Film / Pixels

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Pixels is a 2015 Science Fiction action/comedy film starring Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Peter Dinklage, and Josh Gad, directed by Chris Columbus and based on the 2010 short film of the same name by Patrick Jean. Much like the original short, the film incorporates dozens of licensed video game characters from the 1980s, including Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, Centipede, Q*bert, Tetris and Space Invaders.

In 1982, NASA launches a time capsule into outer space in the hope of making peaceful First Contact with alien life. Included in the capsule is a representative cross-section of Earthly delights from the day, including a number of classic arcade games. Unfortunately, the aliens interpret the arcade games as a declaration of war, and decide to attack us back first, using various video game characters as models for their assault and hell-bent on turning Earth into a mass of giant pixelsnote . US President William Cooper (James) calls on his buddy, former arcade champion Sam Brenner (Sandler), Sam's childhood nemesis Eddie Plant (Dinklage) and nerdy anti-social conspiracy theorist Ludlow Lamonsoff (Gad) for help. Brenner must now use his assembled team to defeat the alien invasion using the power of video game logic before the planet is reduced to nothing but pixels.

The short film can be found here, and the first trailer can be found here.

This film contains examples of:

  • 0% Approval Rating: In the beginning of the film, President Cooper is universally considered by Americans an embarrassment. It also appeared as if no one apart from his wife, Sam, and the prime minister of the United Kingdom had any affection for him.
  • 100% Adoration Rating: By the end of the movie, everyone loves the President and the Arcaders.
  • The '80s: Aside from the obvious, the aliens communicate entirely through various clips from the decade (including Madonna and Hall & Oates music videos, a Ronald Reagan speech, and a giant Max Headroom).
  • The Ace: Sam Brenner has an uncanny ability to pick up on AI patterns in classic video games and exploit them. This ability has caused him to become one of the best classic arcade game players in the world, and it's why President Cooper recruits him to help fight the alien invasion.
  • Action Girl: Lady Lisa is a straight-up example. Violet also proves to be one during the film's climax.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The feature-length film expands on things like where the pixels came from (originally a digital "bomb" in a discarded CRT television) and adds motivations for why the pixellated characters are attacking, plus a number of heroes with the skills needed to fight back.
  • Alien Invasion: Based on retro video games, including Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Centipede, Galaga, Space Invaders, Break Out, Joust, Q*bert, the game adaptation of The Smurfs, and Tetris.
  • Alliterative Name:
    • Ludlow Lamonsoff, member of the team.
    • Lady Lisa, one of the video game characters who comes to life.
  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: The Japanese version of the film has a different theme song, titled "8-bit Boy" by Mito Natsume.
  • Amazon Chaser:
    • Eddie wants to sleep with Serena Williams (and Martha Stewart).
    • Ludlow's greatest love is Lady Lisa, who's a full blown action girl Dual Wielding katanas.
  • Ambiguously Bi: Although Ludlow is obsessed with Lady Lisa, he is possibly turned on by some of the Navy SEALs who have been called to fight the alien invaders. Either that or his social skills are that bad.
  • America Saves the Day: Somehow, the best coin-op players in history are all from the US. They save the world.
  • Anachronism Stew: Even though the space probe was sent in 1982 with plenty of stuff from the year and before that are attached to it, plenty of stuff the aliens obtained from it are from further years in the 80s. See Hollywood History.
  • Apocalypse Wow: Say what you like about the plot, the pixel effects are impressive, particularly in the short film.
  • Artistic License – Astronomy: Unless the NASA Probe was an Orion-Style device (the kind of thing banned by treaties the U.S. have been signatory to since The '60s), it should merely be passing beyond Pluto's orbit by now. If the aliens could already get this far, they should know by now that humans are no threat to anyone (except maybe themselves).
