WRITER: Screenplay by David S. Goyer
DIRECTOR: Albert Pyun
STARRING: Megan Ward as Alex Manning
Peter Billingsley as Nick
John DeLancie as Difford
Sharon Farrell as Alex's mom
Seth Green as Stilts
A.J. Langer as Laurie
Norbert Weisser as Albert
QUICK CUT: When Dante's Inferno gets a preview of the hot new video game Arcade, no one suspects that it is secretly alive and killing people.
Alex - The heroine of the piece. Her mother commited suicide a year ago, and Alex is just starting to recover when she gets sucked into the world of escapism and death known as Arcade
Nick - The geekiest of the group. A whiz at video games, so of course he plays almost no role in defeating Arcade. Oh, and he has a thing for Alex, although she's busy with some other guy.
Arcade - The evil mastermind. A computer game that somehow gained sentience and abilities far beyond those of mortal consoles. All he wants is to kill people and eat souls. No reason.
THE GUTS: Once in awhile, good wrtiers make bad movies. Why do they make bad movies? So they can learn to write good ones. Case in point; David S. Goyer. You know what he's written? Dark Knight. Dark City. Blade. What you may not know, is he also wrote a few movies for Trisk favourite whipping company, Full Moon Productions. And we have one here, just in time for Dark Knight Rises. The crapfest of a virtual reality thriller, Arcade.
Well, Arcade starts off pleasantly enough. And by that I mean, it opens up with our lead, Alex, finding her mother dead of a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. I guess she wanted the hell out of this turd of a movie faster than most.
Unsurprisingly, the movie slides Alex into talking with a psychiatrist, which she has been doing for the past year since the incident. But she can't seem to get her mom out of her head, and doesn't seem to want to, so tells the quack she's done with therapy. I smell a character arc!
Alex heads back to school where she meets up with Oz and the rest of Buffy's scooby gang...no wait, just Seth Green. Sigh, I had some hope for a second there.
After they hang out for awhile, one of them decides to mercifully move the plot along and asks if anyone is heading over to Dante's Inferno later. Oh, how subtle. Dante's is a local video arcade, a place where people used to go to put coins in machines and play video games, rather than sit at home and do the same thing.
The reason for the latest gathering at Dante's is a brand new video game, Arcade! Which is, uh, a kinda terrible name for a video game? "Let's go to the arcade to play Arcade!" It's like a movie named Movie. And I *know* Arcade is a terrible name for a movie...
So everyone heads over to Dante's, where they have to descend into the Inferno. The subtleness continues. At least we get Blue Oyster Cult music in the background, so it's not a big loss. They go on about how virtual reality is the wave of the future, and let me tell you guys, from 2012, 20 years in your future, it still ain't here. Second Life does not count!
Oz gets into a dust up with his favourite bully, but the owner of Dante's puts it to a halt before anything interesting can happen. Besides, Arcade and then John DeLancie shows up to keep things moving some more.
Q shows off Arcade, and one of the kids comments on it having never-ending design problems. I wonder if that is a nod to this movie's long series of delays. He also asks what makes Arcade different, and is told that the game reacts like a human, learning, becoming better, and reacting to strategies. Yes, we come up with this technology and use it for video games!
They take the time to overly explain things, like how the gloves will allow you to feel things, the goggles will show your eyes what's going on...even to the point that they feel the need to tell us what the escape button does. What do you think it does? Makes ice cream sandwiches? Which WOULD be awesome, but no.
Finally, they dump Nick inside the game and it's *ahem* state of the art graphics. Well, I've seen worse. I've seen better for 1993, too. They blather on about how the game adapts and changes its levels, but it is nowhere near as random as Diablo, folks. For a game who's scenario they can't pin down, and a plot they can't explain, it sure does do the same thing over and over again.
The challenge of level one is...skating through corridors with sharp pointy objects! THE FUTURE OF VIDEO GAMES!! They didn't even try, did they? Oh, and if Nick takes too much time, the game will send THE SCREAMER after him. At least something will happen, then, rather than just floating through hallways.
