If there ever was a film that captured the joyous essence of video games it was Wreck-It Ralph. Released in 2012, the Disney Pixar animation gathered a ton of video game references together in a fun and ironic narrative, focused for the first time on one of the most significant and massive cultural products in contemporary society, which at that time never found a proper space.
Wreck-It Ralph did a good job of undermining one of the many preconceptions that have always been aimed at video games, the notion that they're only reserved for teens locked in their room; for the first time making it something related to pop culture, showing how much games are now an important part of our daily life. In other words, it was time to talk about it without fear, but it also did more than that, as it enriched the whole plot with nods and references to the medium that the community really loved at the time.
If Wreck-It Ralph's impact was important in 2012, its sequel Ralph Breaks the Internet is preparing to make an encore, while pursuing different aims. With a great cast of actors that had already won hearts in the first film, this new entry is directed by Rich Moore and runs for almost two hours. It starts from a foundation much more solid than the first film, an element that - although undoubtedly constitutes its strength - slightly cracks the carefree soul that moved the threads of the previous work. But let's try to understand why.
The storyline that unfolds in Ralph Breaks the Internet is a direct continuation of 2012's film, and once again we're inside the arcade, where life proceeds with great serenity and made more interesting by the arrival of the Wi-Fi connection. Ralph and Vanellope are more friends than ever, in a relationship that is always on the border between a cute friendship and the more obsessive father-daughter bond. Between a Trapper beer and a sunrise to admire from behind the glass of the cabin in the arcade, the two are divided between their "work" as characters of video games and fun moments with friends, in what looks like a sweet, even familiar routine.
Vanellope doesn't love that life anymore, though, however perfect it may be. She's a lover of adventure and thrilling races, and so the hero of a racing game called Sugar Rush starts to tire of that life, something which good old Ralph tries to remedy. However, it happens that the Sugar Rush cabinet crashes and it's necessary to find a spare part before the owner of the arcade dismantles the device, putting at risk the lives of the characters in the game and, therefore, of Vanellope herself. This is how the duo sets off in the magical "www" world to find the missing part and save Sugar Rush.
There's a positive note that immediately emerged in Ralph Breaks the Internet compared to Wreck-It Ralph, which is a greater narrative coherence. Compared to 2012's film, which was mainly a long series of tributes to the world of video games held together by a rather simple plot, in Breaks the Internet the story is much more linear and better built, characterised by some decisive and deeper keys to interpretation than in the past. Even if our obsession with regards to all of the Internet things - starting with memes, kittens, and kids - is the focus here (spiced up with the usual ironic and subtle perspective typical in Pixar movies), Ralph Breaks the Internet digs deeper, where this interpretation of the contemporary world merges with more universal themes (and here's where the Disney side emerges once more), like friendship, the desire for freedom and emancipation, and the need to make an inner journey and grow up.
Ralph Breaks the Internet is undoubtedly a more mature film than the first, which never misses the opportunity to confront our weaknesses, whether it be the Internet or our interpersonal relationships, not without the necessary distance offered by the immateriality of the medium. However, even if the film is better-made than Wreck-It Ralph, it's likely to be a little less addictive. You know, too many smooth edges can get a little boring after a while, and although the film is well-paced, it's hard to ignore the way it was directed, precisely because, compared to the first film, it's trying to please everyone.
Being a sort of "glitch" in a cinematic genre that's not properly defined and still quite confusing, Wreck-It Ralph was more interesting than its sequel, and that's not because the film directed by Rich Moore doesn't live up to the previous one. It's probably because what the new film is exploring is a little less interesting than the narrative context of its predecessor, perhaps because we are all plugged into the Internet as part of our everyday lives. Although full of good feelings and solid writing, Ralph Breaks the Internet is missing the "experimental" and fearless nature that characterised the first film, making it - at least to our eyes - less interesting. Ralph Breaks the Internet is undoubtedly more refined than Wreck-It Ralph, but those who expect a replica of the 2012 film could be a little disappointed. Maybe this is because we expected a movie that, in some respects, didn't take itself too seriously. Our fault.