Before we get started, I have just one thing to say: I am not a gamer, so I wouldn’t know much about any of the games they Easter-Egged in this movie. I had to have Pac-Man explained to me, for goodness’ sake!
I’ll try not to include spoilers in this post, but I make no promises, so… if you haven’t seen the movie, this might not be the best place to go if you want to decide whether to watch it or not, especially if you don’t like spoilers. Forewarned is forearmed. However, I will most definitely NOT mention The Really Big Spoiler of this movie.
All right, so… where to begin?
Well, first of all, Ralph is a good old-fashioned destroy-everything-in-his-path villain. But he’s not just a villain. He’s a really sweet guy, a bit like Gru, from Despicable Me and Despicable Me 2.
Unfortunately, due to the label of “bad guy”, no one really realizes this. The people in his game (he’s a video game character; you did watch the preview, did you not?) don’t like him because of this. At least, the minor characters. Felix, the player character, doesn’t really hate him, or at least, doesn’t show it. Ralph’s life can only be described as horrible; he lives in a stump in a dump full of old, broken bricks. (It’s a bit odd, though; the stereotype of “brick” is bigger than your hand. Ralph’s hands, to contrast, are much bigger than those bricks!) Naturally, Ralph wants a better life. But not just because he’s basically homeless–because he’s lonely. He wants to be loved.
On the night the story opens, the arcade closes and then, the games come alive. Traveling through the power cords, the characters can move from game to game (though, if they die outside their games, they can’t regenerate.) Ralph has gone to a quasi-counseling-session-slash-support group that looks like a mock-up of Alcoholics Anonymous–in fact, the banner in the background boldly proclaims the legend “Villains Anon”–in the Pac-Man game. Returning home to his own game, Fix-it Felix Junior, he finds out that all the other characters in the game are celebrating the game’s thirty-year anniversary–and they didn’t think to invite him. He goes to try and talk with the other characters, but only Felix is willing to talk, and even then, it’s awkward. Naturally, Felix, being the hero, invites him in (still awkwardly), but Ralph’s pre-programmed clumsiness and proclivity for… well, wrecking things, cause some problems, and the resident bigot does a Really Stupid Thing: He issues a challenge. Of course, Ralph takes it up. He begins jumping games in an attempt to win a medal, to prove he can be more than just a villain. That starts problems that accelerate from there, as in any movie. Ralph goes to a game called “Hero’s Duty”, a first-person shooter that to me was more than a bit disturbing (I have made a vow to myself to never, ever watch a R-rated movie), and kind of makes things go SNAFU (Situation Normal, All Fouled Up) on the game’s natives. Though things stayed pretty much normal for the “Hero’s Duty” people, a Cybug (the villains of the game; basically, just viruses that are only programmed to multiply, destroy, and return to a tower when the Beacon is activated. Who designed them, anyway? I guess that that game’s designers didn’t know that characters can move from game to game!) escaped the game, to wreak chaos everywhere else. A very driven military exterminator with an intense backstory and a still more powerful dedication to keeping the bugs from spreading named Calhoun follows the Cybug (and Ralph) to another game, “Sugar Rush”, which was basically ALL CANDY, teaming up with Felix, who has gone to find Ralph, without whom the game can not run, along the way. After all, according to Moriarty in BBC’s Sherlock,
Every fairytale needs a good old-fashioned villain. You need me.
Both of them are risking their lives–permanently–to find Ralph and protect each other, since if a character dies outside their game, they do not regenerate.
Meanwhile, Ralph has met a little girl whose name I was never able to determine (Penelope or Vanelope? I have no idea!) who starts by annoying him, then claims his medal, in order to get into a race that might change her life; she has a chance to become the game’s avatar thereby. Of course, Ralph wants it back. Eventually, though, they begin to identify with each other. Penelope (I’m just going to call her that for now) is a glitch, an unplugged line of coding. She has the tendency to dissolve momentarily into binary code and then re-constitute. As a glitch (a mere computer error!), she is ostracized, because the others in her game believe that if anyone sees her on-screen, it will lead to the players thinking the game is broken, and the game being unplugged; other than dying outside one’s own game, this is the worst possible fate that can befall a video-game character, since it leads to the characters becoming homeless in the most desperate way. And this would be worse for Penelope than for anyone else. As a glitch and not an actual character, per se, she does not have the ability to leave her game.
Then… things get worse.
It turns out the Cybug wasn’t dead, and like real viruses, computer viruses reproduce asexually–and in numbers upward of astronomical. This leads up to a sort of apocalypse and Armageddon, and a triumphant ending.
Now, on to the critique.
First of all, at first I did not understand why the Sugar Rush game was the one being overrun by Cybugs and being set up for the finale. It makes sense later on, though. But only once you see The Really Big Spoiler. ;-P
The one thing that really annoyed me about this movie were that there were a few much simpler solutions that I could see that no one else seemed to catch on to, and also a few things that I thought the characters would pick up on, which they didn’t.
First of all, I didn’t get why, if King Candy could pull a medal from lines of coding in some sort of under-world which diagrammed all the coding of the “Sugar Rush” game, he couldn’t simply plug Penelope back into the coding and de-glitch her. (This is where The Really Big Spoiler comes in. It’s also what made me despise King Candy as an idiot before I despised him otherwise.)
Second, I never understood why Ralph didn’t catch on to this. Why didn’t he notice? If Penelope had told him it had dissolved into code, then how did King Candy get it back in the game proper? Is it just that lots of Disney characters are terminally stupid?! Ralph certainly didn’t strike me that way. He’s a villain, for goodness sakes, not a moron!!! And then there are the deductions he might have made from that. If he had only made them, the movie might’ve been a lot shorter–though, I must admit, a lot less satisfying. I thought they were setting the game up for Ralph and Penelope to sneak into the palace, find the underworld, and plug her back into the game. Add a few fight scenes and bingo! Alternate ending #1.