  • The Atoner: After Eddie dooms the planet by using cheat codes against Pac-Man, he attempts to redeem himself by helping fight the aliens as they launch a massive attack on Washington D.C.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: Sam's arcade games genius comes from his ability to see the patters in supposedly random movements of the enemies.
  • Babies Ever After: During a post-credits scene, Ludlow and Lady Lisa are now married with kids. When they go to check on their newborn children in their crib, it is revealed that their kids are a litter of baby Q*Berts.
  • Basement-Dweller: Ludlow Lamonsoff starts the film living in his grandmother's basement.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Sam and Violet spend much of the film hurling insults at each other, despite the fact that they share a mutual attraction. Sam considers Violet to be a snob, while Violet considers Sam to be a loser.
  • Big Eater:
    • Pac-Man, as expected. He is shown through the film chomping his way through buildings as if they're made of cheese.
    • Q*Bert eats pretty much everything Sam and Matty give him eagerly.
  • Bloodless Carnage: The invaders turn people and other targets into pixels. When Pac-Man chomp's Iwatani's hand, it turns into a bloodless mass of pixels, though his screaming might be because it hurts or because he was panicking.
  • Brick Joke:
    • The kidnapped Guam base soldier screams for his mommy when abducted. When Violet shows up to take her son back from the invaders, he's seen screaming "why can't my mommy come for me?"
    • When he visits Violet's house for the first time, Sam notices that he hadn't brushed his teeth. At the party, Violet leans close and notes that this time, he had.
    • Eddie says that he wants to sleep with Martha Stewart and Serena Williams in the Lincoln Bedroom. In the end of the movie they invite him there.
    • One of Eddie's demands is that he gets a private island and the president declines. When a Secret Service agent asks Serena Williams why she agreed to come to the party with Eddie, she says that she was promised an island for it.
    • At the party, Eddie muses that if he invited Martha Stewart, she'd at least make him a panini. When she invites him to Lincoln Bedroom, she has an entire plate of these.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: President Cooper and Violet both comment that Sam is too smart to be working a job where he installs home electronics. The only thing holding him back seems to be his lack of motivation.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: Q-Bert pisses himself at the sight of Donkey Kong.
  • The Cameo: While Toru Iwatani (the creator of Pac-Man) is played by Denis Akiyama, the real guy makes a brief appearance as a repairman.
    • Martha Stewart and professional tennis player Serena Williams make cameo appearances as themselves.
    • Dan Aykroyd makes brief appearance as the M.C. for the 1982 Video Game Championship.
  • Category Traitor: The Max Headroom alien accuses Q*bert of being this, calling him "Q*bert the traitor".
  • Changed My Mind, Kid: After running off when his cheating is discovered, Eddie comes back for the finale and aids the others.
  • Cheaters Never Prosper: Eddie used cheat codes to win the arcade world championship in 1982, later winds up in prison and nearly dooms Earth by cheating against the giant Pac-Man.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Eddie's glasses have cheat codes for Pac-Man and Donkey Kong inscribed on them.
    • Bill Cooper sneaks out of the White House using the Chewbacca mask he won as a child.
  • Chekhov's Skill:
    • The entire premise is that Sam's, Eddie's and Ludlow's considered-useless mastery of arcade games suddenly becomes the most useful skill in the world.
    • Bill used to be the master of cranes. He still is one.
  • Chronically Killed Actor: Funnily enough, subverted with the king of this trope himself. It looks like Sean Bean's character is about to be eaten by the Centipede, but Sam shoots it when its mere centimeters from Bean's character's face. And it's not the first film in 2015 that Bean doesn't die in. (although neither of the percy jackson films were released in 2012 neither of them have a death scene for sean bean either, then again he was playing a god in other words an immortal. )
  • Close on Title: The movie's title appears at the beginning and end of the film.
  • Colonel Badass: Violet is a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army and a member of the President's National Security Council.
  • Combat Parkour: Violet has some impressive moves when she joins the team.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: Ludlow is presented as the worst case of those played for laughs. Among more plausible, he believes that CIA spies on us by the cable. Among less plausible, he believes that "JFK shot first".
