How Does an Angry Bird Franchise Continue to Fly?

22 May

angry-birds-posterBy Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)

Many species of flightless birds exist around the world, like the penguin and ostrich, and how they have managed to survive extinction is on how they learned to adapt. While others like the Dodo went extinct because they were fearless (more curious about the sailors who happened to hunt them instead of fleeing), sometimes having that bit of fear can go a long way. Either they can attack it head on or run away in terror. This analogy is slightly worked into the story in Angry Birds the Movie but the parable of historical times (like how the Americas was colonised and indigenous civilisation was destroyed) is missed.

This movie is more about finding acceptance amongst community. For Red (Jason Sudeikis), he has issues. They do not just stem from having a short fuse but also in how he behaves. Because he has big brows, he’s considered different and is teased for his unique features. Behind his back, he’s become a mockingbird. After an incident where he’s late at arriving at a birthday party (he’s an entertainer), he’s reprimanded and required to attend anger management therapy. By some miracle known as a plot, the misfits he meets at in this group eventually become his pals. When birds of a feather flock together, the inevitable happens,

Even though they have an uneasy kinship, does not want to accept them as pals right away. Each of them has their own unique problems — most of which are defined by the roles they play in the video game. Chuck (Josh Gad) is the speedster, Bomb (Danny McBride) is self-explanatory (his farts are explosive) and Terence (Sean Penn) is the Russian muscle cum sumo wrestler in disguise (he can easily crush any fort because of his size). The entire cast from the games are represented. Sadly, Stella (Kate McKinnon) — of which she got her own game — has a small role. I wanted to see more of her. Of the three, the big brute easily dominates in a stereotypical Russian mafia kind of way. He looks like he can give Steven Seagull a run for his money. They have to hold the fort when the rest of their tribe become enamoured with a strange alien, a pig, who come on an unidentified floating object (a boat) bearing gifts.

angry-birds-trailer-2-screenshot-pig-egg

Leonard (Bill Hader) and his assistant, Ross (Hale) claim to be peaceful explorers (hence a bigger analogy) and have offerings of trampolines and a slingshot as a token of friendship. The birds love them but are oblivious to the alien agenda. Even when more pigs arrive, life with these new friends is simply one huge party. That’s until one night, they discover their eggs are gone. The porks have flown the coup with only Red and his ragtag team were the only ones wise to their scheme and ultimately have to figure out a way to save the day.This film

From this point of the film on, the film builds up to how the game mechanics work. The birds can’t naturally fly, so they have to build a boat and use the sling. From a fresh 3D world perspective, this film is very faithful to the games from this franchise. I would love to see the product evolve with the times and get turned into a 3D platformer ala Super Mario 64 (recreated for the Nintendo DS, available on Amazon! I remember the days of launching Mario out of a cannon to get to the other side, and he was not chicken about it. Now imagine flinging birds in this virtual space to the pig’s maze-like hillbilly village. With this year’s technology obsession of VR games making their debut, Rovio can have a new hit on their hands should they decide to completely change the gameplay around. Technically, Angry Birds: Transformers (a side-scrolling platformer) tries to give depth to this simple game, but I’m talking about full virtual space immersion.

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For the voice actors who showed their love for the product, I enjoyed watching Sudeikis giving this product his all. He’s a character to sympathise with. Peter Dinklage as the Mighty Eagle is hilarious, and the quiet Sean Penn as Terence needed more oomph. I wished he had more of a speaking role.

The story felt too familiar. Nothing new is added to the drama of how to make a lone wolf become a member of a pack. I saw this in the last video game movie, Ratchet and Clank. As well intentioned the plot is, the direction was more on upping the ante on the laughs (chuckle-worthy at best) and tossing in every easter egg from the games into a movie product. The latter can be fun for fans of the game to find, but I was not attempting to count them all. I played the first four iterations and eventually stopped because the new games did not offer gameplay that was inventive (much like how Traveller’s Tales does not alter their LEGO games template by much in their movie tie-in material). When Rovio depends on films like Rio and Star Wars, to refresh the gameplay world, I figured the company was on life support. Yeah, I’m a swine for saying it, but I know I’m not alone in my thoughts when chatting with long-time video gamers about why some products persist in the market far longer than it should.

However, the yoke is on Rovio Entertainment. Unless they reinvent their flagship product in an era where VR gaming is taking off, this commodity is going to become prehistoric. This film is hardly eggcellent even though it’s entertainment value is mildly chuckle-worthy. I think the company just wanted the sunny side up. People who have not played the game will be clueless to many in-game references, especially with the cute trio of goslings who split apart to tear down the pig’s villages.

One question must be asked though: was I the only viewer craving bacon when the movie finished?

3 Eggs out of 5

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