to par with what Pixar used to achieve), Monsters U (which turned out less creative than most of their films)... Soon, we'll get Inside Out, which I hope will be good, because I seriously want Pixar to regain our love. They deserve it. And the trailers make it look great, too! But until Inside Out hits theaters, we have to say that Pixar has gotten pretty low. Heck, I think DreamWorks is doing better these days when it comes to CGI-animated films! I loved Rise of the Guardians! The Croods was great! It is pretty sad to see that, now, Disney and DreamWorks are toe-to-toe, while not even a decade earlier Pixar was Disney's major player in the fight. Oh well. Let's not be too negative now, m'kay?

Would you believe I still didn't watch
Frozen? Thankfully I know the plot.
EVERYONE knows it by now.
Plot twists included.
Part of the reason Disney went back to being a hallmark name (and also partly the reason why Pixar has fallen a bit behind) is probably that they decide to go all-out with their creativity, go for story ideas that haven't been done before, or at the very least, ideas that they can transform and put a new twist on. Before Frozen became what it is now, it was the normal Disney plot, with the Ice Queen being the villain, and other stuff. It turned into the story of those two sisters, and it ended up deconstructing a large part of the Disney formula we had seen in so many of their fairy tale films. But a year before before Frozen, there was one movie that didn't shy away from being creative, funny, tear-jerking, horrifying, and even thought-provoking. That movie was Wreck-It Ralph. It was a risky bet, as it was advertised as “The Roger Rabbit of video games”, with famous characters showing up here and there, often having greater roles in the plot. Zangief, Bowser, Sonic, Pac-Man, Q*Bert... The retrogamer's orga- No, I'm not making that joke. But you get the point. A big love letter to video games, old and recent, platformers, FPSs, racing games, with an intriguing story...

Come with me to Litwak's Arcade, and meet all the colorful characters this world has to offer! This is Wreck-It Ralph, and before I discuss the film, I tell you: GO WATCH IT. Because there's a million spoilers here. Seriously, it's like all I do: I discuss the plot so thoroughly that by the end, you know the entire story and then some! So I sincerely suggest you watch this film first. Go! Watch it, and come back in a hundred minutes!

Ralph isn't even one of the mushots on the corners!
The movie opens on a narration by Ralph himself, voiced by John C. Reilly, over clips of the arcade game Fix-It Felix Jr.. Ralph was living peacefully in a tree stump, in an open field, until they came: The bulldozers. They pushed his stump into a nearby dump (It rhymes!), razed the forest, and built a giant building. Ralph got understandably mad, and goes to wreck the building. Did they even ask his permission? No? Too bad for them! That building is GOING DOWN! But then the game's actual hero, Fix-It Felix Jr. (voiced by Jack McBrayer), comes in and goes to repair all the broken windows. In the end, the building's inhabitants, called Nicelanders, toss Ralph from the top of the building into a puddle of mud. And that's how every level goes. In the end, Felix gets all the honors. Nothing for big ol' Ralph, even though there wouldn't be a game without him. What the Hell do they don't understand about being animated actors? Ah, whatever.

There's an Anonymous for everything.
It turns out that Ralph was explaining his life as a video game villain to other video game villains, during a Bad-Anon meeting. The meeting, which is attended by famous villains like Clyde the ghost, Zangief (?), Bowser, Eggman and even Mr. Bison, is a way to help them come to terms with what they are, deep in their code: They were programmed to be the bad guys, to be hated by the denizens of their own worlds. Even if, technically, they're only playing the roles that were attributed to them. True evil is a rare thing in this miniature multiverse that is Litwak's Arcade; most of these characters look downright sympathetic. Even Bowser, who's sipping coffee while listening to Ralph!

Wow, Bowser's coffe must have been burning hot!
...Nah, just kidding, he always spat fireballs.
However, when Ralph expresses a desire to be a good guy for once, he meets shocked reactions from the other villains. They tell him that he must not try to change what he is, because it could be dangerous. The meeting ends with the villains reciting their Bad-Anon motto: “I'm bad, and that's good. I will never be good, and that's not bad. There's no one I'd rather be... than me.” After the others, Ralph leaves the room, steals nearby cherries (the meeting took place in the ghosts' den, in the Pac-Man arcade game), and leaves.

Well, at least Ralph can count on Satan. Oh, excuse me. "Sateen".
Disney made Satan sound a lot less manly.