  • Contrived Coincidence: A few.
    • The president just so happens to be close friends to a retro video game champion (Sam) and is in need of his help just as aliens invade Earth using video game characters.
    • Violet just so happens to be a member of the military who must go help the president just as Sam (the president's gaming childhood friend) is helping her fix her son's gaming console. She and Sam both naturally go the Washington because the president needs both of them for the same reason.
  • Cool Car: The four color-coded Mini Coopers offered as ghost analogues for defeating Pac-Man. They even have custom license plates identifying them as Inky, Blinky, Pinky, and Clyde.
  • Covers Always Lie: Some of the posters show aliens attacking Sydney, Paris and San Francisco, which doesn't happen in the film. Also, Pac-Man and Donkey Kong are shown in Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever manner, while in the movie they are only about twice the size of humans, and Pac-Man is shown attacking San Francisco while in the movie he attacks New York City.
  • Creative Closing Credits: The film's closing credits depicts several scenes from the film as they would appear in an 8-bit video game.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: During the first act, Sam and Ludlow act pretty moronic and are generally considered idiots by the rest of the cast, but once they get their hands on the photon guns, they completely pwn both professional soldiers and aliens.
  • Curse Cut Short: A message from children thanking the president and the Arcaders for saving the world is taken over by alien broadcast just as they're saying "motherf-".
  • Decapitated Army: Beating Donkey Kong makes the aliens retreat.
  • Deceptively Human Robot: As long as you see Michael from the front and don't hear him speak, you wouldn't guess it's not human.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Starting out as a "snob" as Sam puts it, Violet eventually becomes this.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Subverted. At first, Lady Lisa is taken back along with the rest of invaders, breaking Ludlow's heart. However, Q*bert turns into her out of a sudden and they get married.
  • Disaster Movie: Lots of stuff gets pixellated. More so in the short film, where in the end a second pixellated bomb turns the entire Earth and everyone on it into pixels.
  • Disco Dan: The 1980s never ended for Eddie Plant.
  • Do Not Adjust Your Set: The aliens communicate with Earth by hijacking TV broadcasts.
  • Downer Ending: The short film.
  • Drop the Hammer: In the final sequence, Sam uses a giant hammer to take down Donkey Kong.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: When Violet finds out that her ex-husband is getting married to the woman he left her for, Sam finds her hiding in a closet while sobbing and drinking a bottle of wine.
  • Dual Wielding:
    • Lady Lisa wields two katanas.
    • In the final battle, the heroes have a photon gun and a photon pistol.
  • Energy Being: Violet and her team speculate that the aliens may be this.
    • The fact that they can mate with humans is either a subversion or a Voodoo Shark.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: The aliens are so outraged that Eddie used cheat codes against them that it prompts them to launch a full-scale invasion.
  • Excuse Plot: The whole film is supposed to be a 1980s retrogamer's wet dream (which was probably the point of the original short as well).
  • Explosive Barrels: Donkey Kong has a few of these in his arsenal.
  • Expy:
    • According to Chris Columbus, Eddie Plant is based on a number of 1980s video gamers, including: Richie Knuckelz (tattoos), Patrick Scott Patterson (sunglasses & pose), Ken House (aversion to sleeves), and Billy Mitchell (haircut), who was featured in the well known video game documentary The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters.
    • Lady Lisa is an expy of Lara Croft with a bit of The Bride thrown in.
    • As noted in the YMMV tab, President Cooper may to be loosely based on George W. Bush. Chris Columbus said that Kevin James as President was modeled after New Jersey governor Chris Christie.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Most of the attacking video game characters were already villains, with one notable exception...
    Sam: [watching Pac-Man chomp his way down a cross-street] Pac-Man's a bad guy?
  • Fat Best Friend: US President William Cooper was (and still is) this to Sam Brenner since their childhood.
