My daughter need not declare she’s going to wreck something before wrecking it, that’s how on the ball she is!
Screenplay By: Phil Johnston & Jennifer Lee
Directed By: Rich Moore
A big draw to those who play video games is the amount of detail found in a given video game. Wreck-It Ralph takes its homage to the video game world one step further by being as lovingly detailed as is humanly possible. Rich Moore and company haven’t just made an animated film about some video game characters. They have made a film set in a video game world that is full of oodles of in-jokes and hidden references for cinephile and video game fan alike. This is the second time I have seen Wreck-It Ralph, and I know that I will continue to discover new facets to Wreck-It Ralph every subsequent time I watch Mr. Moore’s film, that’s the level of detail found in Wreck-It Ralph.
It’s important to note that detail isn’t just found in the references in Wreck-It Ralph. The background animation is detailed in a way that helps to truly bring the film to life. I feel that too often this is an aspect of quality animation that is overlooked by most cinephiles. Nothing kills an animated film faster than discovering that the background animation is bland and lifeless. Chicken Little, and Star Wars: The Clone Wars are great examples of recent animated feature films that struggle to form an identity because of how empty their backgrounds are. Wreck-It Ralph suffers from no such background problem. This is an animated film with lush backgrounds, full of moving parts and wonderfully detailed animation. It’s not enough for the characters to live in a pixelated video game world in Fix-It Felix Jr.. Nope, in Fix-It Felix Jr. when the cake splatters it takes on a pixelated look as well, and the characters bump and move choppily just like a pixelated character would. These may seem like small things, but it is the little details like a splattered cake having pixelated edges that help to bring an animated world to life.
I remember writing in the past about movies taking on a video game aesthetic. Wreck-It Ralph is the rare breed of video game movie that pays homage to its video game roots without ever resorting to being a video game. Sugar Rush is a real world, it isn’t just a video game landscape. The final battle in Sugar Rush isn’t just video game action, it tells of the willingness to sacrifice that should be present in every person alive. Jennifer Lee and Phil Johnston have constructed a screenplay that is in love with video games but is also fully a cinematic experience. Another way to think about how Wreck-It Ralph handles its video game elements is to mention nostalgia. It would have been easy for Wreck-It Ralph to be nothing but a nostalgia trip. Instead the film presents fully realized characters who work within common video game tropes to speak to the failings and greater gains of humanity.
One way in which Wreck-It Ralph sets itself apart from the animated pack is in its inventiveness. There is a great story to be found in Wreck-It Ralph. There’s also great characters, nice action, and lots of funny bits. But, through the action, the comedy, and the character building moments there is an insane level of creativity on display in Wreck-It Ralph. The worlds created in the form of all the different video games are smartly inventive. Sugar Rush is probably the best example, it also helps that we spend the most amount of time in Sugar Rush land. The giant big magnet that comes about is a must within the screenplay. There were a lot of different ways that the screenplay could have set up the magnet. Having it spring forth from Mentos falling into a frothing hot diet Coke pool is by no means a conventional way of bringing about a giant bug magnet. A simpler example is something like the Devil Dogs who search for Ralph, or the Oreo palace guards. It would have been much simpler to have the dogs be more dog like and the Oreo guards be regular humans like the other citizens. Wreck-It Ralph takes a much more creative route, with Devil Dogs that are said snack cake and Oreo palace guards who are actual Oreo cookies. Maybe it’s just me, but I deeply appreciate a film that is willing to embrace such creative avenues.
I love animated films, most of my readers know this by now I hope. I’m not about to make some grandiose statement about Wreck-It Ralph changing the landscape of animation. The world of animated films has been chugging along nicely for some time now and it will continue to chug along for many years to come. Wreck-It Ralph is but another outstanding animated film to be released in recent years. Mr. Moore’s effort continues the fine tradition of quality animated films from Disney Animation. You don’t need to be a video game fan to fall in love with Wreck-It Ralph. All that is required is a sense of humor, an imagination, a love of great characters, and a desire to see a fine animated film.