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TAC Reviews...Wreck-It Ralph

 

With the sequel Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph now out on DVD (and given the fact that I have seen both films) I have decided that my reviews this week and next would be these two films. The first film came out in 2012 and starred John C Reilly as the titular Ralph with Sarah Silverman as Venellope von Schweetz also joining them are Jane Lynch as Sergeant Tamora Jean Calhoun and Alan Tudyk as King Candy.

 

Wreck-It Ralph Poster

 

Lots of films have gone with ideas of seemingly inanimate objects or animals having a life of their own when human beings aren’t around or aren’t seeing them. Consider films like Toy Story, Finding Nemo or the Secret Life of Pets, the premise being that the characters in the films share human characteristic or personalities. Wreck-It Ralph takes this premise and applies to the world of video games, in this universe when the arcade closes the video game characters are free to leave their games and socialise with one another or hang out in power junction which connects all the games together.

 

The film opens with a narration from Wreck-It Ralph (or just Ralph) who explains that whilst his popular game Fix It Felix Jr. is a hit with the children that visit the Litwik’s Family Fun Centre and Arcade, and has been for years, he is tired of always being the game’s villain. He wrecks the building and player control Felix who repairs the damage, the game always ends with the residents of the apartment complex throwing Ralph off the roof into the mud below with Felix (or the player) being awarded a medal. The other characters in the game exclude Ralph from their parties and get together whilst the game’s hero Fix It Felix, Jr. (Jack Mc Brayer) is praised and constantly wins medals for fixing what Ralph destroys. After deciding that winning a medal will be the only way to earn the respect of his fellow game characters Ralph leaves his game and travels to a new game that has just been connected called Hero’s Duty in which the winner gets a medal.

 

Hero’s Duty is a first person shooter and the grizzled commander Sergeant Calhoun (a character with the most tragic back-story the game makers could think of) leads the player through a world terrorised by Cy-Bugs, a dangerous enemy that seeks to replicate and destroy, but also don’t know that they are in a game so have no concept of when to stop attacking. When the game session ends a beacon is activated which draws all of them into it, wiping them out so the next session can begin. After the arcade closes Ralph sneaks up the game’s central tower and is able to grab himself a medal. Unfortunately he also wakes up a Cy-Bug, during his escape both he and the Bug end up in an escape pod which travels out of Hero’s Duty and crash lands in Sugar Rush a candy-themes racing game.

 

Ralph’s medal is stolen by Venellope, a glitch character in Sugar Rush, who needs the medal so she can enter one of the races and become one of the playable characters in the game’s line up something that the ruler of Sugar Rush King Candy is determined to prevent.

 

Meanwhile with Ralph out of his own game, Fix It Felix Jr. is assumed to be broken and if Ralph does not return his game might be switched off and its characters made homeless. Back in Sugar Rush the Cy-Bug escapes into the game, and unless it is found then it will replicate allowing the Cy-Bugs to become an unstoppable virus that could destroy not only Sugar Rush but also every game in the arcade...

 

First off I have to say that the voice acting is superb in the film, I always think that the skills of a voice-actor allow you to see the character not the actor providing the voice, with the likes of Ryan Reynolds I never see the character when he’s voice acting, I only ever see him in a recording studio. However, in Wreck-It Ralph I never see any of the characters as anything other than the characters with their voices suiting them perfectly. A particular highlight is Jane Lynch and Alan Tudyk as Calhoun and King Candy respectively, the character of King Candy generally manages to steal every scene as he is heavily inspired from the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland.

 

It was also great fun to “nerd out” and spot all of the references to various 90s era and later computer games. A sound cue from Metal Gear Solid pops up when Ralph picks up an all too familiar exclamation mark, and Sonic the Hedgehog cameos a couple of times throughout the proceedings too. Other villains like Dr Robotnik from Sonic, Bowser from Mario and M. Bison from Street Fighter also appear in the “Bad-Anon” meetings in which the characters discuss that whilst they are seen as villains what is important is how they view themselves. I loved the idea that the game’s characters can get along with one another and hang out after the arcade has closed, both Ryu and Ken from Street Fighter finish the day with a drink in Tapper, yet another game. Packman and the ghosts also are seen to be hanging out with one another once the game ends plus characters from different games also socialise

 

The rules of the world also mean that characters will always respawn in their own games but are vulnerable and can die if they leave. I’m not honestly sure if characters die if a console is unplugged, as characters will abandon their games if it is danger of being unplugged, however, if they are part of the game’s code wouldn’t they just respawn once the game is plugged in again?? I guess the characters don’t know if they are ever going to get plugged back in so would rather take their chances outside their games than risk oblivion in the hopes that the game would be turned back on at some time.

