Review Date: 4/5/05
Written, Directed, And Edited By: Robert Rodriguez
Cast: Daryl Sabara, Ricardo Montalban, Sylvester Stallone, Alexa Vega, Salma Hayek, Courtney Jines, cameos by Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino, Alan Cumming, Tony Shalhoub, Danny Trejo, Cheech Marin, Steve Buscemi, Bill Paxton, George Clooney, Elijah Wood
A non-stop digital thrill ride as Robert Rodriguez puts Carmen and Juni Cortez into a virtual reality video game. Having retired from the OSS, Juni (Daryl Sabara) has become a private eye and is saving up money to buy the most important online video game ever made, "Game Over." Little does he know that the game is actually a trap developed by the infamous cyber-criminal, the Toymaker (campy Sylvester Stallone). When Carmen's (Alexa Vega) consciousness gets trapped inside of the game, the OSS call Juni in to save her. He also gets to take someone with him, so he chooses his grandfather (regal Ricardo Montalban). Inside the game, Juni meets up with some beta testers as well as the utterly adorable video warrior Demetra (super cute Courtney Jines), and together they progress through the game looking for Carmen and the elusive "unwin-able" fifth level. Grandpa also has a score to settle with the Toymaker, and a glorious boss battle takes place in the streets of Austin.
Theatrically released in 3-D, the DVD also comes with a regular 2-D version, which is what I watched. I've seen enough 3-D films to know that they give me a headache and that the 3-D effects aren't that interesting. The nice thing about the 2-D version is that it's super crisp, and everything is in sharp focus. While in reality this can look somewhat distracting, in the video game landscape it makes perfect sense. Shot almost entirely on a tiny green screen set, Rodriguez has created a masterpiece of virtual filmmaking. Most of the actors were shot individually and seamlessly composited together, and wheelchair-bound Ricardo Montalban even creates the illusion of walking. Very, very impressive. The other visual effects are equally astounding, especially considering the budget of the film. Rodriguez is a master at getting the most out of his crew and resources, and is a truly inspiring artist. Story-wise, there's not much going on, and the film exists primarily as brightly colored adrenaline pumping eye candy. The overall theme of family seems a bit overwrought this time around, but it still hits home. Ricardo Montalban and Sylvester Stallone are wonderful adversaries, and Stallone hams it up to the limit. Unfortunately, the weakest link is that the film belongs almost entirely to Daryl Sabara, as Alexa Vega doesn't even show up until the final reel, and the rest of the cast only appears for the grand finale. It spoils the balance of the picture a bit, and gives it a more juvenile tone than the previous installments. It's still lots of fun, though, and definitely recommended viewing for anyone who appreciates the vivid imagination of youth.