“it’s the world of gremlins and the goonies ”
dangerous, edgy, kind of loveable versions of these game characters,” Columbus says. “When my wife and I were dating in the ’ 80s, we played PacMan and Donkey Kong at bars. I didn’t play the upright arcade games, I played the tabletop games. So I knew those pretty well but I had to go back and revisit things like Centipede and Galaga and Breakout and Q* bert. Those games I had to relearn – which was great. I’d rather be researching videogames than Winston Churchill!”
Columbus also cites the prospect of doing something new visually as a big draw. “I watched the short and thought, ‘ I’ve never seen special effects like that.’ I hired my visual effects advisor, Matthew Butler after he created this short video of a giant Pac- Man eating through a school bus. What I was intrigued by was when Pac- Man ate through it, the school bus itself would be voxelised, and everything that came in contact with Pac- Man had this odd cube- like quality. In other words, it wasn’t your normal summer movie destruction. I thought, ‘ You really will be able to do something that just freaks out the audience.’
“I also liked the concept of seeing these kids, these four videogame champions who were at the top of the world in 1982, when they’ve grown up. One grows up to be President, but he’s the worst at videogames. The other kids, their lives are in turmoil. They’ve grown up to be losers.” Those losers are led by Sandler’s Sam Brenner – Pac- Man World Champion 1982; Microwave Dinner World Champion 2015. After the aliens invade, the military find themselves hopelessly outmatched and unable to adapt to the invaders’ fast- paced, game- mimicking attack patterns. Brenner and his nimblefingered childhood acquaintances are brought in and outfitted as the Arcaders to employ the skills that saw them top High Score boards 30 years earlier. Also part of the Arcader line- up are Brenner’s nemesis Eddie Plant ( Dinklage), conspiracy theorist Ludlow Lamonsoff ( Josh Gad), President of the United States Will Cooper ( Kevin James) and Michelle Monaghan’s DARPA weapon specialist Violet Van Patten, who develops cannons capable of destroying the light- based entities. Once again the action hinges on an event in 1982.
“Back in 1982, which is where we start the film, Sam and Eddie competed in the final of the World Videogame Championship playing Donkey Kong,” Columbus explains. “The outcome of that particular event wasn’t a good experience for Sam. So Sam’s really disliked and has an intense dislike for Eddie, which he’s held onto for all these years. So when they’re back together, there’s a good deal of conflict and anger and antagonism.”
It’s no coincidence that the pair compete over Nintendo’s beloved barrel- jumping arcade game with the egotistical, mulletsporting Eddie bearing a striking resemblance to 2007 documentary The King Of Kong’s Billy Mitchell. “It’s unlike any other performance by anyone I’ve ever seen,” Columbus enthuses. “It’s just a joy to watch on screen, because he takes this role to some crazy places. He’s been in prison for nine years at the start of the movie and he has some unique prison-
The attacking aliens are actually composed of voxels, not pixels… Will Q* bert out- act Adam Sandler?