Video game

Soapbox: Space Jam 2 is a video game cash-in that’s not quite right

Image: 2021 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All rights reserved.

Let’s put that aside: watching Space Jam: a new legacy it’s kind of like watching a timeshare presentation animated by all the cartoon and comic book characters you’ve ever known. It has the same bold “give us the money” feeling that Warner Bros. scrolls through its various intellectual properties in front of you as if they were showing you a catalog of things to buy, and while you can technically go when you want, you kind of feel like you should hold out for another hour, at least. In the end, you’ll feel like you’ve been getting publicity all the time, and your eyes will be covered with a thin film of Batman afterimage. It’s not good.

But this is a video game site, not a movie site, and I’m not here to tell you that Space Jam: A New Legacy is about as good to use two hours as it is to cook and eat. a Nike Air shoe, or swap the meta, fourth-wall-breaking humor of the original for uninspired, face-value references to cartoons you recognize in the hopes that will trigger your nostalgia. strong enough to make you think you are having fun. I’m not even going to tell you that the film attempts to take stock of the pervasive dystopia that comes from corporate media monopoly as do exactly what he criticizes.

Honestly, this list sums up about half an hour of the movie.
Honestly, this list sums up about half an hour of the movie. (Image: 2021 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All rights reserved.)

No, I’m here to tell you how Space Jam 2 is the latest movie to borrow from the multi-billion dollar gaming industry because games are the hot new thing, but it fails to really get the hang of what’s there. so great about video games, why people love them and how people make them.

Spoiler warning for some of the plot elements of Space Jam: A New Legacy.

The film begins with a child LeBron James, who will one day become a basketball player, being offered a Game Boy by his friend just before a basketball game. He plays Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle for about five minutes, his little child’s brain filling with dopamine and imaginary color representations of the game in black and green. But after losing the basketball game, his coach – apparently the kind of guy who likes to make kids feel guilty – slowly tells LeBron he has to “get his head in the game” if he is ever to win enough. money to support her single mother. .

James !  It was a gift!
James ! It was a gift! (Image: 2021 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All rights reserved.)

LeBron throws the Game Boy in the trash. It’s part of the quick and quick storytelling for the first 25 minutes, because the movie knows you want to see the fun cartoons, not the setup; nonetheless, it is painful to see if you are a fan of DMG. I can only hope another kid found it, as it sits right on top of the trash, above a relatively clean pizza box, and brought it home to treasure it correctly.

Fast forward to the present day, and LeBron has his own children. One of them, Dom (played by Cedric Joe), loves video games, and even makes them in his room. This is the moment I paused the movie and went to complain about my partner – who is a video game designer making his own game – because the portrayal of video game development is terribly silly, and I like a good rant.

LeBron Junior is playing his own game on a console.  It's impressive.  How did he get there?  Did he manage to get a dev kit in some way?  Tell us your secrets, Dom
LeBron Junior is playing his own game on a console. It’s impressive. How did he get there? Did he manage to get a dev kit in some way? Tell us your secrets, Dom (Image: 2021 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All rights reserved.)

Now, I readily admit that video game development doesn’t make for good viewing. It’s boring to watch, it’s slow, and a lot of it involves tweaking variable names and adding semicolons at the end of lines. Even the exciting stuff is only exciting when you know what’s going on, like 3D modeling, rigging or animation or basically anything that involves words like “eye bones” and “skin weight”. I don’t blame the filmmakers for wanting video game development to be sexy and interesting, which they certainly do in Space Jam 2.

But this kid – who’s between 8 and 14, I’m not good at guessing these things – is able to make a networked online game from scratch with a fully animated UI, detailed characters, and a crowd. Every single thing I just mentioned is enough to give any game developer a sweat, let alone try to do them ALL. And also be ten-ish. And also your dad, who is a basketball millionaire, thinks games are stupid.

Obviously, Dom James is a little-known Mozart of video game development, and one day he will be snapped up by Ubisoft. But for now, he has to play basketball to impress his father, who you think would be fed up with basketball all his life.

Silver denim jacket: fashion moment or style disaster?
Silver denim jacket: fashion moment or style disaster? (Image: 2021 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All rights reserved.)

Later in the plot, we meet the villain, Al G. Rhythm (Don Cheadle) – it’s not much of a spoiler, he’s very visibly villainous right off the bat – who is dressed as a living statue, and is something part between an evil computer and a total misunderstanding of what an algorithm is. He seems to exist as Warner Bros. ‘ guiding light, with all of their ideas coming from her algorithm-generated suggestions, which is one step ahead of generating all of their movie ideas by typing “what’s a great movie idea” into Google and seeing what the results tell them.

Apparently the algorithm thinks the biggest bang for Warner Bros. ‘ Buck is to turn LeBron James into a CGI version of himself and clone him, for… reasons? LeBron says it’s the dumbest idea he’s ever heard, which is both an overreaction (it’s not even an idea) and very true. His son, the young video game designer, asks: “is this a heuristic algorithm or a matrix variant?” which is supposed to make him sound smart, but is actually mostly technical buzzwords that don’t make sense.

Oh no my hands are cubes
Oh no my hands are cubes (Image: 2021 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All rights reserved.)

And that’s the main problem with Space Jam 2 when it comes to video games: it wants to reference them, but doesn’t enough understand them, beyond a superficial understanding of the words to use. I can forgive a lot for spoiling the boredom of video game design, but I actually wish I could do something with. The kid constantly talks about wanting to go to “E3 Game Design Camp”, but I wish he had focused more on video games or talked about it more knowingly.

At one point, the child gets upset because their gaming issues – although the on-screen representation is an operating system crash, not a gaming issue – and their character is deleted, which doesn’t This is not how crashes or problems work. I know, I know: being a cranky old man about inconsistent logic in a blockbuster movie is totally unnecessary and will only serve to increase my blood pressure and reduce my chances of dating someone from under 25, but still. I thought we left some silly hacker tropes in the mid-2000s! Most people know at least vaguely how video games and computers work these days!

In particular, children who watch this film who are interested in video games (which is presumably the target audience, despite a Clockwork Orange cameo later) have almost certainly been immersed enough in gaming culture to know that’s not how games work, and having a plot point hinges on something absurd … well, that’s a movie about cartoons, basketball, and evil AI, so the nonsense is kind of the flavor of the day here, but the inner logic should still be there.

Nonetheless, it’s exciting to finally see my career portrayed in movies to the point where I can complain about it. Marine biologists have had silly shark movies for decades; astrophysicists can complain about space films since the invention of space; and RIP to any historian who ever watched a movie before 1950. It’s taken ages to finally get video game portrayals on screen that aren’t just “someone playing Pac-Man in a room. arcade “or” the entirety of Tron “, and now we see entire movies based on game design and algorithms!

Points!!  it comes from video games
Points!! it comes from video games (Image: 2021 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All rights reserved.)

Granted, there are other movies and TV shows that do it better – Infinity train, Mythic Quest, Bandersnatch, and Russian doll, to name a few – but it’s still a far cry from how games were portrayed onscreen, and it might even influence a new generation of future game designers.

So, yes, I’m slightly irritated by the inaccuracies of the Space Jam 2 video game. I’m far from the only one. But secretly, I’m thrilled to join the ranks of people who know enough about one thing in particular to become that guy in the movies who laughs loudly when they get it wrong. It marks a more general trend: video games are becoming extremely mainstream, to the point that they no longer really need to be explained.

And that can only be a good thing, right?