by Kaitlin Palma
There was a time in all of our lives where games meant the world to us. Whether it was jumping rope, playing tag or, as Wreck It Ralph portrays, video games. Disney’s latest dive into the animation pool was released in the late fall of 2012 and is now currently under consideration for an Oscar as Best Animated Feature of the year. Although the film faces tough competition it is more than worthy of the nomination and in any other year would likely be a clear win for the trophy. Yes, a simple story about a villainous video game character wanting to turn a new leaf is that good.
From the moment Disney made its way into theaters with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937 (that’s more than 70 years ago!) the stories that have borne the studio’s moniker have warmed our hearts and allowed our imaginations to expand vastly. This film is no exception. Whether you are one for animation or not, Wreck It Ralph is more than just a bunch of colorful pictures and cute little catch phrases. To my delighted surprise this film had essentially everything it takes to be called a “good movie” regardless of mode or medium. More than just a kid’s pic, more than a family night flick, this film—action packed with racing candy cars and villainous famished cyber land insects—is the greatest adventure never taken. With an exciting twist of good versus evil and an unexpected hero and villain, Wreck It Ralph will make you laugh until you cry and keep you on the edge of your seat.
As someone brought up in the digital age, I have to say that Wreck It Ralph was a real surprise treat. It’s very easy to watch animation and not appreciate the time and effort it takes to carefully create every detail required to tell a tale like this one. But the visual effects here really stand out, running the gamete of style and presentation in order to represent actual past video games as well as the ones created specifically for the movie. Amazingly enough the collaboration of disparate (game) realities seamlessly come together as a unified whole, thus placing the audience into a world they’ve known but have never explored.
Of course all the artistry in the world doesn’t mean much to a film without a solid story as a foundation. And the story here is one that offers a lot of heart and a positive message without being sappy or preachy. One scene in particular is quite memorable. It’s when the main character, Ralph, expresses the need to be more in life than just one that wrecks things. So, he ventures out to discover how he can be the hero instead of the villain and begins an adventure that takes him through the many worlds of video gaming. Ralph discovers that what he needs to be a hero, or “good guy” is a medal. Believing this to be the key to achieving his goal, he sneaks into the game “Hero’s Duty” in which the players must fight to bring his/her team to the top of the light tower where the medal of a hero awaits.
Of course, Ralph’s world (his game) is very different in setting from “Hero’s Duty” which mimics the real world games of Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed. This is where the pacing of the film picks up speed to match the adrenaline filled universe of these alternate realities. Naturally, Ralph is confused and scared by his new surroundings. Then, BANG! A gun is fired, followed by a second, third and fourth. With every gunshot or screech of a dying “cybug”, Ralph’s face is shown in acute reaction with very quick and concise cuts. The audience not only sees, but also feels the strife and determination in Ralph’s eyes as the medal becomes the only thing that holds any meaning in his life. In the midst of the fight we are suddenly taken back to Ralph’s home game (where he exists as the antagonist). There the protagonist, Fix It Felix is seen genuinely concerned about Ralph’s disappearance. It is perhaps the first time in cinema where the “hero” sincerely misses his nemesis. This moment acutely demonstrates the necessity, even the dependency of opposites in any world, animated, fictionalized or otherwise and the natural need for balance.
With a message like that it’s easy to see why the film is not only enjoyable for every member of the family but worthy of accolades and even awards. Whether you grew up on Atari, Sega or Xbox a good story is a good story, and makes you come back again and again to experience the pleasure of the adventure whether it’s on film or in a video game. Academy Award winner or not, that’s the real achievement when it comes to animated films – reaching as large an audience as possible. Wreck It Ralph has done that, and is bound to continue to do so for generations to come.