Videogame movies -- stating those two words back-to-back can make anyone cringe in fear. Hollywood has constantly butchered our favorite games time and time again when adapting them to the big screen. Even movies focused on games that never existed to begin with tend towards failure.
Press Start, on the other hand, is something completely unique. Written with the hardcore gaming nerd in mind, the film pays homage to FPS games, RPGs, fighters, puzzlers, rhythm games -- just about every type of game out there. From the moment Press Start starts up, you just know that the movie is going to be something special.
Read on to learn why I think that this is the best videogame movie ever made.
The movie starts off in 8-bit and 16-bit style fashion. Since the three main heroes each loosely represent a character from classic games such as Zelda, Metroid and Shinobi, each game scene shows the hero's in their respected game styles as the intro credits roll buy. After the credits finish, we're given a quick synopsis of the story so far:
In a world much like our own... except with magic and aliens and way more ninjas... war is beginning. The evil Count Nefarious Vile has seized power with his army of monsters, demons, and those flying things that always knock you into pits when you're trying to jump. Two brave rebels are sent on a desperate mission to defeat Vile, but first they must find a young hero who is said to be humanity's last hope...
As soon as the first scene starts up, you'll notice that this looks like a home movie, and in a way it kind of is; it was made with virtually no money and a lot of the work was done pro bono. But as the movie soldiers ever onward you'll pay less attention to the amateur cinematography in favor of the writing and humor.
For those not familiar with the film, here's a run-down: our hero Zack Nimbus lives with his Uncle Lou in a very videogame-esque reality. For example, if he wants to open up the bathroom door, he has to push a bookshelf in front of the door sensor on the other side of the room. Every time Zack kills an enemy, the Level Up deliveryman comes by to let Zack know what his latest skill level is at, complete with the accompanying level-up fanfare. Oh, and sex isn't called sex. It's called life.
And so Zack's epic quest begins with him having to pay off the "life" lady on behalf of Uncle Lou. Before the life lady can successfully convince Zack that he could use some bonus life, a scream in the distance is heard and Zack races to save the owner of the voice: a classic damsel in distress. Nearly beaten at the hands of the perpetrators, two members of the Resistance, Sam and Lin-Ku jump in and save him. Naturally, Sam and Lin-Ku reveal to Zack that it is his destiny to defeat Count Vile and save their world from evil. The three venture forth on the quest to find the three ancient treasures vital to their victory. The road is perilous, populated with tree monsters, Nazi demons trained by zombies, and the final boss himself, Count Nefarious Vile.
Press Start incorporates a number of nods to various gameplay genres in its action scenes. Those familiar with the trailer will recognize the 2D to 3D combat as well as some RPG gags, but the film has quite a few more tricks up its sleeve. Other references and sight-gags target the third-person adventure, FPS and survival horror genres -- there's even a training montage involving DDR, Duck Hunt, and Punch-Out.
The POV swaps here and there giving the viewer some perspective of the goings-on behind the film's antagonist, Vile. If you bothered watching some of the online skits, then you'll know that the Count isn't the brightest guy around -- quite the contrary. Peter A. Davis as Vile (in his first role, like just about everyone else in the film) does a fantastic job portraying the bumbling scoundrel, and ends up being one of the best reasons to see the film.
Despite its indie low-budget indie roots, the film comes packed with some great music with a legit pedigree. Jake Kaufman, who has previously scored games for Capcom, Vivendi and the upcoming Contra 4 lends his work to Press Start. Daniel and Carlos Pesina make a small cameo in the film as well -- you know them better as the guys who played as Johnny Cage, Raiden, Scorpion, Sub-Zero and Reptile in the original Mortal Kombat games. The roles are nothing major, but definitely the sort of nostalgic nod that the film is built upon.
But what really holds Press Start together is the script, written by Kevin Follard. The various jokes, gags, and references lifted from the games that inspired the film make a smooth transition to the screen and demonstrate Follard's verifiable geekiness; from poking fun at the RPG battle system, to trying to explain why shopkeeper is always the same person in every shop you visit, you can definitely tell that Kevin knows his shit.
It's a fantastic movie, one that I highly recommend picking it up. Throw enough cash at it, make it an indie sleeper hit and maybe Hollywood will understand that a little knowledge of gaming, its conventions and its history might add up to a better game-based film. Sure beats giving some jackass a ton of money to toss up a pile of shit, doesn't it?