 

The animation is also flawless giving the characters plenty of life and the worlds are certainly colourful.

 

Ralph’s desire to not be a bad guy anymore drives him to try and make things better, but the others in the arcade are concerned that he will go “Turbo”. Years before a character named Turbo was the best racer in a driving game, but when his game was replaced by another racing game, he abandoned his own game to invade the new one. Players thought that the game was broken which resulted in both games being switched off forever. Needless to say that everyone in Fix it Felix Jr. is also concerned at the prospect of Ralph going “Turbo” and getting their game shut off. It really helps to flesh out a world when there are stories of things that have happened in the past and even the arcade has had its share of drama as these self-aware characters make decisions for themselves.

 

The film is a really great example of a feel-good movie that also knows when to really tug at the heartstrings. Ralph obsession with getting a medal drives him to work with Venellope but he is also forced to make a heartbreaking decision for her own good.

 

Perhaps the only real downside to the film is the fact that the characters keep talking about Venellope as a glitch and that the entire game will be shut off if players see her glitching if she was ever to be in the racing line up. However, games have bugs and glitches all the time, hell these days manufacturers don’t seem to release games that aren’t full of bugs and glitches that they work to fix with patches and updates. A Tony Hawk skating game had a day-one patch that was actually bigger than the original game because it was so bugged and utterly broken on release. Back in the 90s I remember when I started playing human-versions of video games and the novelty of playing a game on a screen using a controller instead of the virtual-reality emersion pods we have on Brian amused me then, and does to this day. Red Alert used to stall terribly as I was trying to play it on the original Playstation, tanks or units would travel for a second or two then freeze for a second, then resume. It would take hours to do anything because the game would be functioning so slowly but it was just what games of that era did as the consoles did not have the processing power to render them correctly, plugging them into my ship’s computer helped but the discs just couldn’t transfer their information fast enough. 16-Bit era games would freeze or not work when they were switched on leading to the old, pull the cartridge out and blow on it before putting it back in and trying again. Games are full of bugs and glitches. As a result if a character or glitch occurs in a game doesn’t mean that the entire game will be shut down and most human technology is fixed by switching it off, giving it a few seconds and switching it back on again. Plus if game characters are self aware why wasn’t Turbo dealt with by the characters of the new game when he started invading it during the arcade’s opening hours?? One bug doesn’t result in a game getting switched off forever so it seems a bit strange that one glitch and a game is carted away forever.

 

However, despite the above it has to be said that all in all Wreck-It Ralph is a great film that I have enjoyed watching again and again, as of writing this review I have already seen Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2 and all being well that will be reviewed this time next week or already be below this one. The film easily earns a Thumbs Up and watch this space for my review of the sequel coming this time next week.

 

 

8/10 – A great concept is executed superbly well with tremendous voice acting and even after watching the film a bunch of times I am still spotting characters appearing in cameos in the background that I hadn’t spotted before. If you are a retro-gamer then you owe it to yourself to check out this film because you will not be disappointed.

 

TAC Reviews...Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2

 

So as promised last week my loyal reader, this is my review of the sequel to 2012's Wreck-It Ralph. The main cast all return to reprise their roles (see my last review for the details on who voices whom). Joining them this time around we have the voice talents of Gal Gadot as Shank and Alfred Molina as Double Dan with Tim Allen as Buzz Lightyear and Vin Diesel as Groot (well recordings of the last two voicing those characters from Toy Story and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2). Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2 was released in 2018 and for those of you who cannot count, takes place six years after the events of the first film

 

Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2 Poster

 

Now I don't think there was anyone in the Western world that didn't know that one of the biggest features of Ralph Breaks the Internet was that all of the Disney princesses, past and present, were going to be in this film. The majority of who were going to be voiced by the actresses who voiced them in their original films, the only acceptations were for Cinderella and Aurora from Sleeping Beauty, who were voiced by current voice actresses Jennifer Hale and Kate Higgins, and Snow White, who was voiced by screenwriter Pamela Ribon as opposed to Katherine Von Till. Sadly Adriana Caselotti and Ilene Woods, the original voices of Snow White and Cinderella, died in 1997 and 2010 respectively, while Mary Costa, the original voice of Aurora, is the only living original voice actress not to reprise her role due to old age. In addition this was the first...[I think]...film to be made after Disney took over Marvel Studios and as a result it was going to contain references to not just Marvel, but to other Disney properties like Star Wars.

