Fan films, from the aspect of being a movie critic, are quite difficult to review. Whereas with larger budgeted theatrical releases, there is some semblance of a divide between quality “good” films and poorly made “bad” ones, this sub-culture of movie making refuses to adhere to anything of the sort. Typically underfinanced and made with less attention to appealing to the mass major majority, but more targeted at a niche group of individuals, it becomes quite difficult to discern whether or not the movie hits its mark and serves its purpose in achieving its goal.
The particular film I’ve chosen to view this week is based on a video game that holds a special place in my heart. While I originally missed out on the debut of the series, I remember my first time popping the cartridge of the sequel into my NES system and selecting Woodman to be my first opponent. It took me almost two hours to finally make my way through his lair and destroy him, a moment I will never forget. That game was Mega Man.
Truly a legend in his own right, it was only a matter of time before this iconic hero became the subject of a motion picture. While Hollywood never got around to backing it, a liberal sense of control over the intellectual properties at Capcom allowed for an aspiring fan boy/filmmaker to sweep in and create this gem of a film. Eddie Lebron was that man. Writing, directing, co-producing and editing the movie, Lebron combined his love for the material and a passion for filmmaking and created this marvel of a movie.
Now, don’t get me wrong, the film is full of glaring, in your face flaws, but its what the filmmaker set out to – and eventually does – achieve in his work that makes for the overall successful of the film, a work of magic that will fill in the minds and hearts of anyone who has ever enjoyed 8-bit Mega Man’s awesomeness with glee.
The actors and their portrayals, on the other hand, are a mixed bag. On one hand you’ve got the likes of Edward X. Young (Dr. Light), Jun Naito (Rock/Mega Man) and Sung-Mo Cho (Blues/Proto Man) who are all exemplary in their roles, with the standout of the three being Young. Capturing the essence of Light with a fully developed character full of sensibilities, every scene he’s in conveys who he is – a man who has sacrificed his life to science for the greater of mankind. You can almost feel his pain as he lives a life devoid of human interactions.
Rock and Blues, too, shine in their portrayals of robots with human emotions. While Naito’s Rock demonstrates the struggle of non-human creation trying to contend with a semblance human emotions and a need for purpose, Cho’s Blues adds a touch of mystery to the movie, giving just to tease the audience but never dropping the bomb as to his motives until an opportune moment towards the close of the film. These three performances are exactly what the doctor ordered when it comes to brining the 8-bit sprites to life.
Sadly, that is where the buck stops. Dave Maulbeck’s showing might be one of the most annoying performances I’ve seen in a film for quite some time, with his irritating depiction of Dr. Wiley. His appearance is despicable and his voice is more bothersome than Star Wars’ Jar Jar Binks after a heavy dosage of helium inhalation. Knowing what embodied Wiley in the game, the effort is not completely vain and I see what was trying to be accomplished, however, what results is far from tolerable by any of the human senses. Jeanie Tse’s depiction of Rock’s “sister,” appropriately named Roll, is not quite as bad, but you wouldn’t hear me calling her enjoyable either. The way the movie kept cutting back to her overexcitement towards everything – including life itself - kept me from fully investing myself into some of the other aspects of what was transpiring onscreen.
…and don’t even get me started on the actors playing Fire Man, Ice Man and Elec Man. As the three villainous robots played by humans, they failed miserable. Even with the horrendous renderings that created the rest of the “bad guy” ensemble, I’d have opted for the CG and synthesized voices over the horrible acting and overall cheesiness.
The special effects, too, leave you wanting more. As I mentioned before, half of the villains are CGI rendered and even with the suspension of belief that the movie warrants, it’s somewhat disappointing how completely unbelievable they are. Video game films, while heavily fantastical, need to create world in which you can accept certain things that exist within them are real, but with their rudimentary look and movements, it becomes hard at times for the flick to sell you on the battle sequences.
Despite all that, this movie is truly a gem. What can be immediately appreciated about this film are its subtleties and its attention to detail. Lebron, managed to take the barebones story from an ancient Nintendo game - which was essentially a simple premise to get the player into the game, fighting against opponents with random special powers - and turn it into a fully realized plot, complete with elements of envy, distrust, deceit, betrayal and of course, human/robot emotion. They managed to squeeze all the characters into the film, including some I’d have never expected to make the cut, and make it work out true to both the source material and a perceived reality. The script of the film receives the highest of marks in all categories for setting the stage for a live action, real world Mega Man.
When its all said and done, Mega Man should stand well for anybody who is a fan of the series and/or has ever imagined seeing their superhero come to life onscreen. While it is nowhere near the perfect film, what it does is engage the geek in its audience and make its faults easily forgivable. It seemed quite the daunting task to tackle a project like this, especially for the type of budget the production had behind it, and I truly comment the filmmaker for accomplishing this.
While its not making headlines, Mega Man is easily findable for those wanting to watch it. If you can remember the original cry for our hero to “Fight Mega Man! For Everlasting Peace,” I suggest you take a moment to find it and give it a go. The bit of 80s nostalgia it’ll conjure will prove well worth your efforts.
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