REVIEW: Ralph Breaks the Internet

So imagine The Emoji Movie, but good.

After a malfunction befalls Litwak’s Arcade’s Sugar Rush game, Ralph and Vanellope are forced on a mission through the internet in order save Vanellope’s game as it faces complete shutdown.

Where to start with Ralph Breaks the Internet? My thoughts on Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph sequel are vast and more complex than I once pictured them to be. Ralph Breaks the Internet was an extremely fun film with some minor hiccups here and there but an ultimately satisfying dedication to the assessment of friendship as a central theme in life… never mind occasionally feeling like an ad for Disney’s upcoming streaming service, Disney +, at times.

(Disney 2018)

The first Wreck-It Ralph was a creative and fresh new turn for Disney that, in a way, helped to usher in a new era of Disney animation, following their move to complete CG works. I liked Wreck-It Ralph, mainly for its focus on character over plot and yeah I was interested in where a sequel would take the protagonists as I believed the first had successfully created a strong enough basis to allow the story to advance in a further installment. Although, I will be honest, after learning what Ralph Breaks the Internet would be about, I was rather skeptical and slightly worried about where the movie would go in terms of concept. Now its not the fault of the filmmakers behind Ralph Breaks the Internet that The Emoji Movie was released first and took the idea of a universe built around apps, websites, social media and noticeable real-world franchises, but I will say that one of these movies utilised their concept well and created an enjoyable film from it – guess which one!

Ralph Breaks the Internet was a visually stunning film which knew how to effectively world-build through contrasting images and juxtaposing colours. Disney’s newest animation was an extremely vibrant and welcoming feature that gave uniqueness to every world it explored from the Grand Theft Auto meets Fast and the Furious video game world of Slaughter Race to the prim and pretty dressing room of the Disney princesses. Unlike The Emoji Movie, Ralph Breaks the Internet gave life and thought into the world-building process. To breakdown how Ralph Breaks the Internet managed to turn the stale sounding ideas of The Emoji Movie into a more exciting and nuance world, there were a few examples from either flick that I felt were prevalent to drawing distinctions between what’s good world-building and what’s bad world-building. In The Emoji Movie, the filmmakers actually thought of an interesting still-world concept to create a cinematic Instagram, that was visually cool and different. In Ralph Breaks the Internet, the filmmakers also crafted a cinematic equivalent of Instagram by transforming it into a picturesque art gallery type realm. And although both The Emoji Movie and Ralph Breaks the Internet created two separate and interesting depictions of the same app, only one of these movies really utilised said world in the most effective of ways. Whereas The Emoji Movie made stale their depiction of Instagram by setting an entire boring, annoying sequence in it, Ralph Breaks the Internet instead visualised their Instagram in the quickest of scenes possible – an almost blink and you’ll miss it moment. What I’m trying to explain is that the reason Ralph Breaks the Internet succeeded in the exact same concept as The Emoji Movie failed in, is because Ralph Breaks the Internet utilised the world they created as more a backdrop rather than the main spectacle as The Emoji Movie did. Ralph Breaks the Internet was a genius move in world-building as it knew how to effectively put character before the spectacle of the more imaginative and vast world. The Emoji Movie did not understand its priorities (and why would it, if the characters were as sh*t as Hi-5), whilst Ralph Breaks the Internet honoured its characters first and foremost for which in-turn complimented the world built around them in greater ways than The Emoji Movie could have ever imagined.

And wow, were the characters in Ralph Breaks the Internet worth the film’s main priorities. Upon just being extremely funny, Ralph and Vanellope (voiced extremely well by John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman) were the true heart and soul of this spectacle animation. The bond between the two felt real and, similar to How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, managed to effectively preach ideas on friendship and relationships, in general, that hit deep on many levels. Themes of accepting other’s choices and letting go were heavily prevalent in Ralph Breaks the Internet; further ideas on understanding the spiritual position of a close relation and reflecting on one’s own temporary place in life really led to an impactful finale. Not only was the relationship between Ralph and Vanellope an advancement on the narrative from the first film, but also a well done mirror image of what friendships are like in real life and how they grow and evolve over time. The yearning to please someone close to you, leading to disaster, leading to fresh beginnings, leading to an unexpected strengthening in one’s character are all important marks in what makes a person a person and a friendship and strong part of one’s life – Ralph Breaks the Internet explored these themes excellently…

… but what I felt Ralph Breaks the Internet had a chance to explore real deeply and failed to in some capacity was a social commentary on the internet and people’s dependence on it. Ralph Breaks the Internet utilised the internet as more a basis to create and imagine a new, colourful world – world-building, as I said – instead of actually using the setting to provoke a more deep and fascinating thematic study on the internet. Ralph Breaks the Internet may have been worlds better than The Emoji Movie but it could have succeeded in being way more if it just zoned in on deeper concepts. And sure, a profound insight into the positives and negatives of internet use in the modern age may be a bit heavy for what was predominately a kids movie, although, you have to remember, Ralph Breaks the Internet sits within the same animation company as complex films such as Zootopia. You could even see that the filmmakers attempted to crack into said ideas on the internet through sequences involving the viral push of a meme and a moment concerning the effects of trolling comments. Although every time the filmmakers tried to tap into a deeper study, it would always feel heavy handed and out-of-place. Ralph Breaks the Internet was an extremely enjoyable film that nailed the more simplistic message of friendship but could never reach its full potential of exploring further, more complex, social commentaries.