Third, was the bit where Ralph found out that Penelope was intended to be a featured part of the game. Again, not necessary, due to the first alternate ending.
Fourth, there was also the fact of the beacon before the reset. I thought they would heroically fight their way through all the Cybugs to get Penelope over the finish line, resetting the game and destroying all the Cybugs (and possibly sacrificing themselves as well, for bonus points on the awesomeness meter.) But then, I noticed just how many Cybugs there were. Well above exponential in reproduction sequence, I think. So maybe the beacon was necessary… though definitely less high on the “wow!” factor scale. But still! Epic Fight Scene. Penelope Crosses Finish Line. Game Resets. All Cybugs Destroyed. Possible Sacrifice due to the game reset (rather than the Cybugs. After all, the blond soldier lady, Ralph, and Felix are just too good to go out that way.) Alternate ending #2.
Then there’s an oddment that just doesn’t fit anywhere else. Calhoun.
She is amazing. She’s a soldier. She’s hardcore.
Where to begin?
Now for the stuff that I liked about the movie.
We watched a few of the deleted scenes from the movie, and there are two things I am majorly glad didn’t make it in: The fifth game they were thinking of adding at one time (“Extreme E-Z Living 2”), and some of a few scenes with Felix.
The reason I’m glad “Extreme E-Z Living 2” didn’t make it in is partly because of its name, and partly because of its object. A game which is only about having “fun” in a purely material sense (as opposed to the ap Farm Frenzy, which is about defending your farm and building your asset base) and doesn’t have any conflict would not be much of a hit, certainly not one that would spawn a sequel or second generation version. There is no point and no end to the game, whereas another game would have a lot of levels, and then stop. (I do know that much!) Also, there’s no real reward to playing the game, and since it doesn’t end there is no reward for completing it, as in other games. Survival of the fittest (aka “Fix-it Felix Junior”): “Extreme E-Z Living 2” just doesn’t make the cut. And if it doesn’t fly in real life, it’s a surefire way to ruin a fictional movie.
The other bits I’m glad didn’t make it in was that in some deleted scenes, Felix just seemed… annoying. Oblivious to annoyance he was causing to others. And it just would not have been the same if Felix had been with Ralph the whole time, instead of with Calhoun. As it is, Felix obviously doesn’t know how to handle certain situations, but he’s resourceful and kind without being obnoxious (which is kind of rare in a Disney movie, especially in a side character… haven’t you noticed?!) He has a sense of honor. He is determined to help Calhoun and Ralph (and later Penelope) at the risk of his own life. He is funny, but not corny, and not entirely asinine. Did the writers find a real magic hammer that can fix anything?! ‘Cause that’s what it sure seems like…
So, for Felix, I say, hooray!
In my opinion, Ralph is the most loveable Disney character since The Incredibles. (No offense, but in case you hadn’t noticed, I’m just not an awful big fan of Disney princesses. I prefer Tolkien to that saccharine, sugar-free nonsense. And talk about feminist values–they’re supposed to be liberated and whatnot, but they’re still stereotyped! You can’t have it both ways, people. Sugary and sugar-free? *shudders* NO THANK YOU.) And no, I am not apologizing for saying that. Cars was good, but really? It had all been done before, probably. This is my favorite Disney movie in recent history. (I haven’t seen Frozen yet, but I don’t think I’m likely to love it so much as I will Ralph, and probably not so enduring, either.) A phenomenon I’m noticing with Disney is that all the “princessy” movies I like when I first watch them, but I don’t watch them again nearly as much in the long run. Not so with The Incredibles, and Wreck-it Ralph seems to be following the same trend.
I thought it was kind of funny that Ralph is not much good at creating stuff, since he was programmed to destroy it. Also, Felix trying to break things (and being more innovative than Calhoun) was pretty funny.
I think Ralph is part of a larger archetype; people who are more than just their coding. They are more than just programming or computer glitches. From what I understand of Divergent, its heroine is also one of these types of characters. She doesn’t fit into a faction. Unlike her, though, Ralph is not facing extinction because he won’t simply stick to the status quo. At least, not directly. His actions lead to him facing death, but it’s not exactly the same. They don’t want to kill him just because he wants more, you understand. Only if he tries to permanently leave his game. And even then, no one wants him to die. The real danger is dying outside his game.
More than that, though, I think that Ralph is an expression of humanity as a whole. We have our limitations, but we’re still more than what society and culture tell us we can be. We don’t have to be defined by the labels we’re forced to wear. I think that’s the real allure of dystopian fiction.
Other than that, there was really not that much that was offensive about the film. Even in “Hero’s Duty” there was no foul language that I could hear, and other than some lousy humor courtesy of Penelope (who is the most outrageous, disrespectful, irreverent, incorrigible rascal I have seen in a long time! Yes, I do love her, too. :-P), there was nothing offensive or suggestive. (In case you were wondering, potty jokes about the title of the last game Ralph visited. Which I personally find offensive. But that was it. Yay!)
But the really brilliant part of the ending was that everything changed, and at the same time, nothing changed. They broke the status quo and maintained it at the same time. There was no major upheaval, yet at the same time there was a happily-ever-after. How did they do this?
The secret? Attitude changes.
So, that’s my review of Wreck-it Ralph. I hope you enjoyed. 😉 I also hope it gave you some food for thought. Yes, this is my favorite Disney movie in a while. I give it four out of five stars. The only reason no five star rating: the plot errors. That’s all.
Thanks for reading, and God Bless!