The video game industry rakes in billions and billions of dollars, but it seems like Hollywood hasn’t really exploited it properly. Sure, we’ve seen a bunch of video game adaptations, but not only are they uniformly bad, they’re sort of missing the point. There’s this huge subculture of gamers whose pockets seemed to be stuffed with disposable income and they haven’t seen a movie about themselves in years. Think about it – The Last Starfighter and The Wizard are among the only movies ever really made about video game players, and many current gamers are younger than both of them.
Pandering to this demographic seems inevitable at some point, and if Hollywood’s going to do it, they should do it right. Sort of like n00bz, a script by Nick Creature and Michael J Sweeney.
CHUD’s not usually in the script reviewing business, but every now and again something comes across my inbox that’s worth writing about (or that I know you want to read about – V For Vendetta hopefully coming soon!). A couple of weeks ago I wrote a little rant about Fanboys, a script about a bunch of nerds who try to steal Episode I from the Skywalker Ranch before it’s released so that their dying friend can see it. Two things came of this – I was sent the script to Fanboys and then a couple of days later someone else sent me the script to n00bz.
n00bz is right now where Fanboys was a couple of years ago – it’s being shopped around town (that’s Hollywood town, to be specific) and getting lots of interest. What sets n00bz apart from Fanboys, though, is that it’s well written. Fanboys is just as bad as I imagined. I will probably write a full review of that soon, but it’s just sub-Kevin Smith nonsense crammed into a dopey and obvious story. And it’s referential to the point of Oroburous-like tail eating.
To be fair, n00bz is a little inside baseball at times. I’m a casual gamer, so I know a little bit about the world of video games, but there are some things that I think flew past me. But the script isn’t dependent on that stuff. In fact, it feels a lot like a vintage 1980s comedy-adventure film, built around solid, likable characters getting into situations that escalate more and more into danger and fun.
The plot has the four members of an online gaming clan (they play a game something like Halo, which presents some fun visual possibilities, especially in an opening battle scene) meeting for the first time at a massive video game convention in Vegas. There’s Deadbolt, a guy in his 30s who works a crummy job but hopes to one day design games; Nitrous Roxyde, a tattooed tough guy; Shroodgurl-180, a student who is writing a thesis on gaming culture; and the mysterious ass-kicking Dark Messiah – I don’t think I’m giving too much away when I tell you he turns out to be a little kid.
Deadbolt is hoping to meet the Japanese creator of the game his group plays, After-Lyfe, so he can show him a game he’s designed. It turns out that the creator, Mizogoto, is dealing with problems in the form of rival game developer Molynex. As is the way with films like this, Molynex wants Mizogoto’s game designs, and he represents the cold, greedy segment of the video game world, exploiting gamers, while Mizogoto is the guy who loves the players and wants to craft the best experience for them. If you guessed that our heroes come to Mizogoto’s rescue as things get perilous, you’ve probably seen a movie before. But it isn’t the bare bones of the plot that makes the script work, rather it’s the way that Creature and Sweeney bring their characters to life and imbue everything with a sense of fun.
It’s been too long since Hollywood made a fun movie. National Treasure was sort of a step in that direction away from endless car chases, shoot-outs and explosions, and audiences ate it up. I kept being reminded of the great 80s film Cloak & Dagger (not about the drug-induced superheroes) when reading n00bz - it’s a solid PG-13 blast.
Kung fu, Asian gangsters, multiplayer shoot-em-ups and wildly unlikely vehicular mayhem at a convention – n00bz has all of that, plus a treatment of gamers that doesn’t feel condescending or smarmy. If there’s justice in the world, Fanboys will flounder in pre-production and n00bz will eventually find itself on UMD. How perfect would that be?