Instead of starting a fascinating conversation on the effects of the internet in the modern age, including heavy use of social media and the impacts of virus-like franchising, the film instead just decided to kiss Disney’s butt for a large chuck of screen time about midway through the movie. Now don’t get me wrong I enjoyed the little cameos of Disney owned characters like the Stormtroopers, certain Avengers and, of course, the Disney princesses, but Ralph Breaks the Internet almost felt like it haltered its narrative for a little too long to just show of Disney’s IP. Like I said, Ralph Breaks the Internet had the best chance to follow through with a fascinating social commentary being that its a product of Disney and Disney just so happens to basically be the world’s biggest and most lively business in the modern day, with a large effect on the internet as it were. I mean, we live in an age where Disney own Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm and are currently buying Fox… how the hell could Ralph Breaks the Internet not have indulged in a more meta and deeper reflection on the state of, not just the internet, but Disney in general. There was so much rich material that could have been explored in Ralph Breaks the Internet, but ultimately the movie just felt like it wasted its opportunities to instead just play fanfiction and unite the Disney princesses in a movie they just didn’t really fit into.

I don’t want it to sound like I hated this movie, because I didn’t and, in fact, really enjoyed it, but Ralph Breaks the Internet just spent a little too much time circling the same Disney products rather than actually breaking down why they’re so prevalent into today’s culture. Ralph Breaks the Internet came to resemble the overindulgences of Ready Player One at times, which just did not work for me entirely.

Although, that’s not to say Ralph Breaks the Internet was a cold marketing stint for Disney; this film felt warm with a lot of heart and joy riddled throughout. As I said, Ralph Breaks the Internet was a truly funny film that handled its humour strongly through visuals rather than just plain old gags and jokes. Ralph Breaks the Internet revelled in creative ways to stir humour with moments that honestly had me in near stitches. I would even surpass the negatives I had with this movie purely for its comical tone and knack for adventure.

What I loved greatly about Ralph Breaks the Internet was the fact that the film didn’t even feature a villain and still managed to keep the narrative captivating. Usually the inclusion of a cackling, one-dimensional Disney villain or a third act dumbass secretive villain would ruin the climax of films like Ralph Breaks the Internet but this film’s decision to remove the cliché villain allowed for the protagonists of Ralph and Vanellope to shine and the story to take more unpredictable routes. The finale to Ralph Breaks the Internet was powerful and gripping and the inclusion of a villain just would have ruined it completely.

Ralph Breaks the Internet showed true progression and allowed the characters to initiate the direction of the narrative rather than just having the movie’s MacGuffin direct the escalation of action. Because of the thoughtfulness placed into the characters and story, Ralph Breaks the Internet concluded in the most satisfying of ways.

I know I said the film did not reach its full potential by denying the dissection of the social commentary it clearly had room to dissect, but Ralph Breaks the Internet still did nail its themes on friendship to a T. I know I’ve already harkened on about it, but Ralph Breaks the Internet really hit home in terms of what a relationship is to most people and how it can furtherly effect an individual. I may have touched on the whole importance of relationships in my How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World review but Ralph Breaks the Internet added another layer to the previous film’s themes that I cannot overlook. Relationships are powerful, impactful and important to a person’s development, but one cannot place complete dependence on a close relation forever. Everyone is their own person, on their own mission to find themselves. Ralph portrayed that friend everyone has – a friend who’s so content in their place in life they do not want to move on. Vanellope portrayed the opposite – a friend needing to move on in order to close-in on their distant identity. And sometimes the relations between these two different identities can be toxic – like a virus – in ways of dependence and refusal of acceptance… but the relations can also be healthy. A friendship containing two people on their own separate paths have a lot to offer one another in the way of understanding the wants and needs of both parties and accepting both people’s development into a better, wiser, more-rounded person. Ralph Breaks the Internet taught valuable lessons on friendship and the progression of character, not just in a story, but in real life.

So, yeah Ralph Breaks the Internet may have not broke any new ground or left a lasting impact on the internet in general, but it was a fun ride to say the least. Light-hearted action set in a colourful world, I do wish that Disney would have taken a few more risks with Ralph Breaks the Internet, but the film managed to charm from beginning to end and most importantly made The Emoji Movie look even worse.

Ralph Breaks the Internet is a bloody… CRUSADE!!


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