 

Six years after the events of Wreck-It Ralph sees best friends Ralph and Vanellope in their games during the day and hanging out together at night after the arcade closes. Sugar Rush and Fix-It Felix Jr. are both still as popular as ever and Ralph is happy with his lot in life. He has the respect of the other characters in his game, and gets to spend his free time hanging out with his closest friend, as far as he is concerned life is perfect. For Vanellope though, things are not so perfect, she has grown weary of her role in Sugar Rush, she knows the courses inside out and back to front, and longs for something to break her out of doing the same thing over and over, day after day, night after night. Whilst trying to cheer her up Ralph adds to one of the courses in Sugar Rush and Vanellope takes the diversion. The girl playing the game seems keen to play the new part of the track, but starts to think there is something wrong with the game so attempts to steer Vanellope back onto the course. Fighting against the player's control Vanellope tries to drive as she wants but as she fights for control of her car against the player in the real world Sugar Rush's steering wheel on the game station is broken. After doing a quick internet search it is discovered by one of the children that there is a replacement wheel on eBay for $200. Unfortunately as the game doesn't make that kind of money the owner of the arcade Mr. Litwak cannot afford to spend that on a replacement wheel so decides that maybe it is time to retire Sugar Rush.

 

Horrified that her game might be switched off and its characters made homeless, Ralph and Vanellope decide to travel into the world of the internet and find eBay in order to get a new wheel for the game. Fortunately the arcade has just gotten something called Wi-Fi so leaving their games Ralph and Vanellope travel into the unfamiliar world of the internet to track down the wheel.

 

After managing to arrive at eBay they are successful in "winning" the wheel, unfortunately with no concept of money they quickly learn that they must buy the wheel and now need to raise money or the purchase of the wheel with be cancelled. As it is the only one known to exist they have no choice but to delve deeper into the internet in order to raise some serious money before the payment timer on the wheel expires in 24 hours.

 

After meeting J.P. Spamley who specialises in finding rare items in online games and selling them to bidders, Vanellope and Ralph venture into a dangerous driving game named Slaughter Race to steal the car belonging to NPC (that's Non-Player Character) Shank which is coveted by many an online player. Vanellope is successful in stealing the car, but getting behind the wheel and getting away with the car are two different things. Needless to say street racer and all round badass Shank is not going to let her car go without a fight and during the chase, she is able to catch up and prevent them from taking her car. 

 

Desperate for other options Ralph learns of a way to make money quickly and sets about making hundreds of videos about himself to gain likes and money online. However, Vanellope is drawn back to the world of Slaughter Race because there she can drive as an NPC without limits, without tracks and without restrictions. Her desire for excitement and to break away from her old life puts her and Ralph at odds and may destroy their friendship forever...

 

So like I said one of the massive selling points of this film was that for the first time we'd get to see all Disney properties interacting with one another, unfortunately most of their licences seem appear just so Disney can parade all the acquisitions they own in front of the audience, like a kid showing off their toys or me boring Abbie to death by endlessly showing her the vehicles and properties I now own in GTA Online. Iron Man shoots past at one point and Stan Lee's avatar cameos. Sadly neither of them says anything, the storm troopers and C3-P0 from Star Wars have a slightly larger role with C3-P0 actually talking briefly, yet as far as the princesses are concerned it is really only one scene. It is a little disappointing that we don't really get to see these princesses do much apart from sit around in this one room and most of them seem to only have maybe a line or two of dialogue. I don't really see what the point of having the original actresses returning when they barely get to say or do anything.

