Editor’s Note: Who knew there was so much philosophical subtext in this film?
Now hold on there cowboy, I know you’re in a tizzy over how I’m not saying your Dark Knight or your Pokemon or your Titanic is the best movie ever, but hear me out. While those certainly are good movies, it’s not their fault that they are nowhere near the level of The Wizard. It’s a movie I’m sure you’re all aware of – the coming of age story of a kid who wants one thing more than anything else in the world – California. But watch out Suntan McBadass, this kid has some GAME! I mean, he got 50,000 on Double Dragon! That’s pretty legit. But what I bet you don’t know is that this cinematic masterpiece is filled to the brim with deep symbolism and thought-provoking themes. You see, this is all wrapped up into a children’s movie about Nintendo. The unexpected magnitude of brilliance this film has is what makes it the greatest film- no, the greatest work of epic fiction that has ever been manufactured by a human mind. Watch out Shakespeare, here comes a new challenger!
Now let’s start with an analysis of this fine film. In the opening scene, we see Jimmy, our epic hero and Wizard. He is seen walking on an open dirt road, going down in a straight line. He is soon stopped by a police officer who we find out has been searching for him. As it turns out, Jimmy has run away from home and is trying to get to California. The sheriff then tells Jimmy that “we all want to go to California.” This implies that California is a highly sought-after commodity, but there’s a deeper meaning to it. This road is obviously symbolic for the Road of Life, and California is Nirvana. Jimmy’s walk symbolizes all of us, and how we are all trying to reach our ultimate potential. The sheriff even acknowledges this! However, he also symbolizes society. He symbolizes how society will do its best to hold us back, and how society frowns upon a person trying to reach true happiness instead of conforming. This is further seen by the sheriff forcing Jimmy back home, and further reinforced by Jimmy being placed into a home for mentally ill children.
Moving on, we learn of Fred Savage, who transcends all boundaries of film and space. For this reason, I will refer to him as his real name rather than his character’s name, Corey. Fred Savage hatches a plan to free his brother from his home and take him to California. This is where a revelation in the film is made: Fred Savage represents hope. This should be obvious. We see Fred Savage helping Jimmy achieve his ultimate goal, so we know that despite society trying to keep us down, the film wants everyone to know there will always be someone to give you hope, and they will always be there to help you reach Nirvana. Unfortunately, Fred Savage’s plans are not unnoticed, and we meet our sinister villain. He is a man who catches run-away kids and brings them back home for money. His name is Putnam. Once again, we see a symbol of society trying to keep the poor man down. However, there is a key difference between Putnam and the sheriff. Putnam dresses well, has a nice car, and, overall is implied to be very wealthy. Obvious connection manifests itself. Putnam’s true symbolic identity is that of the vanity of conformity. Putnam portrays the idea that conformity will grant you anything you could want in life. Putnam pursues the run-away boys.
We then quickly learn of opposing factions in Jimmy’s recovery. We have Nick and Sam, Fred Savage’s brother and father, respectively. They go out and oppose Putnam’s search. This will be the cause of much tension later in the film. Although, this does bring up a thought-provoking detail: it is true they oppose Putnam, but they work for the same goal. What does this make them, good or evil? I will answer this question later, as it would reveal spoilers. However, I will go in a bit of detail about their travel. They once stop open at a hotel to rest for the night, where Nick hooks up a Nintendo Entertainment System to the television. An earlier scene reveals that he personally fixed the machine after it had been assumed broken. He then plays Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a classic. His father seems upset at first, but then we are shown a shocking parallel to one of the best known philosophical situations ever created: Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. For those who don’t know, in this theoretical situation, there are prisoners chained facing a wall. They perceive reality as one thing only: the shadows that are projected by the people walking behind them. But then, one of those prisoners is set free. This man now gets to see the world as it truly is. However, when he tries to go back and tell his fellow prisoners, they are confused and frightened by the man that was once their friend. This is because they cannot perceive that which they cannot comprehend. All they know are the shadows, so they do not understand what reality truly is. This is similar to what we see in the hotel room because once Nick wakes up the following morning, he discovers his father is now playing the game and has proceeded very far into the game – getting past level 3 AND getting the scroll weapon. Sam has discovered this grand new world of video games, but Nick, being accustomed, cannot understand his father’s excitement.
Meanwhile, we go back to Jimmy and Fred Savage, who are now at a bus stop. Jimmy plays some Double Dragon, and achieves the mythical score of 50,000. Upon discovery of this skill, Fred Savage is shocked. They then meet Haley, who does not believe Jimmy’s skills are legitimate. She learns first hand that Jimmy does indeed have this skill, losing her own bus ticket. Haley soon agrees to accompany Fred Savage and Jimmy, and informs them of a grand gladiatorial tournament of video game prowess known as Video Armageddon. They set out to make this their ultimate goal, as it coincides with Jimmy’s desire to reach California. From here, they are forced through a gauntlet of trials and tribulations, including countless thefts and unsavory people. One of those people is Lucas Barton, who is also a wizard. In fact, his skill has ascended so high that he has mastered ALL 97 NES games. A true display of talent. He then displays the source of his power, the Power Glove, a weapon of gaming that can only be described by one phrase: “it’s so bad”.