Nick is clearly shaken, having trouble with this, and I have to laugh my ass off at such an expert gamer freaking the hell out over a game WHERE YOU SKATEBOARD DOWN A HALLWAY. And the giant ball of energy chasing him should not make him so panicky. Nor should he insist people play once he's done. Pac-Man was more innovative than this.
They feed another kid and another quarter into the machine and he gets sealed inside. I dunno how I would feel about being locked up in a coffin-shaped metal box. While that's going on, Q takes the rest back out into the main arcade, and gives them all free Arcade home versions. Yeah, my Nintendo kicks your Arcade's ass.
Alex gets bored and goes back to find Greg, but only finds an Arcade full of smoke, and the shitty photograph Greg took of the pair. Alex seems to believe that Greg just had a nasty bong hit, and goes looking for him elsewhere.
Not being able to find her boyfriend, Alex heads home to try and find him there, and fails. She puts her drunken, depressed dad to bed, and heads upstairs to become captivated by the Arcade headest.
Arcade already seems to know Alex, although that hardly makes much sense, but whatever. It tells her that Greg is now a ghost in the machine, so maybe he squealed during some cybertorture, or the game has microphones everywhere. Anyways, he pulls her into the game for the usual hallway of fun.
She stands too long in the entry point, and the glowy ball of doom gets her before she even takes one step. Alex starts screaming, and pounds on the escape button. Geeze, imagine if people had that reaction every time they met a monster in Doom? This is silly.
On top of all that, Alex sees that like, four hours have disappeared. While she did absolutely nothing in the game. How much time does a person who is actually playing the game lose??
She tries to turn the tv off, but Arcade continues to taunt, until she yanks on the plug. Even that proves difficult. Man, if Arcade and Horace Pinker ever teamed up...Now that would be awesome.
She runs over to Nick's place, where he's naturally engrossed in the game. Alex has about as much luck at getting his attention, as a person does when I'm reading a book. Finally, she hits the escape button and that does the trick. Or, it just activates the screen saver. Strange definition of escape.
Now, Nick describes that image as both a fractal, and a DNA molecule. IT LOOKS LIKE NEITHER OF THOSE THINGS.
She tries to make Nick believe that Arcade is alive, and has taken Greg, but you can imagine that doesn't sound very credible. I don't even believe it's the plot for a movie. They try calling anyone else, but everyone's phone just happens to be busy. They could just all be on a party line.
The next day, they at least find Oz hanging out after school, and they think everyone else is sick. Oz didn't play the game since his tv was dead, and Alex says everyone's phones who were busy, are now out of order. Okay, so they were on a party line, and none of them paid their phone bill this month?
Nick is at least starting to come around to the craziness, or at least humours Alex enough to drive her around and check out some homes to try and find their friends. They find Laurie at home, staring at the tv, and being unresponsive. I see nothing different from an ordinary gamer here. But Alex breaks in anyways, and finds Laurie looking like she ate a Joker fish.
Greg actually takes a cue from Carol Anne and uses the tv to communicate, asking for help. Arcade threatens that if they don't play the game, he'll play in their world, which uh, never quite happens. It makes the tv blow a lot of wind, but that's about it.
On the upside, Nick now believes Alex, and he knows no one else will when Laurie dies. After she speaks in Arcade's voice, he urges them to get out of there, since the cops will never buy their story. Before going, Alex tries to take Laurie with them, but she disappears when their backs are turned.
Surprisingly, someone has a good idea, and Alex thinks they should head to the developers of the game, Vertigo Tronics. That way, they can learn the rules, and give us some exposition, I wager.
Thankfully, the movie spares us a driving montage, and we jump right to the developer. Where Nick immediately threatens the guy at the front desk to go get Q or they'll squeal about the game.
Q shows up, and they snowjob him saying they just want some tips and cheats to beat the game, and that it's pretty hard. Yeah, it's a real killer. Have they never heard of a tip line? I'm sure Nintendo has some ideas. Anyways, he takes them down to the lab to meet Albert, the game's creator, to see what he can tell them.
