Ralph Breaks The Internet is visually spectacular


Ultimately Ralph was reconciled to his bad guy role, and this status quo remains intact at the outset of his new adventure, co-directed by Simpsons veteran Rich Moore and screenwriter Phil Johnston. Intact, too, is Ralph’s friendship with the diminutive, “glitching” Princess Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), which resembles the father-daughter bond between Homer and Lisa Simpson, if Homer were less obnoxious and Lisa more of a handful.

When Vanellope’s own arcade game breaks down, the pair are propelled into the brave new world of the internet, visualised as a gleaming mega-city along the lines of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, with the expected jokes about cat videos, spambots and unreliable search engines handled with all the ingenuity you could ask for.

Ralph Breaks The Internet is noticeably more up-to-date than Steven Spielberg’s comparable digital extravaganza Ready Player One, and vastly more visually spectacular than its grotesque forerunner The Emoji Movie, which made a virtue of looking like a piece of junk. But like these competitors it is dense with subtext, including the implication that the online universe – at once infinite and bounded, liberating and corporate-controlled – might be preferable to the drab reality beyond.

The resulting sense of claustrophobia verges on nightmare in the most ambitious setpiece, a surreal exercise in metafictional cross-promotion in which Star Wars stormtroopers, Marvel superheroes and Disney princesses all cross paths. Strange things, too, start happening to Ralph, whose original menacing aura gradually and alarmingly reasserts itself, as if he were meant as an emblem of resentful men struggling to adjust to change.

Elsewhere online, the innocent go-kart game Sugar Rush from the first Ralph has been supplemented by a grittier multi-player equivalent known as Slaughter Race. I won’t reveal how this subplot plays out, but the very name has an ominous ring, especially if taken as a description of where we all might be headed.

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