 

As far as the rest of the film goes there are naturally tonnes of references to modern day internet trends and sites with several YouTubers appearing. As none of them were Angry Joe, Markiplier, the Nostalgia Critic or Outside Xbox it was down to Abbie to point out to me who was who. I did enjoy seeing the evolution of the games industry as even between 2012 and 2018 there have been huge technological advances (well, huge for you humans) in gaming and the way people interact with one another online. 

 

The forgotten realms of the internet was also a nice touch with old discarded websites condemned to the depths of the world wide web because no one is interested in them any longer. I liked the design of the internet as a kind-of futuristic mega city with avatars zipping here, there and everywhere as they go from website to website. It makes me wonder if you humans will ever develop technology seen in films like Ready Player One in which you are able to jump into this artificial reality-type world of the internet and travel around as the characters do in Ralph Breaks the Internet.

 

Okay I am now going to be talking about plot points so let me drop this...

 

 

Fancied using my old spoiler warning for a change. 

 

As is normal with most films as Ralph Breaks the Internet continued I was left with some questions that did irritate me more and more as the film went on... 

 

It is established quickly that in Sugar Rush Vanellope is everyone's favourite character, now her motivations in the film become about leaving the dull repetitive world of Sugar Rush to join the exciting new world of Slaughter Race where she isn't controlled by a player and is an NPC, free to drive without interference from a player. But isn't abandoning her game and joining another basically just doing what Turbo did in the original film?? He was the villain because he took over Sugar Rush and severed most of Vanellope's code but here she is doing pretty much the same thing. Her code can be added to Slaughter Race so she isn't replacing anyone like King Candy did, but she doesn't care about her responsibilities within her own game or the fact that her departure might result in Sugar Rush being switched off back at the arcade. Also, if these game's characters are self-aware as they seem to be in this world then don't they have responsibilities which prevent them from just doing whatever the hell they want?? I understand Vanellope's desire for more out of her life but what if other characters in the game did the same thing?? Without Ralph or Felix (the main characters) Fix-It Felix Jr. will be switched off (as the first film established) so without her couldn’t Sugar Rush have the same fate?? Vanellope is everyone’s favourite driver so if she suddenly disappears are people still going to want to play the game if they have to race as someone else?? Can any of these characters just up and leave whenever they feel like it, and if they can then the arcade itself will shut down because none of the games actually have characters in them anymore. None of these consequences cross Vanellope's mind as she is only interested in herself and what she wants, after all the reason Sugar Rush's steering wheel was broken in the first place was because she was fighting against the controls of the child playing the game in the arcade making me wonder why she didn’t play the extension to the course after the arcade had closed rather than during the day. 

 

Really then, it is Vanellope that is the game's villain as she is effectively "Going Turbo" and invading another game that she was not ever supposed to be a part of. Her behaviour in the film is just selfish. She's looking out for herself and not thinking about anyone else. Ralph is made to look like the bad guy because he tries to prevent Vanellope from leaving and joining Slaughter Race, and whilst his motivations are also very selfish, he has seen what happens when characters invade other games when they aren't supposed to. Slaughter Race is an online game, so what is to stop the developers patching Vanellope out because she was never intended to be there??

 

...[...in case you don't know when games are released these days they usually have bugs and glitches that need to be fixed with updates and patches...in GTA Online for example the mechanic used to drive a player's car to them if they requested it. But due to buggy AI the mechanic would sometimes drive away with the car, or bump into an object close by then phone to say he couldn’t get to the player. As a result this feature was patched so the car simply spawns nearby. A patch is therefore a term used to fix errors in the game's code or deal with unexpected bugs that arise when features don't function as they are supposed to...]...

 

Now that I think about it, presumably Vanellope is a copyrighted character so if the makers of Sugar Rush see that she is in Slaughter Race then they could sue the makers of that game for taking her likeness without authorisation. The resulting lawsuit would either see Vanellope patched out or the Slaughter Race servers being shut off. Perhaps in the world of this film characters can happily roam the internet for all eternity if their servers shut down, but as we don't see any "homeless" characters roaming the internet we don't know what happens if servers get deactivated.