  • First Contact: Attempted by a space probe sent up in 1982. It fails miserably.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The final game in World Championship is Donkey Kong. Guess what game the heroes must beat last.
    • Ludlow has a Perverse Sexual Lust for Lady Lisa and actually set up a shrine for her in his basement. When he has to face her in real life, he can't bring himself to attack her.
    • Sam tells Ludlow that "if Lady Lisa was real..." Later she comes to life.
    • Eddie is seen sliding down his glasses during the championships. It turns out there are cheat codes inscribed on the upper side of their frames.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: When Matty confronts Eddie about his cheating, we get a quick shot of the cheat code inscribed on Eddie's glasses. Most of it is Technobabble, but one part is the Konami Code, yet another nod to retro gaming.
  • Glory Days: Sam used to be master arcade gamer, but today, he's just an electronics fitter. He still regrets missing a chance at making more of his talent.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: Mankind sends the capsule as a message of peace. Aliens interpret it as a declaration of war.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Lady Lisa and Q*bert both join the heroes.
  • Heel Realization: Toru Iwatani, the creator of Pac-Man, tries to invoke this on his creation, stating that "He was always a good boy". It doesn't work.
  • Heroic Second Wind: During the Donkey Kong sequence, Sam is close to giving up, noticing that he can't win this game, until Matty tells him that Eddie was cheating during the Championship and Sam is, indeed, the world Donkey Kong master, giving Sam the incentive to get back to his feet and fight.
  • Hollywood History: The NASA Probe is sent up in 1982, but for plot purposes is treated as if it contains The 80s Greatest Hits, including Madonna (whose career was just starting in 1982), Max Headroom (debuted in April 1985), Tetris (released in 1985), and other similar anachronisms.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Professor Iwatani when it comes to the giant Pac-Man rampaging through New York.
  • Informed Ability: Sam's tech savviness is not as profound as the film wants us to see it.
  • Informed Attractiveness: Violet mentions that Sinnamon (the 19 year old Pilates instructor that her husband left her for) is incredibly beautiful. However, Sinnamon never appears in the film.
  • Ignored Expert: At first, everyone ignores Sam's claims about the aliens using video games and it's only after the destruction of Taj Mahal and Ludlow finding aliens' first message that they believe him.
  • Instant-Win Condition: The aliens decide that if the heroes can beat the game aboard their mothership, the destruction of earth will be stopped.
  • Insult Backfire: At one point, a reporter tries to make President Cooper look stupid by asking him a question containing several big words. But by this point President Cooper is so popular because of his handling of the crisis that the reporter ends up getting chastised by his professional colleagues.
  • In Universe Nickname:
    • Sam calls Cooper "Boss".
    • The cars' official names are impossible to remember string of letters and numbers, so they're simply called Ghosts.
    • The media nickname Eddie, Sam and Ludlow "The Arcaders".
  • Katanas Are Just Better: Lady Lisa fights with two.
  • Killer Gorilla: Donkey Kong, in fine form.
  • Kill the Cutie: Subverted - it looks like Q*bert is killed by Donkey Kong's barrel, but it only flattened him and he manages to get back on his feet.
  • Kill the Ones You Love: Ludlow and Lady Lisa's confrontation has shades of this, with Ludlow unable to bring himself to attack her.
  • Lady of War: Lady Lisa, the protagonist of fictional game Dojo Quest for whom Ludlow has Perverse Sexual Lust. Of course she ends up in the real world!
  • Let Us Never Speak of This Again: In one trailer, a pixellated Smurf freaks out President Cooper so badly that he vaporizes it while it's dancing. His only request?
    Please don't tell anyone I shot a Smurf.
    • In the movie it's Violet who do this and it's her who says this line. It also takes place in a different location.
  • Loners Are Freaks: In his forties, Ludlow lives in his grandma's basement, is a raving Conspiracy Theorist and has set up a shrine for Lady Lisa. He also smells Violet when they first meet.