O.O I'm goin' cameo-hunting!
What's interesting with this world is that all the video games in Litwak's Arcade can travel to other games thanks to the Surge Protector, where all the arcade cabinets are plugged. However, they need to do these things at night, for the most part, because they'll need to be present in their game when the arcade opens; any game could be played at any moment, so if a character is missing, Litwak will believe the game is broken. It gets worse: Sonic himself (and voiced by Roger Craig Smith, too!) appears in the Game Central Station (what they call the large room inside the Surge Protector) in a PSA of sorts. He explains that if a character dies inside of his own game, there's no problem, they'll respawn. But if they die outside of it, it's Game Over. There's no coming back. And if it's an important character, and his/her death renders the game unplayable, the game is doomed to be unplugged by Litwak. The inhabitants will be able to leave and find themselves in Game Central Station, sure, but those who stay in the game when unplugged.... will disappear too. Every video game character in this movie carries the responsibility of keeping themselves alive, for their disappearance could mean the end of their entire world. Heck, on his way back to Fix-It Felix Jr., Ralph meets Q*Bert, whose game has been unplugged. He hands Q*Bert a cherry. See? He's not such a bad guy!

Good to know Arcade!Sonic turned out to look exactly the
same in 3D as he does in the home console 3D games.
He could have been, *gasp!*, different!

Are those Graham Teddies at the bottom, on the left?
Is that... a clown, on the right????????????
Ralph gets back to his world, and sees a party is being held in the Penthouse. Oops, I may have forgotten to mention that it was the Fix-It Felix Jr. arcade game's 30th anniversary... And Raph wasn't invited! Do you have any idea how important he is? Without him, there's no game! So Ralph gets into the party, hoping to take part in the celebration. Somehow, they got Skrillex to be their DJ (My best guess is that they got him from one of the musical games that might be plugged in the arcade, but that's just a supposition.) When the time comes to reveal the cake, Ralph sees little figuriness of Felix and all the Nicelanders (the lil' people who live in the Penthouse and whose limited animation makes them look rather awkward when they're walking – Heck, they're so small they'd give Snow White's dwarfs a superiority complex) on top of the cake. The Ralph figurine is placed at the bottom, into the puddle of mud (Hmmmm, chocolate! I want some!), with a sorta-creepy, trying-to-be-scary expression that fails at being scary and instead turns out pretty grotesque.

Fun tidbit: Gene is the one who gets flung out of the bilding
by Ralph at the start of the game. No wonder he hates Ralph.
He's still mean, though.
The Nicelanders get into an argument with Ralph (who, by the way, hates chocolate – don't ask why!!), especially a mean one called Gene. He brings to attention that Felix gets all these medals for his heroism. Ralph swears he could get a medal if he wanted. The tension builds up, more nastiness gets traded, and it ends with an exasperated Ralph smashing the cake. Good job. You wrecked the party. Ralph leaves. Tssk, if only those Nicelanders understood that it's just a role! Nicelanders, them? More like Terriblanders, yeah! More like as- No, I'm not doing that joke, I'm trying to stay polite for once.

That's one of the very few times that Ralph looks threatening
in this entire movie.

So Ralph goes to drown his sorrows at Tapper's bar. Oh, I'm pretty sure they sell root beer, milk and cola, but what about alcoholic beverages for those characters who really need it? Ralph asks Tapper where he could get a medal, and the barman replies that there might be one in the Lost and Found. Our hulking hero finds a mushroom, an exclamation mark (!?) and a pair of Zangief's briefs (This raises so many questions and gives so many disturbing thoughts, considering the world these characters live in, that I prefer not to call attention to it any further), but no medal. Thankfully, he finds a shell-shocked soldier from a recently-plugged game called Hero's Duty. The guy is terrorized, especially qhen he explains the plot of Hero's Duty to Ralph. He does mention a medal, though, which immediately interests our wrecker... and then the soldier sees a bug, runs away, rams into a wall and faints. Ralph takes that opportunity to steal the soldier's full body armor. He still has the decency to put Zangief's briefs on the soldier. Hero's Duty, here we come!

Shell-shocked alright. He was probably programmed
shell-shocked. ..Oh my God. That means he will ALWAYS
be panicky like this. His entire life. Good God, no...

Ralph, you're not aligned with the others!
Ralph makes his way to Hero's Duty, bumps into Q*Bert again, kinda tells him about his plan (like that's necessary), and hurries into the passage leading to Hero's Duty. There, he joins the other armored soldiers as they await their sergeant's orders. The sergeant comes in the room, and it turns out to be homina homina homina- I mean, it's Sergent Tamora Jean Calhoun (voiced by Jane Lynch), a tall action lady who treats her battalion like any sergeant would: Brutally. Oof, she's merciless. Her point in Hero's Duty is to serve as a sort of guide for the player, since this is a First Person Shooter. Ralph can't help but show how much he doesn't fit in with the group (he already didn't fit much in the soldier's armor anyway)... But then the game begins... it's an alien invasion around a desolated tower! Holy Atari E.T.!

