Atari: Game Over (2014)

This game is a love letter to nostalgia. It reconstructs the early years of Atari and the dawn of console gaming in the home and it builds this story around ET, the main pedestal-worthy game that embodies the same issue that modern movie-offshoot games have with a driving force of time over substance. Like the theme, the movie itself is more style over substance, but I get ahead of myself.

We follow a man's quest to locate and dig up the rumored millions of ET cartridges that were dumped in a land fill after a terrible debut and massive returns of the horrifically bad game. The idea is that the game was so bad that it single-handedly brought Atari, the mega-mothership of video gaming at the time, to its knees and ultimately killed the company. The director then uses this mission of gathering crappy old games as a centerpiece for explaining how important Atari was and how they became so profitable and so powerful until ultimately being put out to pasture.

The issue that I have with the movie is that it doesn't actually say very much. It's a documentary that they probably thought might be interesting at the time that they were filming it, but the finished product was more of an attempt to make it interesting simply by playing to the viewer's desire for the movie to be interesting. This is mirrored in the fact that they explain the issues with ET and how bad it was, try to blame Steven Spielberg (who played it once and said it was good), and then ultimately say that you can't judge it if you haven't played it.

The movie started with promise - talking to the actual developers and painting a picture of what it was like to be involved in Atari at the time. The way they described people being relaxed about the work and treating the job as just a part of their lives like wearing no shoes in the office) reminded me instantly of the stories that get told about how modern companies like Google and Facebook have relaxed policies and try to strike a good work/life balance.

Then the movie goes where it was going, which is essentially nowhere. I don't know what the intent of the film was beyond using the footage that was already taken and splicing it together so that some senior film student could get his degree, but they pretty much had to show it on an XBox channel in the hopes of really, really targeting the correct demographic. Well, I grew up when these systems and their games were on the market, so I should have been the audience they wanted, but I guess I wasn't.

Direction was okay
Cinematography was passable
Editing was okay
Reason for existing was low
Message behind the story was inadequate

Bottom Line: There are simply better ways to kill an hour.



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