Reviews: Suburban Knights
Best anniversary special so far
I've followed TGWTG faithfully for almost two years— discovering it thanks to TV Tropes, in fact. I mainly stick to watching Nostalgia Critic, Todd In The Shadows, Nostalgia Chick and Ask That Guy With The Glasses, but I watch enough of the others to find everyone in this special hilarious. I liked the plot of this one. It was bizarre and silly, but still believable, because, let's face it, forcing his employees to dress up as fantasy characters and LARP to search for a magical hand sounds exactly like something the Critic would do. And it was great to see them geeking out and dressing up like nerdy characters (Lupa, Film Brain and Luke, Jew Wario and Todd's costumes were the best). The jokes are funny, the plot is pretty good, and the villain is pretty damn cool. I had a hunch from the beginning that Ma-Ti would end up being important at the end, but I was still pleasantly surprised by how well it was carried out. I hope that next year's anniversary special is just as fun, and I hope it includes Malachite.
You have to be a fan
Here's the thing with Suburban Knights: if you are an avid Channel Awesome follower (The entirety of the site and not just one or two reviewers) you will throughly enjoy it and look past the (Many, many) flaws. However, if you watch maybe one reviewer or see one or two videos here and there, I will bet that you will hate it. True, the more popular reviewers are emphasized a bit more, but just liking Critic or Spoony won't get you far. I'd say I watch about half of the cast a lot (Sadly, most of Inked Reality were missing), and a bit of the rest, and I found it fun. I think the most likable thing was to see everyone dressed up. And if you don't watch everyone that will get old fast. I enjoyed it. I really did, but once you get past the fangirl squee (THE SIGHT OF SUEADE MADE ME NEARLY FAINT.) there are a lot of problems. 1) The acting was very bad. I expect it, seeing as the cast was not made of actors, but notwithstanding nearly everyone had this very emphasized, awkward and forced way of delivering. It felt like a cold read, to put it bluntly. Best acting was probably done by Critic and Cinema Snob, which is totally expected. 2) The jokes were lame. That's probably the best way to explain it. Lame and boring. The delivery didn't help the cause at all, either. All the good ones were beaten to death (Joe's and Lindsey's probably win that award) and the rest were lackluster. This was a disappointment, y'know since everyone has fantastic humor. I suspect it has to do with clashing styles and the need to follow a plot. 3) Plot? It was there, I'll give it that. Didn't go anywhere, but it existed. If you love yourself some channel awesome and you have 2 hours to spare, watch it. If you don't, you won't miss anything. (BUT IF YOU ARE A SUADE FANGIRL YOU WILL LOVE IT FOREVER)
Could be better!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Suburban Knights is an ambitious project by Doug Walker and the rest of TGWTG. It's a giant cross over movie starring all the critics and characters we know and love. Unfortunately, Suburban Knights is a Suburban nightmare, riddled with flaws! It's not the worst, but it could definitely be better!!!!!! It has many pacing issues. Several of the parts just feel dull because nothing happens. A good chunk of the movie is spent following Team Critic and Team Spoon wandering around in the forest. We don't learn anything or have any real plot development until part 5, and even then, it's through ten minutes of straight exposition. The writing is also very lazily done. Doug Walker decided to go for very safe and easy jokes, and didn't really get creative for the jokes. The few jokes that aren't pop culture references are repeated gags that get run into the ground (Though the final Inigo Montoya joke made me chuckle, if only for the reaction of everyone behind Joe). Also on the subject of the writing, a lot of the characters just... don't feel like they do in their reviews. Film Brain in SK is nothing like the proper Film Brain, and everyone else just feels like flanderized versions of themselves. I also feel that the fight scenes could have been better. I don't expect expertly choreographed fight scenes, but it just feels like they put in no effort. The cheesy sound effects spliced in really didn't help! It just extenuated how little effort and care went into the fight scenes. Suburban Knights did have some good things about it though. Malchidite had some cool scenes at the end, and Brad Jones was entertaining in the few scenes he had. Unfortunately a few pros does not out weigh an ocean of cons. If you're a hard core fanboy of TGWTG, you'll be able to look past all the flaws and enjoy it as a dumb popcorn flick. If you're just a more casual fan of TGWTG, you're better off passing on this, as it's a big disappointment.
Good Progression of Storytelling
First, there was the Brawl. It was a simple 20-odd minute cartoonish fight of massive proportions. Then there was Kickassia, which was essentially a feature length live-action cartoon. Now... well, there's a real plot! While managing to capture the better quirks of certain people in the group (such as Linkara's love of musicals and The Snob's Harrison Ford impression) it also told a fairly logical story, though some obvious flaws. When the exact origin of the quest comes into light it doesn't entirely add up and even then some parts are predictable but it none the less works better than even some proper Hollywood films do in that department. Special effects aren't bad either. Even the acting, while frequently over the top (as per the website's style) has improved, people able to provide great reactions in certain scenes. Props to the Critic and Mickey in particular as their reactions were pretty solid. For an indie film shot in 4 days to manage to pull all of what it did off is quite impressive. Add in that its a proper full-length story and not just general dickery like the last two, though granted Kickassia had a framing device, and it makes you want to see how they'll top themselves next year. You may not get every reference or find every joke funny ("that's the box of a carpenter" I even got but just groaned at) but there's enough content to satisfy. Really the rockiest part is the first one, with weird stuff like a Frenchman (Benzaie) materializing out of The Cinema Snob's crotch. It's all uphill from there and the ending is pretty amazing for a movie that's mostly been about wacky antics but in quest form.