But let's go back on Sergeant Calhoun. When we're talking about a strong female character, that's exactly what I'm picturing. She's badass (that doesn't count as a bad word, does it?), she's in control, she's developed... ...not that way, you pervert! I meant as a character! I mean by this that she isn't one-dimensional, like it would have been so easy to do. Let me take a wild guess and say that in the universe of Wreck-It Ralph, she's no doubt adored by all gamers, girls and boys alike. The boys probably for some other reasons, just because this is a Disney movie doesn't mean Rule 34 doesn't exist in-universe, but I'm straying from the point. She's awesome. Disney's Princess-no, not princess. Disney's Queen of Badassery.
Heck, if a talking figurine of her was released, I'd buy it, and I'd expect lines like these:
Staying in the kitchen? Repeat that while I'm aiming for your head?”
My husband became a monster. ”
Kids, if you suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder some day, seek psychiatric help. I'm not kidding.”
Rides on my hoverboard aren't free. You gotta deserve them.”
The day I fight on the battlefield in high heels is the day I'll die inside.”

She looks so nice.

Yes, Ralph is the left one who's all panicky.
Well, he sure fit in Markowski's shoes.
When the game begins, there are giant, flying alien insects EVERYWHERE. Ralph panics and interferes with the FPS screen, causing the player to get shot by a Cy-Bug, the villains in this game. Since the player lost, a beacon coming from the tower gets activated. All the Cy-Bugs are immediately attracted to the light, go towards it, and get zapped into oblivion. That's how those monsters are destroyed in time for the next game. Ralph gets berated by Sergeant Calhoun, and realizes his idea was really stupid... well, until he remembered there was no danger as long as there wasn't a player...

The Orange Glow Of Death. Not nearly as bad as the
Red Ring, but terrifying nonetheless.
Meanwhile, Felix and the Nicelanders (Seriously, I don't want to call them this anymore. They don't deserve it. They're such... meanies!) are panicking. The same gamer girl who had tried and lost at Hero's Duty had tried playing Fix-It felix Jr., but since Ralph wasn't in there to be the villain, it was impossible to play! The girl tells Litwak the game is broken, he sticks an Out Of Order sign over the screen, and now everyone in the game is terrified because their game might disappear. Q*Bert comes by and has a discussion with Felix (who can speak its language). By the way, so do I. Oh hey, there he is.

Oh, nothing much. What about you?
Oh, good to know. So, uh, why are you around?
Hey! Watch what you're saying!
How dare you...
Hey! My momma would never do that! My mother's recipes are excellent! Say something else about my mom and you'll be pixels scattered 'round the Internet!
"@ @ @ @ @"
And he's laughing, too!

Anyway, Q*Bert tells Felix and the Nicelanders that Ralph “went Turbo”, that is, he went into another game during daytime, while there are gamers at the arcade. Thankfully, Q*Bert knows Ralph is in Hero's Duty, so Felix knows where to look.

Ralph never felt this awesome before.
Meanwhile, Ralph is scaling the building. Hey, the game isn't being played, he can do that! He breaks into the top floor, and there he sees it: The medal! But the floor is covered in Cy-Bug eggs... He carefully steps around the eggs, climbs the stairs and picks up the medal, which triggers the ending to Hero's Duty. He finds himself surrounded by holograms of generals and sergeants saluting him like a hero, while another sergeant gives a long monolog praising him for his courage. ...Yeah, that's not quite the hero you were expecting, Sergeant Ending Cutscene. As he leaves, Ralph steps on a Cy-Bug egg, awakening the monster inside it. The baby bug latches onto the gentle giant's face, and the two wind up in an escape pod that is then sent flying away.

"What do you want, Mario lookalike?"
"Just searching for my friend, Mrs. Samus lookalike."
By that point, Felix had reached Hero's Duty. At first, the soldiers shoot at him, because they just hear him coming, and think this little jumping sound is a threat coming for them. Thankfully, he doesn't get hit (talk about some amazing reflexes!), and tries explaining the situation to Sergeant Calhoun. He can't help but notice her beautiful high-definition graphics. All this detail! The flowing hair, the freckles, such a treat to his 8bit eyes... However, while they're talking, the escape pod containing Ralph and a Cy-Bug speeds by, going towards Game Central Station...

Hey look, he DID get a medal after al- Holy 1-Up!

Ralph flies through the Station, accidentally hitting Sonic (who, thankfully, had rings on him), and going into a game called Candy Crush. Er... Cheeky Blush. Er... Honey Hush. Er... Sugar Rush! Ah, finally! I have no idea why I was thinking about Candy Crush. Oh well... I guess it's a good moment to take a break. This Monday: Part 2 of this long review! ...I'm gonna need three parts for this one.