I feel as though I’ve been waiting for Wreck it Ralph for ages – I saw a ‘work in progress’ talk back in June, it came out in America in November, and it has already opened around most of the rest of the world to rave reviews. But last night, finally, I got to see the film that everyone is talking about – and not just see the film, but attend a Q&A session with director Rich Moore and voice performer Sarah Silverman.
Wreck-It Ralph longs to be as beloved as his game’s perfect Good Guy, Fix-It Felix. Problem is, nobody loves a Bad Guy. But they do love heroes… so when a modern, first-person shooter game arrives featuring tough-as-nails Sergeant Calhoun, Ralph sees it as his ticket to heroism and happiness. He sneaks into the game with a simple plan — win a medal — but soon wrecks everything, and accidentally unleashes a deadly enemy that threatens every game in the arcade. Ralph’s only hope? Vanellope von Schweetz, a young troublemaking “glitch” from a candy-coated cart racing game who might just be the one to teach Ralph what it means to be a Good Guy. But will he realize he is good enough to become a hero before it’s “Game Over” for the entire arcade?
The film, for those who don’t know, is basically to video games what Who Framed Roger Rabbit was to animation – a series of in-jokes, puns and favourite characters all put together to create a world that’s surprisingly familiar yet wonderfully imaginative. Wreck it Ralph features cameos from classic game characters such as Pac Man, Bowser, Sonic and Chun Li from Street Fighter – payday for any IP laywers out there you’d think, but apparently getting the rights was a fairly painless process once they were able to show the creators of these characters what they planned to do with them.
This is probably because of the obvious love and high regard that the filmmakers have for the gaming world. Aside buy cheap valium with no prescription from the cameos that even the most casual gamer will be able to pick up on, the film references Leeroy Jenkins, who gained internet notoriety by shouting his own name while running into battle in World of Warcraft; it includes a scene in Tappers, a controversial game set in a pub with a landlord serving up pints of Guiness; and it even includes a subtle nod to Walter Day, the referee in the arcade documentary The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters.
Make no mistake that this is a film by people who know and love games.
It’s also a film by people who know and love stories and great characters. The concern I had going in was that the story sounded like it was aimed at a fairly young audience, whereas the humour and points of reference are based at an older age group. It is, after all, based on a style of arcade game that hasn’t been popular since the eighties.
This is a line that Rich Moore walks with style, crafting a story around four different worlds; the 8 bit graphics of the arcade game, the stylised candy world of Sugar Rush, the high octane HD graphics of Hero’s Duty and the human world in which is arcade is set. In that combination, the film has something for everyone to relate to, but it also manages to reference the ways in which the world has changed over the generations “When did video games get so violent and scary” screams Ralph to camera when he ventures inside Hero’s Duty – almost word for word what my Mum said to me when I showed her the (now extremely tame) N64 Classic GoldenEye.
So in short, the film was great. Go see it.
Oh, and the question and answer session at the BFI was also wonderful, with Rich Moore and especially Sarah Silverman answering the audience’s questions with humour and insight. Quite a feat after a 4 month press junket I’m sure!
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