Albert shows them some maps of the game, and uh, if the game keeps changing, then what good would maps...oh, never mind.
He tells them that they need to find the keys, and the doors, and the keys will help them defeat Arcade. THIS IS NOT A VERY COMPLEX GAME.
But they get him babbling about the game, and fortunately they start skipping stuff, because this is boring as hell without context. Ever listen to a friend talking about a video game's lore that you've never played? Yes, it's that.
The important, well interesting, part comes when he says they used a few hundred braincells from a human donor. Well, at least it wasn't a dolphin's brain. He also urges them to not play the game. How did this make it through quality control?!
Alex and Nick head out with all their *ahem* cheats, and try and decide what to do next. Nick has the sensible idea of saying screw the game, let's just go. I like this Nick fella. Listen to him. But since that would make for a short movie...
Instead, he suggests that since Arcade is a virus, the best thing to do is hit it at the source, where it all started, and um. So much is wrong with this sentence. I just want to walk away.
They hop back to Dante's, where the game seems to be broken. Alex surmises that they need to put in money. Because that's the rules. That's the absurd BS. If it wanted them dead, it could do it whenever. But whatever, your movie, David Goyer. I would've loved for the kids to go get a slug, so they didn't lose any money.
Arcade. The game that takes your soul...AND YOUR LOOSE CHANGE.
The kids argue over whether or not to go in as a single or two-player session. Well, considering the design of the Arcade coffin, I'd say that it HAS to be one player only. But they kinda ignore that. Oh, and there's some romantic subplotty stuff about Nick not wanting Alex to get hurt in the game.
Back inside the game, they realise they no longer have the schematics they got from Albert. What with now being virtual and all. But don't worry, Alex drew them on her arm, and they just so happen to be there on her digital form too! Which makes no sense.
And no, I am not going to ignore that is a list and not schematics. Because Nick asks the girl to use them to figure out where the keys are. And she reads her arm like a map. I say thee nay!
They find the key, and move on to the next level, just before the glowy yellow ball of doom arrives. At least we're finally free of the lame hallways. Now, we have lame water renderings, and lame pyramids. One step forward, two steps back?
In the distance, Alex hears Greg calling out, and finds him being sucked into the ground, while Nick plays with the NotFractal some more. I don't know why they keep pausing to look at that thing. Anyways, she can't pull Greg out, but does get her hands on key #2. Just in time for the sky to break open.
Since Nick is so busy looking at the NotFractal, he gets killed by the random encounter for this level. Alex can't save him, so dives into the pool and moves onto the next level. Back in the really real world, Albert finds Nick in the box, and says he pulled him out of the game. At exactly the same time he died? Alex's body is missing though, so I guess she was really sucked into the game, a la Tron.
She wakes up on a dock, confronted by two ferrymen, two of her killed friends. And sarcastic yay! It's the old gag, one tells the truth, the other tells lies. Because that isn't tired by now. And man, these levels continue to be completely lame. Thrill as you stand on a pier! See two people! Endless water! Now float across the water for awhile! Next level! Laaaame.
Oh, and a random kid gets randomly dumped into the game, presumably from a home system, and we're supposed to care. But I don't. I barely care about the characters we've actually followed for the past hour. You just can't drop someone in, make them ten, and expect us to give even half a crap. Oh, and saving the kid nets her a free life.
At least the next level has something interesting. The pair get enveloped in a glob of CGI that becomes a 'sky cycle' and they get chased by winged, flying skulls. That's at least *visually* interesting. If not any other kind of actual interesting. Doublyt so since flying around and avoiding the guys chasing you isn't that far removed from skateboarding.
They enter Arcade's inner sanctum, and Alex calls out Arcade and...GASP SURPRISE it's the little kid. I never would have seen that coming. Ever.
Anyways, the kid was the donor for Arcade's braincells, and because he was abused, and wants to play, he kills all his playthings and, eh. Not caring.
Trying to end things, Alex gets the final weapon. Before she can use it though, Arcade zaps her good, and she wakes up back at the start of the movie. Oh, you evil fuck. That IS the ninth circle of Hell.