A mean review
I consider myself a mean target for Suburban Knights. That is, I enjoy watching The Channel Awesome team, mainly sticking to the big three (Critic, Spoony and Linkara) while following some of the others less closely, but not to the extent where I am willing to shell out for premium content or where I follow the reviewers on twitter. If this description applies to you, then you'll probably get the same out of Suburban Knights that I did. Which is a hell of a lot for a low budget movie made by a bunch of nerds. Relative to Kickassia, the LARP conciet works well in taking the humour away from "jokes you need to have watched every single video on the site to get" territory and into more general pop-culture parody (props particularly to Cinema Snob, The Chick, Phelous and Spoony in this regard, as all nail the characters they're satarising perfectly). There have been accusations of mood-whiplash, but I personally feel the movie has a nice balance to it- we get a serious opening revealing the Big Bad, then straight into Channel Awesome wacky hijinks, then slowly but surely building up to an epic climax, without ever losing the humour completely. I also feel that issues of pacing are relatively minor- this may be because I watched the film all in one go. Generally, The script does it's job of balancing humour and comedy, and the Walker brothers should be proud. Particularly Doug, as we see some nice character development for the Critic into more of an anti-hero and less of a Jerk Ass. Notably, Doug does this without sending Critic into Marty Stu territory (Critic may be a good man who is capable of heroism, that doesn't mean he's capable of fighting a dark wizard toe-to-toe) The acting is generally competent to excellent (Marz-girl's acting in particular is much improved from previous videos). Special effects are used sparsely, but work well when used, and are of excellent qaulity- comparable to your average episode of Doctor Who. At the end of the day it's a bunch of nerds having a laugh and clearly all having a blast hamming it up and bouncing jokes of each other. Whatever issues you may have with the film in terms of scripting or technique, that nerdy enthusiasm is infectious and makes Suburban Knights a joy to watch. Also- ITS FREE!!! WHAT THE HELL ELSE DO YOU WANT!!!
Excellent, but could improve
As one of the few people who will defend Kickassia to the death, I also really liked Suburban Knights, since it's essentially more of that. The humor is top-notch (as to be expected from TGWTG) the characters and writing work really well, and the villain was actually quite effective and seemed to pose a genuine threat. But I have one big complaint about it, and it is this: it takes itself even less seriously than Kickassia did. That, and we didn't get to see Todd's face, but most of all the first one. A lot of the time, when a somewhat serious moment was about to happen, there would be a joke to ruin the moment (until Ma-Ti's death). Now, I understand that it was a comedy, but it sometimes came across as a bit cloying. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed it, but there was definite room for improvement.
A solid movie with a few very definite flaws.
If I could sum this movie up in five words, it would be these: "There just wasn't enough room." The biggest issue is balance. Doug Walker is an incredibly funny man, and when you get to know the man himself, away from all his jokes and behind all the characters, he can actually be really insightful, too. The problem is that he can't seem to handle both at once. I love that he went for a more serious plot, and there really ARE a lot of rip-roaring good laughs in there, but...well...there just wasn't enough room. With roughly thirty major characters and only seven episodes, neither side had the space to thrive. The story and the humor find themselves at odds. So, in the end, the jokes never really expand beyond the predictable, with way too many unfunny running gags, and the story is gravely hurt by unsubtle foreshadowing and really shoddy pacing. Either element would have made for a great movie, but they were just so crammed together that neither one could breathe. Now, if the movie were funnier, I could forgive the storytelling, and if it were better as a narrative, I could forgive the clumsiness of the comedy, but as it is, it just falls into a vague and nebulous middle ground. Focus would have been the key. If Channel Awesome had made a serious movie with occasional humor, that would have been fantastic. Or, if they had made a completely humorous movie full of jokes and callbacks and ridiculous nonsense with only a little bit of seriousness, that would have been hilarious. But there was just not enough room in this one for both at once. If they had cut down on the running gags, cut out the plot lines that never went anywhere, slimmed down the exposition, and really made use of the time they had, then maybe. But as it is...there just wasn't enough room. Overall, it's still a marvelous thing, I had a blast watching it, and any fan of the site should really get a kick out of it. But it's just not what it could have been. Maybe next year, and I say that with all sincerity.
TGWTG.com has always been full of talent, however, as good as the crossover were the previous years, this year serves as the best example for the talent behind the site. First, the writing is solid, it shows Doug is getting far more comfortable writing actual storylines. And even better, this special is not afraid to be serious. In fact, this is the first special where far more than just Kickassia was at risk. The plot and pacing is suprisingly well done, explaining the right things at the right times, and keeping suspence well. The character writing also has changed radically for the best, the cast is still very pragmatic in their approach, they show signs of character development. In fact, most of the special seems to be a sort of transition from old to the new, managing to do it with respect to both. Despite having humor, Suburban Knights is at its core a fantasy epic. And it is great to see it done with the respect it deserves.