Over twenty years ago, computer game programmes were sent off into outer space in a capsule, only to be discovered by aliens who took it as a message from Earth that they should prepare for combat.
Years later, the aliens have managed to create pixelated creatures using light energy. This time, the likes of Pacman are the villains, not the heroes, and these creatures are nearly indestructible. They can pixelate anything they come into contact with, threatening the Earth’s very existence, arcade game style.
Enter Brenner (Adam Sandler), the local technician who is recently divorced and can not be bothered to brush his teeth on most days. This would probably explain his potty-mouthed humour without which any Adam Sandler movie would feel empty.
In his childhood days, Brenner was an arcade game wunderkid who was able to master the old gaming patterns and use those controls to manoeuvre his way to the top. Fast forward twenty years and he is basically a deadbeat. But not for long; his master knowledge of these arcade games could mean that our planet’s hope lies in his hands.
Cooper (Kevin James) is the rather hated president of the United States. Being Brenner’s best friend and fellow 1980s gamer, he is Cooper’s foothold into the American intelligence force. Together, they use their tools and expertise in combat against the alien forces.
The whole idea, I think, is quite impressive. Yes, at first, the movie does lack a little novelty as it is slightly reminiscent of the Lego Movie. But unlike the Lego Movie, and since Pixels includes varieties of the old arcade games, it promotes the overall nostalgia of gaming, rather than intending to promote a certain product.
However, I do find some parts of the narrative, such as by Adam Sandler’s flatly depicted love interest, Violet (Michelle Monoghan) unnecessary. In fact, most if not all the female roles only manage to depict women as one-dimentional characters. I do think that women being depicted shallow is a typical trope in gaming but I think that this is 2015 and we are now aware of more advanced levels.
Though viewers from the age of 10 are advised to watch the film, I am not sure whether it is really aimed at an audience so young. Firstly because I am not sure whether this younger generation will be able to recognise or relate to many of these arcade characters and secondly, Adam Sandler’s humour is not the kind most people would like to rub off on their kids. However, the film does manage to provide a few good laughs here and there.
The director certainly taps expertly into the visual aspects of translating old school into new school. The old, low-resolution imagery is suggested in a beautiful, highly digitised, futuristic manner. When you are sitting in a dark, enclosed space, eyes fixed on the screen, witnessing digitised creatures hovering over panicking people to destroy and disintegrate things, it does create a surreal experience. There were moments where I was truly terrified of these pixelated beings zooming past my face to devour the buildings in front of me. These dazzling graphics, paired with the 3D effects really allow for the audience’s immersion into a different reality. What happens on screen merges well with the atmosphere of the cinema, turning it into the viewer’s reality. I would say, in this aspect, the film certainly achieves what it aims to do.