Thursday, May 13, 2010

Movie Review: Eddie Lebron’s Mega Man Fan Film

megaman When watching a fan-made film, several things are given:

1) The actors may not be all that great.

2) The production values may not be all that great.

3) The special effects may not be all that great.

4) The script may not be all that great.

5) The editing may not be all that great.

The list goes on. The true allure of the fan film lies not in its execution, necessarily, but in its moxie, its willingness to exist, even though its target audience is doomed to be small and it will only ever be shown for free on next to some truly hideous new Pokémon. It’s like fan fiction, except it requires some true effort on the part of the creator.

Oh, I’m sorry, did you not know what I was talking about?

A little while ago, Craig wrote a post about game developer Capcom’s apparent willingness to allow its fans a certain amount of creative freedom with some of their intellectual property – one of his main inspirations was Eddie Lebron’s forthcoming Mega Man fan film. Well, that film is no longer forthcoming. It done forthcame. And this past weekend, I watched it.

I went into this with all of the above caveats firmly in mind – I wasn’t in for Citizen Kane here, or even National Treasure. I was watching a fan-made film about Mega Man, and I was watching it because I liked Mega Man at least as much as this guy does.

Thus, I don’t feel super comfortable judging the movie by the same criteria I would a Major Motion Picture. For example, I am fully aware that Lebron does not have access to top-dollar props, which would explain why characters often perform minor miracles on what appears to be mid-to-late-nineties-vintage computer equipment. I understand that he doesn’t have access to dozens of programmers or an advanced render farm, which would explain why the CGI generally falls somewhere between an episode of ReBoot and that 3D “Treehouse of Horror” episode from 1995. These things are, perhaps, inevitable, and can be forgiven.

A little harder to overlook is the acting, the script and especially, especially the editing.

First, the plot: In the year 20XX, a fellow by the name of Dr. Thomas Light has designed half a dozen robots, designed to make human life easier by doing a bunch of our dirty work. However, disgruntled and marginalized partner Dr. Albert Wily one day decides to snap, reprogramming the robots and using them to pound the world into submission. One of Dr. Light’s household helper-bots, Rock, is upgraded to become Mega Man, and Mega Man goes and sets the world aright.

If this sounds familiar at all, it’s because this is the basic plot that, like, every one of the Mega Man games has used. Given that Lebron’s source material is a mid-1980s NES game, his script is decent – it fleshes out the Mega Man universe without really violating the existing continuity.

That being said, the treatment is not without its problems. For example, I’m not entirely convinced that Mega needed to tell every one of the six Robot Masters that he did not want to hurt them before blowing them the hell up, but that’s what he does. Dr. Light isn’t so much a character as he is an exposition dispenser, and whenever the guy opens his mouth you can be sure that he’s about to deliver a paragraph of information explaining the situation at hand. There are Problems.

Light (Edward Young) is actually the weakest actor in the stable too, delivering most of his lines with what I can only describe as a sort of benevolent, disaffected smugness – he’s not bad, but he can only really hit the one note. The rest of the acting is firmly in okay-not-great territory, ranging from Light’s stiltedness to Wily’s (Dave Maulbeck) mostly enjoyable scene-chewing.

These are all issues, but the thing the Mega Man film needs most is a visit from a good editor. Most of the shots have a way of lingering just a second or two longer than strictly necessary, and shaving these awkward seconds off would go a long way toward infusing a greater sense of momentum into the proceedings. The beginning of the movie (basically, anything that happens before Rock becomes Mega Man and starts blowing things up) could also stand to shed ten or fifteen minutes – it really drags its feet, and while the concept of a robot seeking his purpose is interesting, it doesn’t really film well for very long.

As I said, it can be difficult to judge a movie like Eddie Lebron’s Mega Man, mostly because many of my criticisms are unavoidable given the financial constraints and the indie nature of the movie. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it as a shining example of independent filmmaking, but it is perfectly watchable from beginning to end, and it’s still leagues better than the Super Mario Bros. movie. A good edit could provide a much-needed bit of polish to the film, and bring it firmly into “entertaining way for Mega Man fans to blow an hour and a half” territory.