By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
* Spoiler Alert
When Ralph Breaks the Internet, Fix-It-Felix cannot help. The trailers see this villain turned hero (voiced by John C. Reilly) take on the World Wide Web, and should everyone be afraid? As long as he does nothing dim-witted, no. When he fears to lose his best friend, Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), trouble ensues–but not without some action adventure dramedy.
This sequel has a lot to visually pack in. They are all Easter Egg material which requires an at home viewing with a pause button than to deal with at a movie theatre. I laughed at how self-aware it was when considering the visit to the digital version of Disneyland. At this tale’s core is a terrific examination of the relationship between these two main characters. Change is inevitable. The difficulties they face not only as close friends but also in who they are is key to this film. Can they function more beyond their programming? This theme was explored with Ralph in the first film, and now it’s Venellope’s turn.
Trying to stay true to what they are and holding on to self-doubts may be okay for some folks, but for others, it can do more harm than good. The young girl wants to spread her wings. She’s become tired of the routine in her game; nothing new exists for her to explore. Although her status as a glitch is not as important, it becomes a factor later.
To see how Ralph develops is key. When considering he is from another era, seen as a two-dimensional character from a video gamer’s perspective, and he grows as a real-life person, he becomes more relatable. In a modern game, he is three-dimensional. There’s more to him than that of a house smasher. He has feelings which need to be expressed. Spoilers follow:
(Re)development of a video game can occur in many ways. A computer programmer is required to update older games from the ground up. Atari’s Tempest has seen many iterations and variations. Newer games are often modular in design. Patches are released to fix those broken parts. When the steering wheel to the game Sugar Rush gets damaged and Mr. Litwak, the arcade operator, finds one on eBay at great cost, his decision to retire the game is not to everyone’s liking. Ralph and Vanellope have to buy it than him. When the establishment sets up for Wifi so patrons can also hit up the Internet, the fun begins.
This movie made more than a simple a nod to TRON. Part of the film, the soundtrack, and entry into the Internet takes cues from this 1982 film. It reminded me about how a person’s essence exists in the computer program he or she made. They are hilariously represented in this movie as Funko POP! Style avatars. Entering this world is almost like Second Life.
Instead of focusing in on gaming culture, this work is more about web culture. Anyone who regularly surfs the ‘net will get amused at the visual interpretations of pop up advertising (seen as nagware), twittering birds, and Pinterest; after a while, they distract from the narrative. A threat from outside the program can destroy everything the player has built with social media and elsewhere. In the first film, Vanellope’s role was subverted and the glitch put into her code made her ‘unplayable’ until the plot revealed her original programming. The sequel sees her daring to become part of something bigger, but will her code and another invasive force allow it?
The threat of shutting down the entire Internet– hence the film’s title–when Ralph sees life without Vanellope as unbearable. To keep her to himself, he learns about the Dark Web and what it offers. This aspect is deftly handled without getting too terrifying and suggests to users to be much more careful at following those curious links. The screenplay by Phil Johnston and Pamela Ribon offers cautionary words of advice for those new to navigating the information highway. Not every sign point to El Dorado.
Tom Cochrane‘s song comes to mind when summarizing this film. The official track heard during the closing credits is Imagine Dragons‘ Zero. It’s just as effective to leave this film with a smile, and know that breakthrus can happen. To reach that next part in anyone’s life is not hard at all.
4½ Stars out of 5