Written by guest contributor Brian Roe
“I’ve always wanted to meddle with powers I can’t possibly understand.” - AVGN
This quote seems to encapsulate not only Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie but its creator’s career path so far. James Rolfe, who created The Nerd in a 2004 video-review of Castlevania II, has always seemed eager to jump into filmmaking feet first and has never let his lack of budget, time, or craft keep him from cranking out whatever the hell he feels compelled to create. This obsessive drive, combined with his ability to recognize his own creative failings, goes a long way towards forgiving any obvious glitches in his projects.
Rolfe began making short films and videos at a young age and unlike most kids with the same hobby, he dug in and kept cranking them out. His most succesful character, the Angry Video Game Nerd gained his impressive following by reviewing out of date video games on platforms such as Atari 2600, Nintendo, Super NES, etc. His foul mouthed tirades against flaws in the game could sometimes reach the level of free-form poetry but he also carefully deconstructed the game itself in an attempt at understanding it instead of just blowing off the whole thing with a “This sucks!” mentality. Sure, he pointed out that a lot of these games really did suck but he at least took the time to determine why. Many of the videos contained costumed characters, special effects, and even continuing story-lines and it seems like these were an overall training run for AVGN:TM.
The story starts with the titular Nerd living life as a pseudo-celebrity and working at Game Cop, a doppleganger of video game store Game Stop. Although he is loved and appreciated by his gamer fans he also feels great pressure to review Eee Tee, a legendarily awful game that was apparently the cause of the Video Game Collapse of 1983. But deep emotional scarring caused by his childhood playing of Eee Tee has left the Nerd with the deep seated belief that the game is horrible and should be completely forgotten instead of being “rediscovered” by a generation of ironic gamers.
Eventually pushed by his sidekick/apprentice Cooper (Jeremy Suarez) and funded by a game company set on releasing Eee Tee 2, The Nerd embarks on a pilgrimage of sorts to find the mythological dumping ground full of Eee Tee game cartridges and prove to the world that no such place exists and that the games are gone forever. They are joined by super-spunky gamer girl Mandi (Sarah Glendening), who is working for the company producing the new version of the game.
Rolfe raised the budget for his first feature film of $325,000 via internet crowdfunding and spent eight years developing, filming, and finalizing the movie. But the film doesn’t feel disjointed due to the time taken and remains at least visually coherent for the whole film. The visuals are fun and consist of a mix of low budget practical effects and digital effects. Fans of the AVGN videos will appreciate the explosions and other digital effects and they work well with the practical effects since neither are taken too seriously.
To say that there are flaws in AVGN:TM is an understatement but it’s also entirely missing the point of the film and the intent of the filmmaker. There is little about the movie that feels egotistical or self-important. Not that it’s lazy, it rarely is, it’s just that it feels exactly like what it is, the product of someone with a huge imagination, the spirit to try anything, and a vast legion of generous fans who were willing to pony up some dough so that someone that they enjoy watching could try something far more ambitious than he could do on his own. And it manages to be funny far more than it’s not while keeping a viewer’s attention with one clever visual gag after another.
It’s a great movie for AVGN fans, a good movie for anyone wanting to make their own movies, and possibly an impenetrable one for anyone wanting something slick and flawless. But those people would never get the jokes in the first place.
Director: Kevin Finn, James D. Rolfe Studio: Cinnemassacre Productions Runtime: 115 minutes