But for real, she wakes up inside the Matrix, where she thinks the rest of this movie was a nightmare. Oh, it was. It waaas. But now she's awake, and her mom is alive and...oh, cue the VR fantasy already. If Arcade is capable of this level of graphical simulation, how come the rest of the movie looks like ass?
Just as she's getting used to this fantasy world, her mom pulls out a gun and kills herself again, but she's okay! The torment can continue forevermore! Nooo, let the movie end.
Alex's mom actually pulls the trigger to end Alex's game, and strangely enough, Arcade taunts her. I don't think he understands how death works. But then, being made from human brain cells, I don't think he knows how anything really works.
Surprise though! Alex uses that extra life, and uses it to come back from the dead, enabling her to finish off Arcade.
Alex uses the identity disc and throws it into the Master Control Program, freeing all the programs, and someday inspiring a 3D sequel in 20 years time.
The movie adds insult to injury as the game is over, and everyone is alive and well, giving us a nice, happy ending. Ugh. Thanks for the complete and total reset, movie. Not only did you waste my time, but you wasted my time!!
But because no movie can just *end* Alex wonders if they came out of the game, maybe Arcade did too. Did...did Arcade come up with the idea before Quorra escaped the Grid?! Holy crap!
Everyone goes home, Alex has flashbacks to the rest of the movie, and surprise! Somehow the kid did escape, and they pull the same trick as Knight Chills, by having the kid's normal voice suddenly become modulated like Arcade's. Well, that's a weird point of similarity. It may be done better here, but it's still cheesy. And thankfully over.
Video: Straight to video crap, but not outright terrible. There's worse looking movies out there, but this is still pretty bad.
Audio: Can you imagine what this would sound like with a good 5.1 mix, when they're in the virtual world? Yeah, keep imagining that.
Special Features: Another VideoZone! Love these. And this one is especially interesting because there are a few bits of footage NOT in the movie, specifically one of Albert actively helping the kids AS they play. That's cool. Also, the early CGI that cuase this movie to be delayed was REALLY terrible. This could have looked so much worse.
Sound Bite: "C'mon kids, I got something to show you in the other room. It'll blow a hole in your shorts." Hilarious out of context.
Body Count: Arcade is remarkably light on bodies, and ultimately everyone comes back from the dead, but here's who died, however briefly. There's a few other bodies who apparently die during the movie, but they're never shown.
1 - The opening death comes in at a mere 3 minutes or so, when Alex's mom kills herself.
2 - Greg, Arcade's first victim when he dies in the game and gets sucked in.
3 - Laurie goes next, unable to deal with withdrawl of a tv feed.
4 - Arcade as Alex's mom shoots Alex in the head, killing her briefly.
Blood Type - F: I do not recall a single drop of blood in this movie, and nor were any effects particularly noteworth. Laughworthy, yes.
Sex Appeal: There's even less of that than there is of blood.
Movie Review: I have no idea how one of my fave writers could have come up with...with this. This movie is just terrible. There's an inkling of an okay idea here. Tron did it well. The Matrix did it better. But holy potatoes, this is cheesy. The acting is awful, the characters are wafer thin, the CGI is laughable despite being constantly fixed up before release. The game is lame, the plot is worse. There is like, nothing good here. DeLancie is downright wasted. Bad upon bad. Two out of five helmets.
Entertainment Value: I wanted to see this movie SO bad as a kid. It was promoted so much on Full Moon's videos. But it got delayed over and over, building suspense. I was young, it looked fun, it was oh my god, another reality?! And John DeLancie is awesome!! I remember having enough fun when I saw it, when it finally came out. But now, I see all the flaws. And they are many. But there's nothing so terrible that it is downright entertaining. The best stuff about the movie is the CGI, and that is awful. It is bland, and lifeless, and not even weird. This movie fails. It is worth seeing just to see what the early 1990s wanted to do with virtual reality, and the graphics of the time. But otherwise, steer clear. Two out of five escape buttons.