Monsters at the Movies: Ralph Breaks the Internet

Grade: A-

by Nick Spake

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While Disney has a vast library of straight-to-video follow-ups, they’ve rarely delved into sequel territory on the big screen. Wreck-It Ralph paved the way for so many fun ideas and inventive characters, however, that its wonderful world couldn’t be contained to a single outing. Speaking with Story Monsters, Disney animator Michelle Robinson discussed the passion directors Phil Johnston and Rich Moore had going into this sequel. “We describe ourselves as a director-driven studio,” she stated, “and they really wanted to do it.” In the same vein as Incredibles 2, Ralph Breaks the Internet takes the foundation its predecessor laid down and builds upon it in a marvelous way. What we’re left with is a cornucopia of imagination with brilliant attention to detail packed into every frame. 

Where the original film was a love letter to video games, this sequel is a love letter to the whole digital world. John C. Reilly once again voices the lovable, not-so-bad guy, who is content with his day-to-day life as the villain of “Fix-It Felix Jr.” Meanwhile, Ralph’s BFF Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman) feels as if she’s going in circles as a “Sugar Rush” racer. Vanellope is stopped in her tracks when her game is unplugged, but Ralph believes the solution awaits in a brave new realm known as the Internet. Once the Wi-Fi is up and running, Ralph and Vanellope boldly venture where no arcade character has gone before. Along the way, they cross paths with a trendy algorithm named Yesss (Taraji P. Henson) and several shady figures with ties to the Dark Web. 

If you thought the OASIS in Ready Player One was an Easter egg haven, just wait until you feast your eyes on this film’s interpretation of the Internet. The animators have literally created a worldwide web where eBay is an auction house, viral videos put citizens on the fast-track to big bucks, and a search engine called KnowsMore (Alan Tudyk) can get users to their desired destination in no time. This is a film where you could pause the action at any moment and find a new visual gag. As such, this movie demands to be revisited at home after watching it once in the theater. While the Internet’s main hub is like a virtual version of Times Square, it’s just one of several vivid environments the filmmakers take us to. 

Vanellope finds a kindred spirit in a fellow racer named Shank (Gal Gadot), who lives a fast and furious lifestyle as the head honcho of “Slaughter Race,” a game that’s like a cartoony version of Mad Max: Fury Road. Our pint-sized heroine also makes an unlikely connection with several animated princesses upon venturing to Oh My Disney, which makes an actual Disney theme park look like a small-town carnival. Seeing all the Disney princesses together onscreen is perhaps the most astounding crossover since the Avengers first assembled. What’s even more astounding, though, is seeing Disney poke fun at some of their most recognizable mascots. 

Granted, Disney previously parodied their princess formula in Enchanted, but who thought we’d ever see Cinderella use her glass slipper as a weapon? While the sequence is wonderfully self-aware, it’s also clear that the writers have sincere affection for Disney’s legacy. It’s a clever spin on classic characters, demonstrating just how far the company has come in recent years. Apparently, it wasn’t hard convincing Disney to take a contemporary and satirical approach to Snow White, Ariel, and others. According to Robinson, “We had pitched this idea in the story screening and the executives saw it and they loved it.”

If there’s a downside to Ralph Breaks the Internet, it’s that there aren’t many new video game characters added to the mix. The film more than compensates, however, with characters from Star Wars, Marvel, and other properties under the Disney umbrella. For all the cameos it works in, the movie never loses sight of its heart or moral, leading to a poignant ending that isn’t conventionally happy, but sees genuine growth from our protagonists. In regards to the ending, Robinson says, “It needed to be a little bittersweet in order to honor both characters’ journeys.” One can only hope that Elsa and Anna experience a similar evolution in Frozen 2.  


Nick Spake has been working as a film critic for ten years, reviewing movies each month in Story Monsters Ink magazine and on his website.

Monsters at the Movies - Avengers: Infinity War

Reviewed by Nick Spake


When Iron Man hit theaters in 2008, audiences were given just a small dose of the phenomenon that would become the MCU. When Marvel brought six of its established heroes together for The Avengers, it seemed as if they had topped themselves and this universe couldn’t possibly become more ambitious. A couple years after that, we got Captain America: Civil War, which seemed like the Marvel movie to outdo all others. Turns out that directors Anthony and Joe Russo were actually holding out on us, as Avengers: Infinity War makes everything that came before look like a slight brawl. Bigger doesn’t always equal better, but in this case, going big pays off in marvelous ways.

In all the years I’ve worked as a critic, no film has left me breathless quite like Infinity War did. Even while typing this review, my nerves are still shot and my brain is still struggling to process everything that transpired on the silver screen. Walking out of the theater, you feel as if you just ran a marathon. Come to think of it, the MCU on the whole has been a marathon that’s spanned 10 years and almost 20 outings. What makes Infinity War all the more exhausting is that it’s not even the end of the MCU’s third phase. We still have two more movies until the fourth Avengers comes out in 2019. The good news is that Infinity War will leave you pumped to run for the home stretch … at least after taking a much-needed breather.

This movie not only assembles the Avengers, but pretty much every major MCU hero, from Spider-Man to Black Panther to the Guardians of the Galaxy. While there are a couple notable omissions, the filmmakers compensate for this with some of the best cameos of recent memory. The film additionally includes several dream team-ups with Iron Man brainstorming alongside Doctor Strange and Star-Lord getting jealous of Thor’s rugged good looks. Even less popular heroes like Scarlet Witch and Vision are given a lot more to chew on here. Although the story jumps around constantly and juggles countless characters, it never feels overstuffed or unbalanced. If anything, each subplot is given just the right amount of attention.

Of course the real star here is the villainous Thanos, played by an especially sinister Josh Brolin. Having briefly appeared in several movies already, no baddie has been built up like Thanos and Infinity War doesn’t disappoint with his grand arrival. Armed with a weapon known as the Infinity Gauntlet, Thanos sets out to find the remaining Infinity Stones. With the complete package, Thanos is capable of virtually anything, including wiping out half the population with a snap. No Marvel villain thus far can contend with Thanos on a physical level, but what’s truly refreshing is that the filmmakers don’t simply make him a power-hungry god. Thanos catches us off-guard with moments of vulnerability, particularly during his interactions with adopted daughter Gamora. That being said, the fact that Thanos has a little humanity in him arguably makes the atrocities he commits even more unspeakable.

In the same vein as Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back, Thanos evolves from being a cool-looking antagonist to a genuinely intimidating opponent with a complex mindset. Speaking of The Empire Strikes Back, this is by far the darkest and most unsettling MCU movie to date. Fortunately, this doesn’t come at the expense of this franchise’s trademark humor, as we get several hilarious interactions between our heroes. The film will have you laughing one second and dropping your jaw the next, but the tone somehow doesn’t feel all over the place. In other words, Justice League this is not.

Also like Empire, Infinity War takes chances with the universe it’s created, leaving us on a cliffhanger that’ll stick with the audience forever. Without delving into spoiler territory, the ending is bound to inspire heated conversations and theories. It’s hard to say if Marvel will be able to deliver a conclusion that’ll satisfy everyone going into the next Avengers movie. If they can pull it off, however, we may be in store for the finest double feature since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. For now, I can safely say that Infinity War is an exhilarating, devastating, hysterical, and challenging first half with enough stunning action sequences to sustain us for an entire summer. •

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