First off, it’s been a while! Life has been hectic, but I’m making a renewed effort to keep my blog up to date. I’m sure someone out there missed me.
Now that that’s out of the way, let me be clear up front: Pixels, Adam Sandler’s new movie about extraterrestrials that find and interpret the messages found in a space probe sent into the cosmos during the 80’s as a challenge to their right to exist in the galaxy and who, in response, create real-life versions of those video games to destroy our world in a series of elimination-style games is NOT a cinematic masterpiece destined to go down in history as the greatest video game movie of all time. How was that for an intro sentence?
Warning: there are some minor spoilers below, but I figured they weren’t bad enough to hide them in the meat of the article.
It is, however, a pretty good time. It’s goofy, fun, fairly predictable, and full of some pretty awesome special effects. I’ve seen criticisms of this movie that go as far as to call for a movement to stop Adam Sandler to calling it a sexist insult of a film. Seriously, he’s getting reamed for making the movie. E! online even gathered the 23 most vicious ones they could find just to rub it in, I guess.
Addressing the more popular criticisms
- Sexism: Yes, a female character is given as a game trophy at some point, but so are three males, and Q-Bert.Yes, there is a sexy, sword-swinging badass woman that doesn’t speak in the film, but somehow falls in love with a nutball of a character for no good reason. Hell, she’s also the only video game character that isn’t ultra-pixelated, which is just weird. Despite all that, to me, the character came across as being able to make her own decisions and didn’t speak because her character didn’t speak in the video game.
Yes, Serena Williams and Martha Stewart are objectified by Peter Dinklage’s character, but, you know what? He’s an asshole character, being portrayed as an asshole. Assholes objectify women. Having a character in a movie that is an asshole is not the same thing as saying that being an asshole is OK. Does he get his reward in the end? Yes, but only after being initially rejected by Serena (when he was being an asshole), and only after he changes his ways and does something selfless for a change. Could they have set this up better? Of course! But I didn’t see it as a straight-up insult to women, and neither did the two other (very strong, independent, and ass-kicking) women I saw the movie with.
Finally, the scientist . . . I don’t see how the character who comes up with all of the tech to save the world, personally jumps into the games (putting herself in danger) to help more than once, and who is wildly successful in her own right is demonstrative of a sexist portrayal. Is it because she gets together with Sandler? I mean, is he that bad?
- It’s not deep enough: Have you seen Happy Gilmore? Billy Madison? Yeah, it’s an Adam Sandler movie. It’s meant to be playful and fun, not some deep, metaphorical look into the existential threat our love of pop-culture may pose in the future. It’s not some introspective piece about how we idolize all of the wrong things, nor is it a serious warning on the dangers of the questionable cultural choices we make as a people that could ultimately lead to our own destruction.
Nope, it’s about aliens that make video game characters that are trying to blow up Earth. Sometimes a movie is exactly what it seems to be on the surface, and sometimes that is totally OK. My advice: get down from your pontification horse, and try not to think about it too much. There are plenty of other movies out there that are designed to make you think, and a lot of them are perfectly good. Sometimes, however, it’s just OK to laugh at Q*bert adorably making pixelated pee pee. If anyone calls you out on it, tell them that I gave you permission.
One last note to The Verge specifically:
You say in your piece:
[su_quote cite=”Bryan Bishop” url=”http://www.theverge.com/2015/7/22/9012437/pixels-movie-review-adam-sandler”]As executed, it’s like Contact meets Armageddon meets sticking knives into my eyes, but what’s most frustrating is that, philosophically, the concept is actually intriguing. There’s something about the idea of our own recycled pop culture coming back to do us in that feels timely and unique, a meta commentary on the sad state of reboots and ultra-franchised everything. But that would require some daring, or at least some basic situational awareness, and Pixels can’t be bothered with either.[/su_quote]
You know what? Seeing the movie, or at least thinking of the concept of said movie, got you thinking. Maybe the movie didn’t need to spell things out for you because the concept already did. Perhaps, for those that just want some goofy entertainment, the movie can be enjoyed at face value, but for those (like yourself) that prefer to find the deeper meaning in film, the concept itself is enough to get the mental gears turning. That way, it’s great for both audiences, and it doesn’t beat you over the head with metaphor and layered subtext.
Lay off guys, you’re taking yourselves far to seriously. That’s the end of my rant.
Here’s my actual review (I’ll keep it short)
The movie was fun, exactly what it was meant to be. If you want to see Pacman ravage his way through NYC, or you want to see Adam Sandler blast giant space centipedes from Centipede to save the planet, then go see the movie. Don’t buy into the reviews too much, because they seem to have all gone into the theater with, what I consider to be, strange expectations. Be realistic. Think of it like this: a less silly version of Billy Madison fighting video game aliens from outer space, and you’ve pretty much got it. You’ll laugh, you’ll smile, and you’ll say “oh, come on” at least once, but you’ll be entertained (unless you’re expecting any of the crap I mentioned up there in my rant).
I particularly liked the theme of nerds saving the world, because, well, you know . . .
Anyway, no one I saw walked out of the theater angry or dejected. Laughs abounded, and the people that went with me to see it all liked it. Was it as good as Ant-Man (review coming soon)? Nope. Will it leave you smiling and entertained? Probably–as long as you go in with the right set of expectations and can accept the fact that Sandler and his crew aren’t going to beat you over the head with artsy metaphor in some vain attempt to get you to think about the health of our world and how we could, as a flawed society, possibly deal with extraterrestrial first contact.
Go in with the same set of expectations you’d have for, you know, any other Adam Sandler movie ever made, and you’ll have a good time. In short, I liked it. 🙂