Nostalgia is a powerful tool that most movie makers inside the studio system seem to have been leaning on a lot lately. When my boyfriend and I decided to sit down and watch a few blu-rays a friend let us borrow, we were both immediately drawn towards Wreck-it Ralph. I knew it had gotten some good reviews, that it had a solid cast and the animation looked interesting. But my boyfriend wanted to see it not because of the three things that I just mentioned but because the movie featured and commented on something that he knew a lot about: old school video games. Although I can recognize certain tropes and famous characters (like the ghost from Pac-man), almost all of the more obscure video game references past over my head (That is unless my boyfriend liked it. Then we had to have a discussion about where the reference came from and how badass it was.). While my boyfriend was caught up in this world of vintage video game fantasy, I was paying close attention to the plot and the characters. I think these two approaches led to two very different perspective on the film.
Wreck-it Ralph is a video game villain. He has been a video game villain for quite some time now. He gets no respect from the other people present in his video game is and marginalized in the world outside of it. (And yes a video game world exists where various video game mainstays can mingle and talk to one another.) Ralph is sick of being treated poorly and goes on a journey to prove to his fellow game characters that he is a good guy, capable of achieving goals. He goes from game to game, collecting all of the medals possible in the game. He stumbles into Sugar Rush and finds out from a glitch that medals are not everything.
I was only partially entertained by this film. I could not completely get into the structure of the movie, the fast pace that left me behind at times, or the horrible montage sequence where Wreck-it Ralph teaches the glitch how to drive. But the same could not be said for my boyfriend. He loved it. In fact I caught him re-watching it the next morning, a mark of a good movie for him. He forgave the plot holes and rush because he loved the references, the animation style and the main character so much. He was willing to recognize that it wasn’t a perfect film but it was entertaining. So who is right? This is such a difficult question to answer because it seemed like we were watching two completely different movies. I couldn’t see where he was coming from and neither can I. No matter how many things we do together, there is still a significant amount of brain space of his devoted to projects, video games and books that I will never be able to crack sufficiently. This is just a long way of saying that nostalgia is a persuasive mechanism that colors a person’s mind into thinking something is great when it probably isn’t.