 

It’s funny, but during the film there was something that was bugging me the whole way through, and I couldn't put my finger on what it was, until I started writing. Now I see what it is, the problem with the film is that both Vanellope and Ralph (more-so Vanellope) are just being selfish. In the first film Ralph was tired of being the bad guy and longed to be more than that, and he got what he wanted because a little glitch saw the goodness in him. Vanellope was supposed to be a part of Sugar Rush and she'd been forced out by Turbo masquerading as King Candy...in the sequel Vanellope is bored of Sugar Rush...that's it. The more she seems determined to abandon the arcade and her old life, the more fearful Ralph becomes of her leaving him. His motivations aren't based on his concern over the bigger picture or that she might simply be patched out of Slaughter Race, he just doesn't want to go back to not having a best friend anymore, and what he does to try and stop her leaving is pretty nasty. 

 

You may be reading this thinking, "Man, TAC is over thinking this..." but here's the thing I have a mighty alien intellect and stuff like this bugs me. Have a sequel to Wreck-It Ralph by all means, include all the Disney intellectual properties that you want, I’ll even go along with the idea of Vanellope leaving Sugar Rush...BUT...why couldn't we have had an all-star racing game that could have featured characters from loads of different games?? Perhaps made by a modding community. Have procedurally generated randomised tracks which are different each time if a player chooses that setting or have it as an open world sandbox in which racers choose their own ways to get around a map. Have Mario, Bowser, and Donkey Kong from Mario Kart racing alongside Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button from F1 2018, with Lightening McQueen and Doc Hudson from Cars also a playable option, then Vanellope from Sugar Rush being a part of it would make sense. I play GTA Online (I may have mentioned that once or twice) and if Mario of Nintendo fame popped up, I'd assume it was a player made mod that would be swiftly removed by Rockstar before the lawyers from Nintendo started beating on the door. 

 

Vanellope Van Sweetz being in a game like Slaughter Race doesn't make sense!!!

 

Basically she has gone Turbo and instead of Ralph trying to point out all the potential problems as a consequence of her choice, he just wants things to go back to the life he loves, but she finds dull and repetitive. 

 

There are some funny moments but basically neither character has the charm that they had in the previous film, and both are being equally selfish in their own way. The film had the potential to be really, really good with Ralph and Vanellope just going on an adventure in the world of the internet, maybe getting caught up in some trouble with established Marvel or Star Wars villains, and needing to be rescued by the Disney princesses. That could have been so creative. Why couldn't the idea of villains wanting to be more than villains from the first film have been expanded on with the likes of Scar from The Lion King or Darth Vader from Star Wars trying to be seen as nice?? Ralph could have started a Villains-Anonymous group online similar to what we saw in the opening of Wreck-It Ralph. Sadly what we got here was basically a story about people being selfish, and in Vanellope's case ultimately getting her own way.

 

I liked the look of the internet as seen from within and the represtentaions of humans as little avatars. Gal Gadot's voice coming from the tough as nails, badass street racing Shank fits like a glove, and I'm not going to say that I don't still think that all those actors who reprise their roles from the first film aren't bringing their A-game to the table. However, I did not like the story and the evolution of the characters from the events of Wreck-It Ralph to now.

 

My decision on where to point my Thumb is therefore a difficult one. Before I'd started writing I had intended to give the film a Thumbs Up because it is by no means a bad sequel, nor a bad film. It did enough to keep me interested. Unfortunately as I have been writing I am just thinking about how unlikable both Ralph and Vanellope ultimately were. Vanellope doesn't give a crap about anyone else as long as she gets what she wants, and Ralph doesn't care about Vanellope's feelings as long as things stay the way he likes them. By the end Ralph has seen the error of his ways but Vanellope hasn't and ultimately gets what she wants without a second thought to all of the potential consequences I have talked about, and that makes me want to drive my Thumb Down. So with good points on one side and bad on the other, neither really outweighing the other, the only think I can do is leave my Thumb Horizontal.

 

 

6/10 - Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2 could have been so much more than what it ultimately became. When the might of every intellectual property that falls under Disney's umbrella was given to the filmmakers I just cannot understand why they chose to do so little with it. Have Ralph team up with Thanos, or maybe Vanellope out-racing Lightening McQueen. Why couldn't we have expanded on the idea from the original film that some of the Disney villains are tired of being villains and like Ralph long to be seen as something more?? Or even have heroes turning into bad guys as their arrogance of always being the hero has made them reckless and irresponsible?? So many possibilities and sadly none of them explored.

 

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