Nov 03 2012

Wreck-It Ralph Was Impressive

Published by at 5:07 pm under Movie Review

A lot of the comedy was impeccable and the writers did a lot more with side-characters (especially a hardened/paranoid space Marine and affable Fix-It Felix) than I’m used to seeing from Disney.  It had many of the best traits of Pixar movies–unusually innovative scene selection, strong characterization all around, emotionally effective protagonist-vs-protagonist conflict, an unusually interesting villain, an engaging romance, memorable bits of flair (e.g. two awesome space marine weddings), etc. There were a few more kiddy elements (e.g. too much toilet humor and slapstick), but on the whole this movie was extremely adult-friendly (definitely more so than Pixar’s last movie, Brave). Although Wreck-It Ralph involves video games, I think the movie would be highly enjoyable even if you’re not a video game fan. (In contrast, I think Scott Pilgrim would be sort of weird for people that were looking for a more traditional superpowered story).

 

FIVE YEAR OLD: “Now that I’m President of Candyland, everybody that was ever mean to me will be… executed.”
SPACE MARINE: “This place suddenly got a lot more interesting.”

16 responses so far

16 Responses to “Wreck-It Ralph Was Impressive”

  1. Dr. Vo Spaderon 04 Nov 2012 at 4:56 pm

    …It got about fifty million, I think. Saw my Sega favorite Sonic on the cover – how exactly did they factor video games into it?

  2. B. McKenzieon 04 Nov 2012 at 7:04 pm

    A video game villain is upset that he’s always shown up by his hero and sets out to prove that he could be a hero if he wanted to. His quest takes him to two other video games (an ersatz Halo and an ersatz Candyland/Mario Kart). ~3 preexisting video game characters (Zangief, one of Pacman’s ghosts, and Sonic) make ~15-30 second cameos.* There’s no point at which a viewer without any video game background would feel intimidated or out of his/her depth, though there are a few jokes which would probably be funnier for viewers that have at least a basic grasp of video games (e.g. there’s a hilarious bit about how dark backstories have gotten for modern characters and there’s a one-liner about Lara Croft).

    *Bowser appears in a silent cameo and Mario is mentioned, but it looks like Disney worked a lot more closely with Capcom here than it did with Nintendo. The use of preexisting video game series is super-minor–the marketing materials paint a different picture here than the actual movie does (Wolverine Publicity).

  3. Wilon 05 Nov 2012 at 12:51 pm

    Actually there was a very good article on Kotaku which explained how each of the video game characters got into the movie.

    Basically, the production company sought out of these video game companies and asked for them to collaborate with them on the movie. Nintendo was more than happy to work with the company and the director even had permission to use Mario in the movie.

    However, according to the director he said that he didn’t want to throw in speaking and cameo parts just for the sake of it, he still wanted to maintain a high quality story for his movie. So in essence, if certain characters didn’t speak or do anything, it was purely a decision by the director himself rather than the companies.

    Wish I could find the link, it was really interesting.

  4. B. McKenzieon 05 Nov 2012 at 5:47 pm

    Wil, I found a similar-sounding article on Inquisitr*. Either way, I think it was a really good movie.

    *That spelling nearly gave me a conniption.

  5. M. Happenstanceon 08 Nov 2012 at 9:09 pm

    Saw Wreck-It Ralph on Sunday – definitely wasn’t expecting it to be as good as it was. Though nongamers will also be able to appreciate it, I’m already excited for the freeze-frame rewatch where I get to weasel out all the cameos and references.

    I love Pixar, and I think I might like Brave better rewatching it with different expectations*, but at the moment I’d probably put Wreck-It Ralph above Brave.

    *It’s not so much that I thought what they did with Brave was bad as it was that I was hoping for fantasy world alternate reality shenanigans (among other things).

  6. B. McKenzieon 09 Nov 2012 at 5:41 am

    I had a very similar reaction to Brave. The trailer I watched made it look like her wish sent her to an alternate reality (e.g. an anarchic version of her kingdom where there were no laws and no destiny). That bear angle… oof, that bear angle. Brave felt a lot like a Disney movie (e.g. a kiddy plot which seemed conspicuously similar to Brother Bear and Princess and the Frog, an unusually forgettable villain, a princess protagonist, etc). In contrast, Wreck-It Ralph felt a lot more like a Pixar movie. The plot was unexpected and harder to categorize, adults were clearly a major part of the target audience*, the execution was impeccable, characters had unusual and interesting decisions**, etc.

    *The movie does not ever use the phrase “mid-life crisis,” but the inciting event of the movie is essentially the main character having one. In contrast, if the movie had actually been aimed exclusively at kids, I think they would have used an ersatz Sonic, Mario or perhaps Halo game as the background for the main character rather than a 30-year-old arcade game.

    **The last scene featuring the girl’s item is surprisingly emotionally effective.

  7. M. Happenstanceon 09 Nov 2012 at 7:26 pm

    Not gonna lie, I was squeaking with sympathy when [SPOILERS] the cart was destroyed. That hurt to watch in the best possible way.

  8. B. McKenzieon 09 Nov 2012 at 9:06 pm

    “That hurt to watch in the best possible way.” (Spoiler?) Ralph’s motivation felt very satisfying there… I thought that the conversation between King Candy and Ralph right before that did a great job setting it up as a difficult choice rather than Ralph doing something blindingly stupid/egregious out of the blue.

