“Pixels” looks like one of the worst movies to come out in a while. With a rancid 13% rating on RottenTomatoes, critics are calling it “moronic,” a “disaster,” and a “movie I wanted to run over with my car, repeatedly.”
So it’s a bit baffling when you consider Nintendo, one of the most beloved gaming companies that’s notoriously protective of its games and characters, allowed its most cherished creations be vandalised by Adam Sandler and company.
Chris Columbus, the director of “Pixels,” reportedly spent months negotiating with Nintendo to let its classic characters, particularly Donkey Kong, be used in this film. Columbus explained the challenges to Wired:
I was excited because the script had a Centipede sequence and a Pac-Man sequence, but what the first draft of the script did not have was Donkey Kong. After months and months of meeting with the board of Nintendo they agreed that we were going to treat Donkey Kong with respect and the proper gameplay, which was very important, and bringing Donkey Kong into the film was a slam-dunk for us.
Nintendo obviously cares a great deal about how its characters are used outside of its games, particularly since the early 1990s when the “Super Mario Bros.” movie was universally panned by critics and even later condemned by the film’s stars and Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of Mario.
Since that 1993 film, Nintendo swore off involvement with Hollywood for a period of time. The most recent exception was the 2012 animated comedy “Wreck-It Ralph,” which featured Bowser, the main villain from the “Super Mario” series (not the recently hired Nintendo exec).
But for some reason, Nintendo got involved with “Pixels,” which is incredibly unfortunate as critics seem to loathe this movie. The main critique, at least according to one extremely popular online review floating around YouTube (warning: graphic language), is that it tries to pay homage to classic arcade games but actually demonstrates zero love or understanding of the games themselves, and only pretends to appreciate them. Here’s one particularly scathing passage from the popular video review by “MovieBob”:
It’s so oppressively endlessly bald-faced cynical about the disingenuous appropriation of its own supposed reason for existing. There’s not a single interesting joke or visual gag making use of the presence of all the classic gaming iconography Sandler and his goon squad have been allowed to f–k around with. The supposed humorous use of every single pixelated creature in the movie never once rises beyond the level of ‘ha ha ha, I recognise that,’ which for some reason qualifies as a joke now. This isn’t just keeping great art in a bad frame, this is using original Monets to wallpaper the port-a-potty at an IBS symposium.
This above all else is what’s so irrationally infuriating about this maggot-oozing head wound of a movie. It plays at being this sentimental ode to the glory days of classic video games but clearly doesn’t have a drop of sincere interest in what’s made these characters and imagery so enduring, or even what made the game so compelling for all these years. … There’s a germ of an interesting idea — i.e. so much of our popular culture grounded in the mythologizing of warfare, competition, and the arbitrary winner/loser binary; why wouldn’t someone mistake it for a declaration of war? — but that might have been interesting and insightful, and “Pixels” is clearly aiming for an advanced scrotal cancer kind of vibe.
“Pixels” features several Nintendo characters, including Mario, Donkey Kong, and the dog from “Duck Hunt,” which most recently appeared in the last “Super Smash Bros.” game. Hopefully Nintendo was compensated well for its involvement. You can check out the full trailer for “Pixels” below.
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