Earlier today, at the time of this writing, I was talking with a friend about the new Wreck-It Ralph 2 trailer. I said I wasn’t disappointed per se when I heard about the movie focusing on the Internet, because I wasn’t sure what to expect from this transition. However, the more we discussed about the film, the more I realized I actually had a lot more to say on the subject than I initially thought. At the risk of sounding like even more of a ranty supernerd than I already am, here’s what I have to say on the matter.
Wreck-It Ralph 2: Ralph Breaks the Internet is the sequel to 2012’s love letter to retro games. When it was first announced a sequel was under way, they said that it would possibly focus on console gaming and connecting online through them. At first, I was on board with this. When the first trailer popped up, however, I raised a few suspicions. Now that the second trailer is here, I think those suspicions have been confirmed.
The reason why The Emoji Movie crashed and burned on a critical scale is because it seemed to be written solely by executives with the intention of pandering to today’s kids. It wasn’t focused on telling a story but rather on shoving as many advertisements and modern technology as possible as a means to tell kids that they know what they like. Even though the execution couldn’t be further from that target.
Why did Wreck-It Ralph work, then? Easy: It may have been based around video games – and kids do like video games – but that wasn’t the focus. The video game theme, through all its bells and whistles, was just a foundation for the story to take place within. Even then, the video games and franchises that were represented in the movie were clearly not chosen by focus groups or executives. I’m 100% certain no one in the higher-ups ever said “You know who should be in this movie? That guy from Tapper. Kids these days play Tapper, right?”
They are all ’80s/’90s games that the creators themselves had fond memories of playing. Therefore, they were able to work with the theme in the way they wanted to, without any confusion or tangled messages (barring that a lot of the movie took place in a candy world filled with snack references and puns). They made the movie for themselves and that’s usually how the best outcome for any production is situated.
Meanwhile, Wreck-It Ralph 2 takes place in the freaking Internet!
Technically, the Internet was around when the now-retro games existed, but the trailers make it clear that the interpretation of the web is that of what’s going on today. Twitter! Snapchat! Amazon! Smartphones and tablets! They’re all here and in your face! There are no parodies of their logos or anything like that, either. Right as soon as Ralph and Vanellope make it to the movie’s take on the Internet, the product placement kicks off as blatantly as they could make it.
Actually, let’s backtrack for a second. What was Vanellope doing in the Fix-It Felix Jr. cabinet? Isn’t she unable to leave her game because she’s a glitch? Heck, where is everybody? Why are Ralph and Vanellope the only familiar characters we’ve seen so far? I get that these two have the most chemistry out of their interactions with anyone else, and maybe the film itself has scenes that answer these questions. Still, it feels weird going this far into promoting it without so much as seeing Felix show up for a second. They’re just gone as far as we can tell for now.
Back to the Internet talk, both trailers seem to just depict the duo screwing around with whatever they could find. I still know nothing about the plot because we’re not told anything other than “Hey, look at this thing!” This gets taken up to eleven when we see that they go to, of all things, a Disney website. They are promoting Disney properties and other Disney studios in a Disney film. The rest of the trailer shows these things off, from Stormtroopers chasing Vanellope to her encountering just about every Disney princess known to man and woman.
It’s all a bunch of silly shenanigans, sure, but do you see the problem? Not only are they trying to cram all the things today’s generation may connect to (and not the production team) but Disney is giving itself one big pat on the back with this chaotic display of their own properties shoehorned into a series that was once about neither the Internet nor established Disney characters. I can’t help but envision a bunch of executives dictating the entire thing. And there has been a lot of cases in recent years where executive meddling has been a complete hindrance to what could have been. Instead of being a love letter to retro games, they basically made Wreck-It Ralph a love letter to itself from itself.
To top off the idea of executives trying to pander to the modern demographic, the Disney princesses question if Vanellope was one of them. This scene opens up another can of worms by spelling out how the princesses are dependent on, in their words, “a big strong man”.
Feminism is a touchy subject when it comes to its portrayals. Ideally, it is meant to express the idea of equal rights for men and women. However, every time a female character in fictional media points out gender roles working against her, it gets immediately implied to the audience that she sees herself as inferior to the male characters rather than equal. She is written that way and given that personality by the studio. It annoys me how tone-deaf these productions get with the message, and this scene is no exception.
And let me get this straight, Disney and co.: You make the princesses list off all sort of things that happened to them, and you’re telling us that it’s the moviegoers’ fault they are seen as worthless? Give me a freakin’ break! You made the movies they starred in, not us. Vanellope answering in agreement to that she was dependent on Ralph is the cherry on top of it all; excuse me, the reason why she needed Ralph’s help in the first movie wasn’t because she was a girl, Disney. If that’s the case, she could have built her go-kart and test track herself, and take on other spoiler-y things that wouldn’t have been resolved without the goddamn title character.
All in all, I don’t think I’ll be seeing Wreck-It Ralph 2. This trailer let me know what the movie’s going to be like: Without the spirit or heart that made the first one good. I understand writing over a thousand words about a trailer sounds silly, but these are just the kind of vibes I’ve been getting from it.