    In contrast, I thought the motivation for the main character of Brave was sort of forgettable. It probably would have helped build a distinction between, say, the protagonist of Brave and Princess Jasmine if the issue leading to conflict between the Unhappy Disney Princess and her parents had been something besides romance/courtship, especially given that there was so little romance in the movie. In a vague way, Brave reminds me of the (vastly superior) Ratatouille, where there was conflict between a character (Remy) and his main goal (becoming a 4-star chef) because of his background (rodentness). Or Lilo and Stitch, where the main obstacle to Lilo & Stitch’s friendship/family was Stitch’s personality/background as a mad scientist’s experiment. Or Bolt, where the main internal obstacle for Bolt is the discrepancy between his imagined background (being a superhero) and his actual background (no superpowers, although capable/competent in other ways). Or, umm, Wreck-It Ralph (the character’s quest for respect conflicts with his background as a villain).

  9. Zoetropeon 26 Nov 2012 at 8:06 pm

    Sorry if this is a bit of a necro-bump, but in response to the description of Ralph feeling more like a Pixar film, it should be pointed out that two veteran members of Pixar’s creative team (Andrew Stanton and Ed Catmull, if I remember right) were involved in the development of Wreck-It Ralph. Recall, technically, Disney animation and Pixar Animation are owned by the same company. This osmosis probably should be expected (Pixar doing more merchandise-driven sequels, Disney improving their storytelling).

    Loved the film, and as an animator myself, it feels almost sacrilegious to prefer it over Brave, but I have to agree with other comments here. Was proud to see some of my friends and fellow alumni in the credits! Brave, meanwhile, I thought was still a great movie, but not nearly as nuanced as Pixar usually is (heavy-handed message), and clearly better for a younger audience. I wonder if the mid-production director change had something to do with it. Also, sadly, Pixar’s creative team has been a bunch of guys for a long time. Not surprising they had difficulties with a princess story. Well, win-some, lose-some.

  10. B. McKenzieon 26 Nov 2012 at 10:09 pm

    I agree that anybody involved with the movie should feel proud. It was a good movie (78% on Rotten Tomatoes is almost always something to celebrate, unless expectations are extremely high*), and there are SO many ways to come out with a movie that is not good. But most Pixar movies are masterful, and Wreck-It Ralph came closer there (87%).

    *Dark Knight Rises, for example.

    “Also, sadly, Pixar’s creative team has been a bunch of guys for a long time. Not surprising they had difficulties with a princess story. Well, win-some, lose-some.” If I could play devil’s advocate here, they’ve had as much (and probably more) success as anyone in Hollywood with female characterization (particularly with Elastigirl, Edna Mode and Elle), although in side-roles. That said, Pixar has never done a female lead before, and I think it’ll take some time before they come up with approaches as successful there as they have with male leads. I do appreciate that the female lead of Brave was active (unlike female protagonists in the Sleeping Beauty mold) and could probably have been very interesting with a central problem besides a rehash of Aladdin and Brother Bear.

    In addition, it was their first movie with a child lead. I think the child lead whose central conflict was with overbearing parents was a major reason it felt more like a kid’s movie than any other Pixar movies besides the Cars series. Writing kid main characters that appeal to adults is definitely a challenge. The most intuitive approach that comes to mind there would be taking the Hunger Games approach (where the teen acts so mature that he/she may as well be an adult)–the audience for HG was something like 39% male and 56% older than 25, which strikes me as sort of shocking for a female teen lead. Another approach would be using an adult character as a co-lead (e.g. Carl and Russell in Up, although Carl was somewhat more central than Russell was).



    Would you happen to know anybody at Disney/Pixar that works in editorial or screenwriting?

  11. Zoetropeon 27 Nov 2012 at 4:36 am

    All good points. Yes, Pixar has done a very good job with female side characters. Characterization in general is one of their greatest strengths. In addition, I wouldn’t argue that Wreck-It Ralph had a particularly unique story to tell, they just told the story they had so well that it almost didn’t matter.

    The bear plot of Brave never bothered me at all, maybe surprisingly. You brought up both points as to why I thought it felt weaker than most other Pixar films – that one of the main conflicts was the typical “kid argues with parents,” and the one that bothered me the most was that, in trying to create a strong heroine where the happy ending didn’t mean getting married to a prince, they still made marriage and princessery in general one of the two main conflicts. It felt like a completely-missing-the-point moment.

    Mostly, the people I know are TDs (technical directors, which at Pixar pretty much means almost anyone that are not character animators). I have met others briefly, though I don’t think anyone in editorial/screenwriting/story.

  12. Nayanon 04 Mar 2013 at 4:25 am

    I watched it today and really liked it. I think it should have won Oscar instead of ‘Brave’. I must say that 2012 was not a very good year for animation films. Not a single oscar level film. But Wreck It Ralph was better than ‘Brave’.

  13. B. McKenzieon 04 Mar 2013 at 8:28 am

    “But Wreck It Ralph was better than ‘Brave’.” I agree. I doubt a movie about video games will ever win any major Oscar, though. (Academy voters are notably snobbish).

  14. Dr. Vo Spaderon 26 Apr 2013 at 5:54 pm

    Wow. Wreck-it Ralph is impressive. Honestly, this is a great movie.

  15. Elecon 27 Apr 2013 at 2:12 am

    I agree, Wreck it Ralph was a great movie, and much more mature than I had expected it to be (Oh great, here’s another movie that’s just sporadically bright colors and an under 3 audience). In Brave, on the other hand, considering that the main character’s bow is so prominent in the trailer, I heard from a friend that it’s only used once?

  16. B. McKenzieon 28 Apr 2013 at 12:07 pm

    I didn’t count bow usage, but even if Brave had used the bow 100 times, I think it still would have been generally a movie aimed at kids. Leading with a fairly bratty princess (whose main conflict for most of the movie is with her parents) sort of limits the appeal for most people old enough to drive a car, especially guys. In contrast, Hunger Games did exceptionally well with older viewers (56% of viewers were 25 or older)–it made a huge difference that the heroine of Hunger Games was a lot more mature and scrappy.

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