When it comes to adapting a video game into a movie, the two blend together like a peanut butter and tuna fish sandwich.
Most movies based off video games end in disaster because they are not only overall terrible in quality, but they often times do not stick to their source material. They lack the special quality that made the video game special to so many people in the first place.
If you are like me and have been waiting eons to see a great video game movie, then “Wreck-It Ralph” is your chorus of angels.
“Wreck-It Ralph” takes us through the story of Ralph, a villain from a fictitious arcade video game called Fix-It Felix Jr. In Fix-It Felix Jr. – which slightly resembles the classic arcade game “Donkey Kong” – Ralph smashes a penthouse with innocent people inside and it is up to Felix Jr. with his magical repairing hammer to fix what Ralph destroys. Each time Ralph’s ploy to destroy the penthouse is foiled by Felix Jr., Ralph is tossed over the top of the building where he lands on the ground floor in shame.
On the 30th anniversary of Fix-It Felix Jr., Ralph decides to attend a meeting where other infamous video game villains converge to talk about their problems. Ralph shares that he is tired of being the villain and exiled by the people in his game. For once, Ralph wants to be the hero and to do so, he must acquire a hero’s medal, but it is impossible for him accomplish this in his own game.
To get a hero’s medal, Ralph must go outside of his game, or go “turbo,” and visit another game, which is forbidden.
Fix-It Felix Jr. is in an arcade shack with a plethora of other arcade games (both old and new) that are connected to each other through a surge protector. Inside the surge protector is Game Central Station, a train station that transports video game characters to their proper game.
As someone who has been gaming since before pre-school, I could not help but smile when I saw the huge amount of game characters I have come to know over the years on the big screen. From Street Fighter to Sonic the Hedgehog and even Qbert, having all of these characters interacting with one another when they were in Game Central Station was a sight to behold.
Aside from showing characters from a variety of real video game franchises, the film pays homage to gaming in general. Because Fix-It Felix Jr. is a 30 year-old game with 8-bit graphics, characters from the game move in a robotic manner and make older sound effects depending on their movements. Little touches such as those made the movie feel like it was made by gamers for gamers, and it was something I appreciated deeply as a gamer.
Hero’s Duty, another fictitious game in the movie, is a reflection of today’s more adult games such as Call of Duty, Halo and Gears of War with high-definition graphics and tough-as-nails soldiers. It was hilarious seeing Ralph go to Hero’s Duty because he never saw how games have evolved since his time and witnessing the violence frightened him. Seeing characters from older games talking with characters in current games was pretty funny because it was almost like watching older gamers interact with newer gamers.
Visually, the movie looked incredible. Each of the game’s worlds correlate with the decade they came from whether it was the block look of Fix-It Felix, the dark and frightening atmosphere of Hero’s Duty or the vivid Candy Land-like world of Sugar Rush. Although I usually never recommend it since it is more costly, “Wreck-It Ralph” was more enjoyable to watch in 3D since it took full advantage of the depth and pop-out 3D can add to a screen.
The story of “Wreck-It Ralph” was overall a heart-warming tale. Usually when we play video games, we expectedly route for the good guy, but with “Wreck-It Ralph,” we get the opportunity to look through the eyes of the bad guy who is not necessarily a bad guy. You cannot help but sympathize for Ralph because we have all had those moments in our life where we desire to be part of something other people find important and give you recognition in one form or another.
Fellow characters Felix Jr. (Fix-It Felix Jr.), Calhoun (Hero’s Duty) and most of all, Vanellope (Sugar Rush) are perfect mirror images to the games they come from the real games they portray. Felix is your do-gooder similar to Mario, Calhoun is the action-heavy soldier with a personality that is as rough as sand paper and Vanellope (who is a lot like Ralph) acts like a typical child, but is adorable at the same. Each character is enjoyable to watch when they are on screen.
Even though “Wreck-It Ralph” created bountiful fictitious games with believable characters, the film restricted itself by only exploring two worlds where a majority of the movie was spent in Sugar Rush. It is not a bad or a boring world – especially since the game resembles Mario Kart – but with the many other worlds they could have covered, it felt like a wasted effort. It also lost the momentum the film spent the first 30 minutes building up with the bountiful cameos of video game icons.
People of all ages will enjoy this movie in some way or another whether they play video games or not. However, some of the humor falls flat with some jokes continuing too long.
Through the humor and tribute to video games, the movie delivers a fantastic underlying message that you do not have to be what people label you. Instead, be yourself if it makes you happy.
“Wreck-It Ralph” is one of the best video game movies ever made because it truly appreciates its source material while delivering a heart-warming story and relatable characters. Though it would have been better if they spent less time in Sugar Rush and more time exploring other parts of the Game Central Station, this film will definitely entertain gamers as well as kids and adults. If you are a gamer at heart, then go see “Wreck-It Ralph” while it is in theaters.
Robbie Key wishes there were more video game adaptations like “Wreck-It Ralph,” but until that time comes, he will continue to serve his post in “Reviews and Editorials” for Analog Addiction. He is also Stephen F. Austin State University’s lone gaming journalist, a blogger for IGN, has a passion for those cryptic things known as video games and most importantly, he is American. You can follow his completely relevant Twitter updates and watch his awesomtacular YouTube videos.