Saturday, 9 February 2013

Wreck It Ralph (2013) - Rich Moore

Video Games often get a bad reputation in the media.  From Mortal Kombat back in 1992 to the likes of Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty being blamed for gun crime in America, gaming is something of an easy target.  It's thanks to the talented folk at Disney that Wreck-It Ralph shows video games in the positive light they deserve.

After all, for many, gaming began as child's play.  Wreck-It Ralph brings us back to a time before endless shooting games, a time of gaming innocence.  Mixing the best talents from both Disney and Pixar, this is a vibrant, colourful CGI world full of charm.  As with gaming itself, the film takes us from the mundane real world into an escapist fantasy realm where anything is possible.  The 3D effect is a subtle one as each carefully differentiated game comes to life - the candy cane world of 'Sugar Rush', where the majority of the film takes place, is stunningly rendered.

It's the characters and cameos that fill this world that make Wreck-It Ralph such a great film.  For starters, the ape-like main character (John C. Reilly) stars in the Donkey Kong-esque game 'Fix-It Felix Jnr'.  From there, we have the Halo-esque 'Hero Duty' where we meet Jane Lynch's butch Sergeant Calhoun and the Japanese kawaii style Mario Kart clone 'Sugar Rush', complete with anime style characters and J-pop soundtrack.  It's here that we meet Vanellope, voiced in suitably comedic fashion by Sarah Silverman in a role that's miles away from her comedy sketches.  Licensed-in characters from the likes of Sonic the Hedgehog, Street Fighter and Pacman provide authenticity, lovingly portrayed in humorous yet faithful fashion, with some even voiced by their original voice actors.  The support group for gaming villains is particularly well depicted.  From the 8bit, jerky animations and pixellated effects to the chirpy chip-tune music, Wreck-It Ralph displays reverence to its source that fans will appreciate, without losing any Disney charm.

The links to Toy Story are clear.  As with Pixar's series, this is a film about the private life of toys - in this case electronic avatars.  Wreck-It Ralph, however, is less concerned with the characters' interaction with humans.  This ultimately is the downfall of the film, which is consumed with its own world and lacks the humanity of Pixar's best.  What it does do is provide an escapist fantasy of fast-paced, kinetic action and a narrative with a surprising number of sub-plots and plenty of heart.  There's a lot here for the whole family to enjoy.

It must also be noted that, in typical Pixar fashion, Wreck-It Ralph is preceded by short animation Paperman.  In just a few short minutes, Disney prove why they're such accomplished storytellers - no dialogue required, just stunningly drawn characters.

Video games may still be young in media terms, but they're a universal medium.  No longer are consoles hidden away in the bedrooms of teenagers, they've become the centrepiece beneath the family television and games are readily available in the hands of every smart phone user.  Now, with Wreck-It Ralph, gaming has a suitable film that celebrates the medium, rather than holding it to blame.