Monday, 31 December 2018

Ralph Breaks The Internet (2018) - Movie Review, this looks familiar. A family-friendly animated film about sentient programs travelling the Internet, finding a lot of recognisable websites, programs and properties along the way. Oh goodie, this work out so well last time. Here is where I would normally bring up the differences in studios and filmmakers this time around from that pile of rubbish, except that isn’t looking all that pristine either. Yes, this is the follow-up to a pretty damn good flick in Wreck-It Ralph, but with how the marketing for this has been looking all year, this way too easily could be just an excuse for Disney to parade its still-growing monopoly in the industry, showing off its latest acquisitions like a kid shows off their new toys. But putting aside any possible misgivings going into this, how does it actually turn out?

Well, for a start, this film is actually funny. John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman as Ralph and Vanellope are as solid a buddy act as ever, and with how character-heavy this story turns out, their performances really help nail the film’s bigger moments. We’re still in pun territory for some of this, although they are admittedly pretty good for what they are, but for the most part, it’s all quite relatable stuff concerning Internet usage. Pop-up ads, cat memes, going viral just by copying whatever’s popular this millisecond; it all rings true, far more so than The Emoji Movie ever managed.

From there, the animation is pretty good too, giving an appropriate sense of grandeur to the first step into the Internet, looking like a sprawling city where sites like Google and Amazon have giant skyscrapers. It’s relatively light on action, largely sticking to car races (again?) within Slaughter Race. I’d be more annoyed at the return to old material, especially in a film all about breaking out and trying something new with life, but three main things hold me back from that. One, Gal Gadot as racer Shank is a very fun addition to the cast; two, the game itself actually serves well in furthering Vanellope’s character arc; and three, the Alan Menken song here is fucking hilarious, paying off all the marketing build-up regarding Vanellope meeting the Disney Princesses in a pretty clever, if fanwanky, way.

That’s all the obvious stuff though; what really makes this film remarkable is the level of astuteness regarding the Internet and the people who use it. And not just the good stuff either, like the business opportunities available online, the social networking possibilities, or even just the breadth of mindless shit that can help occupy those precious moments of free time; this gets surprisingly dark with the perspective it gives. Not gonna lie, I wasn’t expecting a Disney film to get into legit Cam territory with its commentary, but dead serious, that’s what we get. Extrapolating the honestly rather blatant characterisation of Ralph and Vanellope and their respective insecurities, the film does a remarkably subtle job of looking at how insecurities themselves kind of break the Internet.

It’s the element of narcissism with online content creating, or even just social connection online, that doesn’t really get brought up often. Getting noticed online can be a difficult prospect, considering you’re literally competing with millions, if not billions, of others for the spotlight, and in order to get noticed, people can go to pretty extreme lengths. Lengths that mainly serve to highlight just how desperate some people can be for attention, something that the Internet can turn sour quickly. One of the more low-key moments in the film is when Ralph, in the middle of trying to raise money to cash in on his eBay bid, finds the comment section for some videos he’s made. You can probably guess where it goes from there, but it’s not even all that shouty. Instead, it highlights the more real, more internally-crushing aspect of it: It’s not nice when people tell you right to your face that you suck.

But people have to like you; why else would you even make your online activity public otherwise? It’s the process that keeps a lot of the Internet running, media sites like YouTube and Instagram especially, but it’s also a potentially disastrous one too. For as long as the Internet has existed, there have been stories of people who let the fame of web notoriety go to their heads, resulting in meltdowns the likes of which wouldn’t have blown up as badly pre-Internet. This is a rambling way to explaining it (speaking for myself here) but, building on the quite natural relationships of the characters, we see how the idea of being ‘clingy’ or ‘needy’ has ramifications beyond just straining relationships.

This film is a brightly-coloured and light-hearted veneer that only just hides something a lot more serious. With how connected we are these days, especially with how we’re only getting younger and younger as far as first contact with the best/worst thing humanity has ever created, this film’s message feels like the ‘think global, act local’ approach to relationships both on and offline. This isn’t just an entertaining film with a solid message behind it; it’s a message that an awful lot of grown-ass adults could benefit from.

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