Starring: Jonathan Blow, Phil Fish, Edmund McCillen and Tommy Refenes
Review By: Michael Dalton
Indie Game: The Movie is a revealing, relatable, fascinating and inspirational piece of filmmaking. This is a film, which can appeal to anybody who has undergone any form of artistic process and anybody who has simply faced hardships and obstacles in life. While this film may not be the technically driven instruction manual that some may have wished or been expecting, it contains a universal emotional depth, that means if seen by a mass audience, it will have mass appeal. Video games are commonly looked down on and simplified, even demonized, by the mainstream media. However when you finish watching Indie Game: The Movie, you’ll believe that video games are art (I’m looking at you, Roger Ebert)
Funded through Kickstarter donations, Indie Game: The Movie touches on themes and ideas that transcend its initial scope, with emotional scenes in the latter half of the movie showcasing both the brutality and beauty of the internet. The film in fact ends with a title card stating, “This film was made thanks to the kind people of the internet” In a summer where we have all been inspired by Olympians, Indie Game: The Movie has a similar inspirational spirit to it. Whatever it is you want to achieve in life, professionally, artistically or personally, you can find inspiration in the actions of these game developers. This is very much an underdog story and you will find yourself reacting to scenes in the latter half of this movie, the same way you would react during the climatic match of a really good sports movie…except here it’s real.
It’s needless to say that if you’re a fan of games, this is a must see film. However in this review I want to stress why everybody, gamer or non-gamer, should see this movie. In fact it is the gamers who may potentially find more fault with this film than a mainstream audience. While I called myself a “gamer” in this review’s opening sentence, I had never heard of Super Meat Boy or Fez before watching this film. Further research into the film has shown that some in the gaming community have had issues with this film’s portrayal of a particular gaming personality. It is also the case that what makes this film transcend its origins and have the potential to touch a mass audience, is the exact reason why some in the gaming community may dismiss this film.
This is a character (Or more accurately, person) driven, rather than a game driven film. This isn’t a step-by-step guide to production of a video game but rather a film about the psychical and psychological struggles of making a game independently. Some may be disappointed about the lack of technical depth, however I see it as a necessary sacrifice and something that makes this film so much more powerful and potentially profound than it would have been, had it simply aimed itself at budding game designers and nobody else. If you still want to make a video game independently after watching this film, you will.
Some minor flaws that I had with the film rested primarily in its editing. In some moments it seemed as if the three, “stories” didn’t quite flow or connect as well they should, with some of the scenes regarding Braid seeming unconnected from what is happening with Super Meat Boy and Fez. I like the idea that they have one game still in development, one game that just gets finished and one game that was finished, therefore in a sense, covering all bases. However I don’t think this idea and this purpose behind selection was reflected as well as it could have been in the presentation. Also, having gotten used to unique and genre shaking documentaries such as Catfish, Exit Through the Giftshop and Senna, the talking head delivery of Indie Game: The Movie, at times feels a little stale.
The film however is very well shot, with clips from the games themselves being very well integrated. The film also has a great original score by Jim Guthrie. I also love the touch of them essentially advertising independent games during the credits and the fact that this film is flying the flag for independent games. Initially I found the film’s apparent bias towards independent developers to be rather problematic (In the sense that all references to mainstream games are negative and a counter-point is never provided) however the film gets you so on side with these developers that comes the film’s conclusion your glad that this bias and this film exists. I came to the realization that this was a film for independent game developers and I wished that there were an equivalent for independent filmmakers.
Ultimately Indie Game: The Movie (Not really a fan of that title) is (Albeit by default) the best documentary I have seen this year. It is a film that like all good documentaries on relatively obscure subjects eclipses its origins and presents palpable emotion. This is one of the year’s most revealing and inspirational films, I am rooting for it to get a Best Documentary nomination at the Oscars, not just to raise awareness for it but also for what it is attempting to raise awareness of. Whether you’re into games, films, both or neither, you will find something in this movie that will move you and that you can relate to. It’s officially, the best video game movie of all time…now, lets have Indie Movie: The Movie (Or alternatively a game that mocks the conventions of the independent film titled, Indie Movie: The Game)
By Movie Parliament Prime Minister,
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