Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Cinema File #135: "Noobz" Review

Oh how I'm trying to resist going on a rant about what I hate about the state of modern gaming. After my Atlas Shrugged Part 2 review devolved into a general screed against the author of the novel that inspired it and I forgot to actually mention the film until the last paragraph, I swore I'd try to stay a little more focused from now on in these things. Even so, this Noobz movie, in addition to being just absolutely terrible, highlights everything I've grown to loathe about videogames and the so-called geek culture surrounding them. You know what, fuck it, I can do both, but in case I get off track, remember, apart from any other point I might make, this movie really sucks too.

You see, despite the fact that I play videogames pretty much every day, I am still considered to be what many would call a Casual Gamer, because I do not play the sorts of mind numbingly shitty games you have to play to be considered a Hardcore Gamer. I like Platformers, Puzzle Games, and Lighthearted Adventure, the kind of games the much maligned Nintendo Wii is most well known for, and I can't stand shooters, MMOs, and anything that can only be enjoyed via online multiplayer capability. More than just personal taste, I don't like the company you have to keep to play those kinds of games, the kind of mindless jocky attitude of the Halo set that treated videogames like shit until it gave them an outlet for their latent asshole sadism.

Online multiplayer has completely ruined the videogame industry for people like me who have an appreciation for what is now somewhat derisively considered retro gaming. Unable to embrace a rabid competitive impulse, I could never play sports as a kid, so after all the jerks who did made fun of me, I went home and played videogames. Then, the jerks followed me home. It started with fighting games like Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter, games tailor made for assholes to feel better about themselves by destroying their real life opponents. Now, the assholes reign supreme, pushing the industry into making the kind of games I like more and more rare to make room for the glut of cookie cutter crap that appeals to idiots with no appreciation of the medium. My escape has been stolen from me by the very people I was in need of escape from!

And don't get me started on this "geek culture" bullshit. Geek hasn't gone mainstream, no matter how esoteric the Marvel Cinematic Universe gets, its just been another concept stolen by assholes. Being a geek isn't about appreciating something that has a niche fanbase, but rather the degree to which a person devotes their time and effort to appreciating it. Just because everybody likes JJ Abrams' Star Trek and The Avengers now doesn't mean everyone's a geek, it just means that those properties have been dumbed down into a format that regular people who don't like to think that hard can invest their vapid intellects into them. Geeks are the ones who actually put in the time and work to read and watch the shit, not just once or twice, but over and over again, obsessing over the minutia of plot and continuity in order to become an expert at something for which there is no real practical need for such expertise. That's not to say that one must be a geek to be a valid fan of something, but not every fan is a geek just because the subject matter in question is something that some people are prone to geek out over.

So what does any of this have to do with Noobz? Well, this movie centers around a bunch of these hyper competitive assholes, the kinds of people so full of themselves that they actually argue without irony that gaming should be considered a sport (as my head explodes with rage over the notion that being a sport is the benchmark of credibility), on their way to an official online gaming tournament. Whenever anyone tries to make a movie centered around a very specific segment of the aforementioned so-called geek culture, the results are usually condescending if not outright insulting to people who actually do belong to that cultural group. I don't know if thick headed douche bag gamers will be insulted by this or not, but as a traditionalist, I can't bring myself to see any of these characters as sympathetic enough to follow them as main protagonists. That being said, I strongly suspect that neither will the people this movie is supposed to appeal to.

Fuck it, here's the Nome King again, that's how little I care about this movie.

Even if I did see something of myself in these characters sufficient to care about them, Noobz seems to go out of its way to make them as uninteresting as possible to deflect any unwanted engagement with the story. I'm an unabashed Kevin Smith fan and have always liked Jason Mewes, but even he can't save this limp, boring mess, no matter how hard he tries to liven things up with what comes across as a lot of extemporaneous improv. The four main characters, save the surprisingly somewhat straitlaced Mewes, have one quality from which all the jokes around them hinge, ranging from shrug inducing, to groan inducing, to outright offensive. The protagonist is directionless and bitter, another one is a closeted homosexual, and another is sickly and drags an oxygen tank with him wherever he goes. That's it, that's all you ever need to know about these characters throughout the entire movie.

The only character who seemed to have any potential to be funny was Armagregan, an oldschool arcade obsessed millionaire played by Napoleon Dynamite's John Gries, but every time it seems like something funny is about to be paid off, it just fizzles. His character is an obvious parody of Billy Mitchell, the mullet-clad antagonist of the documentary The King Of Kong: A Fistfull Of Quarters, and his introduction in the film suggests that he would have a similarly villainous role, but then he quickly becomes an ally to the group in a way that leaves no real antagonist for the movie at all. The last round of the competition ultimately comes down to two teams of good guys (something that isn't a spoiler considering how obviously it is telegraphed), and with the exception of one quick scene in a strip club parking lot, there are really no obstacles for the main characters whatsoever.

With the exception of the occasionally funny Jason Mewes ad-lib, Noobz is so soul crushingly devoid of entertainment that even if I wasn't predisposed to hating it due to my own biases, I would still be incensed by its presumption that any of this shit was funny enough to justify me sitting and watching it for 90 minutes. Nothing is accomplished, unless you count the massive and I would guess ultimately counter-productive product placement for Gears of War 3, and even the little bit of goodwill found in a romantic subplot is completely subverted in a "Where are they now" credits joke. This movie is so bad, I feel bad for Casper Van Dien for putting in an extended cameo. Do you understand that? Casper van Dien is too good for this movie!

Do not see Noobz. It is the death of comedy, and even if it wasn't, it glorifies the kind of gaming that is ruining gaming, so if you care at all about that, please, stay the fuck away from this thing.

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