The visuals for Disney's hit critique real-world video games—and the real world, period.
The best science fiction is deeply architectural, immersing the reader in a fully imagined world leagues different—or lightly tweaked—from ours. Video games, by contrast, traditionally had an out, limiting their pixelated reality by screen edge or vertical scrolling. (What happens to the left and to the right in Tetris? Who cares, you're distracting me.) But as gaming has become more sophisticated, so has the architecture of the games, pushing the avatars out into spaces with up, down, side-to-side, and even behind.
Technological leaps are often accompanied by nostalgia for simpler times. And so, as the cassette tape (two, maybe three, technologies back) reappears as a design for an iPhone case, the new Disney movie Wreck-It Ralph—$149 million domestic gross and counting—comes along to remind us how sweetly we gamed in the 1980s, and to suggest that HD isn't all it's cracked up to be.
Wreck-It Ralph (the character) is on thin ice in Litwak's Arcade in Wreck-It Ralph (the movie) as he inhabits one of the oldest games in the joint. The march of time in the arcade is correlated to the games' graphic complexity, from Pac-Man's monomaniacal maze to the chunky version of the real world of Fix-It Felix Jr. (in which Ralph unhappily plays the villain), Sugar Rush's smooth slopes and kawaii girls to Hero's Duty's HD. For the '80s avatar, entering the last is an experience so remarkable that he has to break the fourth wall and remark to the movie's viewers about fully rendered beauty of Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch, voicing Lara Croft with a blonde skater's crop).