Once again, we will refer back to Putnam, Sam, and Nick. They are all on the road trying to find Jimmy, all on his trail. Putnam and Sam often get into heated battles when they encounter each other, leading to Sam’s car breaking down and even getting towed and scrapped. This has obvious symbolism in how conformity will beat down and break anyone who does not follow the same ideals. On the other hand, Putnam’s car sustains serious physical damage, ruining its once beautiful appearance. Here we have an example of how vanity does not last, and it will always reveal the ugly underneath. This is once again reinforced by Putnam’s increasing negative attitude as he encounters Sam and Nick. Though he once appeared as calm and collected, he now shows signs of distress and shows his true, bitter colors. Truly a deep message for an otherwise light-hearted movie.
We once again go back to Fred Savage, Jimmy, and Haley. During their trials, we also get insight into Jimmy’s past. He once had a twin, who tragically drowned in a river, leaving Jimmy scarred. Throughout the movie, we see Jimmy carrying a lunchbox that he seems to refuse to open. However, during an encounter with some bullies, we find out that inside the lunchbox are mementos Jimmy collected from his sister. Fred Savage gets upset that his brother has not gotten any better, which reveals a dark side. We see that Fred Savage is concerned for the well-being of his brother, but doesn’t know how to handle it. It was his belief that the video games would help his brother, but he knows he was wrong. Haley is quick to snap both of our heroes out of this, showing a caring and motherly side of her.
The trio arrive in Reno, one stop before the ultimate goal of L.A.. They begin to gather money in any way possible, as well as training Jimmy in the video arcade to prep him for the challenge that awaits him. We now see a glamorous city and the children all wrapped up in it. I’m sure you can see the obvious symbolism, but I must point it out: here we see how easily we, as mortal humans, can get drunk on the excitement and flashiness of a grand, new place. Our heroes soon forget all of their troubles, and melt away into the world. However, this drunken romp is interrupted when we learn of Haley’s living condition. She promises she lives in a large, grand home but we learn she actually spends her days in a trailer with a father who works all day. This leads Haley to learning how to fend for herself. We also learn of her mother’s gambling problem, which leads Haley to realize the dangers of gambling. This draws an obvious connection to how we must all be aware of our own morality: memento mori. Haley is shown to be a liar, but we learn she truly does intend to better herself. She admits she is using Fred Savage and Jimmy, but only so she can get a cut of the prize money and help her father purchase a new house to start new lives in. Our heroes then get a quick snap to reality when Jimmy is captured by Putnam. This is a clear match to a common theme in literature: the fall of innocence. Jimmy, at this point, may have been corrupted by the cruel embrace of death, but he still manages to retain his childlike charm. This is largely taken from him when he is kidnapped, but we luckily find yet another example of friends helping you when you need it. Haley contacts some of her trucker friends to rescue Jimmy. The day is saved, and we proceed to Video Armageddon.
Fred Savage and gang arrive in L.A., which already spells trouble. Putnam is aware of the heroes’ goal, and contacts Jimmy’s mother and step-father. Sam and Nick also learn of Jimmy’s whereabouts, so the stage is set for our final confrontation. The forces of good and evil are preparing to clash. Jimmy enters Video Armageddon, learning that the preliminary game is Ninja Gaiden. This draws an interesting note to the movie itself: like ninjas, the three heroes have managed to avoid the people who sought them very well. Moving on, we learn that Putnam himself has arrived at Video Armageddon, and Lucas, being the villain he is, reveals Jimmy’s location. What ensues as a chase that shows the nature of the eternal struggle of Good vs. Evil. Putnam chases the children down and nearly catches them on several accounts, but he is stopped by Sam and Nick. Here we learn the true nature of their search: love. We find out that Putnam can never win in his quest, because he cannot understand how to love. Fred Savage, Jimmy, and Haley face many obstacles on this path, including a giant mechanical King Kong, symbolizing the frightful nature of a "Hero’s Journey." They must always face evil, and they must always face evil with bravery.
In a joyous spectacle of celebrative glory, Jimmy triumphantly makes it to the final round of the championship. The game is revealed to be the all new: Super Mario Bro.3. How will Jimmy overcome a challenge he has never faced? He seems to progress with ease, until he falters. This symbolizes every hero’s darkest fear of failure. However, we once again see the triumph of a brave soul as Jimmy discovers the Warp Zone and rockets to first place, winning the prize. We see that good once again claims victory from evil, earning our trio a happy ending.
As they drive home, however, we see that Jimmy becomes anxious upon seeing some famous landmarks. He runs up to them, and places his lunchbox inside of the dinosaur’s bowels. He is asked if the photo depicting the once happy family is “California.” Jimmy responds with yes. Here, the audience’s mind is blown as the film makes the shocking reveal that what we view as our ultimate goal may not actually be our goal, but a different place all together. We learn to never stop progressing, and never to stop challenging where we want to go. We see Jimmy has finally accomplished what he left home to do, filling us all with a sense of pride and joy.
This is the end of my blog, and it is something I’ve been meaning to post for quite a while. I’m glad I finally got it through and cannot wait to see what you all think.
» Comments: 28