  • Lovable Coward: Ludlow is terrified of the prospect of going aboard the mothership, but remains heroic on the ground.
  • Love at First Sight: Sam falls in love with Violet the moment he sees her. For her, it takes a bit longer.
  • Mama Bear: You try kidnapping Violet's son as your trophy? She'll stop your Alien Invasion.
  • Man Child:
    • Sam Brenner, not surprising for most Adam Sandler characters.
    • Ludlow Lamonsoff is a more severe example, shown in the film to be a basement dwelling loser who obsesses over a video game character and spends his time making conspiracy theories over the internet.
  • Miles Gloriosus: Both British and American commander are very boastful about how they're going to beat the alien threat, but when the centipede comes after them, they both cling to each other and scream in panic.
  • A Minor Kidroduction: The movie begins in 1982, when the main characters were pre-teens.
  • Monumental Damage: Taj Mahal and the Washington Monument are pixellated.
  • Mood Whiplash: In-Universe and Played for Laughs. When Professor Iwatani goes to talk to Pac-Man, everything seems very heartfelt and soothing, and Pac-Man seems to be listening to his spiritual father, and the others watching from their cars are talking about how beautiful the experience is. This lasts right up until Iwatani tries to touch his creation. Pac-Man suddenly chomps his hand, turning it into pixels. Iwatani starts running back to the cars, screaming for everyone to annihilate Pac-Man while everyone else is screaming in sudden terror.
  • The Mothership: The aliens have one, which coordinates their attacks and produces new pixel characters.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Lady Lisa is a tall, leggy blonde who doesn't speak. She just looks sexy and kicks ass.
  • My Species Doth Protest Too Much: Q*Bert is amongst the good guys.
  • Nerds Are Virgins: Ludlow laments that he's going to die a virgin when he's about to be eaten by Pac-Man. This changes at the end of the movie when Q'bert turns into Lady Lisa and marries him.
  • Nervous Wreck: Q*Bert is terrified by pretty much everything, from heartbroken Ludlow through alien invasion to Matty's computer games.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: Most of the trailers show President Cooper shooting the pixelated Smurf, while the actual film has Violet doing it.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: One of Arcaders uses cheat codes to win against Pac Man, but aliens are offended and so speed up the destruction of Earth.
  • Nintendo Hard: Discussed.
  • No Fair Cheating: The aliens are offended when one of the Arcaders tries to cheat.
  • No Social Skills: Ludlow is really terrible with people. Sam has those moments as well.
  • Our Presidents Are Different: Cooper is President Geek and, with his friends and family, President Personable, but in the finale he turns into President Action.
  • Perverse Sexual Lust: In-Universe. Ludlow has a Stalker Shrine to Lady Lisa, a character from the fictional video game Dojo Quest. Unusually for this trope, he gets her (sort of) in the end.
  • Poor Communication Kills: The aliens interpreted Pac-Man as a threat from Earth, with Pac-Man as Earth and the ghosts as the aliens.
  • Product Placement:
    • Around the introduction of Violet Van Patten, Sam is installing a Sony Bravia television set and a PlayStation 4 in her living room.
    • The Video Game/Breakout invasion in India has a man taking pictures of the Taj Mahal being destroyed with a Sony Xperia phone, just before he's captured by the aliens.
    • After the Battle of London, Sam asks Violet if she wants to have a beer with him. She says that, since they just saved the world, something stronger would be more appropriate. She then produces a bottle of Crystal Head Vodka (a vodka brand that is partially owned by Dan Aykroyd, who has a cameo in the film).
    • Try to find a high-definition television set in the movie that isn't from Sony.
  • Reality Ensues: This film shows the risk of trying to make contact with an alien race: they may take what is acceptable and harmless to us as something offensive and threatening to them.
  • Ridiculously Human Robot: There is no need for Michael to look so much like a human, especially since circuitry is visible at the back of his head.
  • Robot Buddy: Michael is an android who apparently works as Violet's assistant and secretary, but he's played more realistically in that you would never mistake his mannerisms and behavior for human.
  • Rule of Funny: Aliens invading using classic video game characters? Send a bunch of retrogamers in to handle them!
  • Second Place Is for Losers: Played with. When Sam places second in the arcade tournament, his friends try to make him feel better, pointing out how good things seem to be turning out for his future, though Sam's not entirely happy about it. Sam ends up taking a technical repair job when, as Violet tells him, he's capable of better things. And during the climax, due to the fact that he's going against Donkey Kong, the game he made second place in, he's unable to make himself confident enough to win until he learns that his opponent cheated in the championship, meaning he wasn't really second place.
  • Security Cling: British and American commander do this to each other when the centipede comes after them in panic.
  • Shout-Out: Enough for a separate page, as may be expected, given the topic.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: The buddying relationship between Sam and Violet starts nice, but when he tries to hurry things up, turns into this. They do get together in the end, though.
  • Squashed Flat: Happens to Q*bert during the Donkey Kong sequence. He manages to get back on his feet, though.
  • Squick: An in-universe example. When Q*bert transforms into Lady Lisa and Ludlow passionately kisses her, Sam is mildly disgusted by the fact that Lady Lisa was Q*bert just moments earlier.
  • Stalker Shrine: Ludlow has one for Lady Lisa. Sam lampshades the creepiness.
    Man, if she was real, she'd have, like, a hundred restraining orders on you.
  • Stock British Phrases: Spoofed. British Prime Minister uses a lot of phrases Americans consider to be "British" and the President has to ask his assistants for clarification several times. At some point, he even asked for clarification on what one of them had said earlier, to which the Prime Minister responded by saying that she had no idea either.
  • Suddenly Voiced: Q*Bert speaks in the film, even though he only speaks in robotic gibberish and Symbol Swearing in the video game. In fact, this is the first time Q*Bert has been voiced since the 80s cartoon series Saturday Supercade.
  • Survival Mantra: Pretend you're the guy and you don't want to die.
  • Take That!:
    • A harmless dancing pixelated Smurf makes a random appearance in the film. Violet shoots it for being creepy.
    • Sam and Q*bert both say that modern games are way too brutal and bloody. Matty is against this claim, though.
  • That Thing Is Not My Child!: Iwatani invokes this trope after being chomped by Pac Man.
  • Theme Initials: Lady Lisa and Ludlow Lamadoff get together at the end of the film.
  • Toilet Humor: Quite a few examples, such as Q*Bert peeing himself in fear at the sight of Donkey Kong.
  • Totally Radical: Eddie Plant constantly uses slang and mannerisms from the 80s and sports an mullet.
  • Trigger Happy: One of the US generals keeps on saying "so let's attack (whatever nation/game is considered a culprit at the moment)!", to annoyance of others.
  • The Virus: In a way—everything destroyed by the video game characters gets turned into pixels.
  • The Voiceless: Ashley Benson's Lady Lisa doesn't say a word on screen.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: An offhand comment reveals that the film is set after January 20th, 2017 (the last date for the presidency of the person who was elected president of the United States in the year 2008: Barack Obama) and there's an android working with Violet.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Q-Bert is capable of this.
  • What's Up, King Dude?: President Cooper seems like much more of a regular Joe than a career politician, to the point that his childhood buddy Sam Brenner is on a first-name basis with much of the White House staff.
  • When I Was Your Age...: At one point, Sam tells Matty that games were harder in his times.
    Just look at this! There's no pattern! He's always coming from the left!
  • World-Wrecking Wave: The short film ends with a giant pixel bomb turning everything in the blast radius into pixels, in a shockwave that spreads around the world, turning planet Earth into one giant black cube floating silently in space.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Violet tells Sam that with his brain, he shouldn't be installing equipment, he should be making it.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Film/Pixels