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I used to genuinely adore To Boldly Flee. It was fun seeing all the cast take part in this epic and hilarious space adventure, Distraction was catchy as hell, and some of it even made me genuinely emotional (such as Kyle's monologue about good art).
So what happened?
I loved it because I was under the impression that the cast enjoyed making it. Now I know that this wasn't the case. Not only were on-set conditions horrible, but hearing people like Phelous mock it in commentary later on fully shattered my original, rosy-glasses perception of it all. I can't think about the film anymore without thinking of just how bad I feel for the people who had to make the damn thing. Not to mention, a ton of the references went over my head; when I learned that a majority of the plot points and ideas were just parodied from other works, I could no longer even praise it for being creative.
I'm one of those people who try to separate the art from the artist. But when that art only serves to remind me of what the artist has done or how people suffered for it, I can't ever enjoy that art again.
And it's tragic, because I think in this little apocalypse we're in, we could all use a little Distraction.
I'll begin by saying I really WANTED to like this special. I've loved every other anniversary special put out by TGWTG — the Brawl was short but hilarious, Kickassia was hilariously over-the-top and awesome, and Suburban Knights managed to combine great humor with an epic fantasy storyline. So when the fourth special was announced to be a sci-fi "movie," I had high hopes. But in the end, I found the special to be boring, and found myself having to force myself to finish it.
My main problem with the special is that it tries to be a parody of sci-fi tropes and stories, but doesn't quite make it. The plot feels like a patchwork of stolen plot points from Star Wars (specifically Revenge of the Sith), Star Trek (specifically Search For Spock), Flight of the Navigator, and others, with references and characters from Judge Dredd, Battlefield Earth, Superman, etc. While references and parodies have long been part of many of these reviewers' work, here they practically took over the story and dragged it down — we came to see something new, not something we've seen five times before.
The heavy-handed SOPA plot rather reeked of Anvilicious as well, and while that could have been interesting it ended up amounting to almost nothing in the end. It was as if the story couldn't decide on a plot and so hopped around between five different ones.
That and there were a few things that could easily have been cut from the film — did we really need Turrel and Zod among the villains? Did we really need the love triangle between Todd, Nostalgia Chick, and Lupa? Did we really need Jessi's sudden transformation into an anime character? What was the point?
There were many good points to the film, and it wasn't entirely bad. It was nice to see relationships develop among the reviewers, and to see them gain character development. I liked the callbacks to Suburban Knights and Kickassia. The special effects, while understandably not on par with ILM, are greatly improved over previous installments. And the Critic's dramatic sendoff brought a tear to my eye.
All in all, however, I was disappointed by the special, and unlike Kickassia and Knights "To Boldly Flee" is probably one I'm not going to re-watch. I can't complain too much — it WAS free and made by relative amateurs — but I still was disappointed and bored.
To Boldly Flee is ultimately not quite as impressive as last year's Suburban Knights. Really, when you get down to it, the movie's biggest flaw is its chronic over-reliance on pop culture and film references. See, while the anniversary specials have always been massive orgies of gratuitous shout-outs and fan-service, those things have always only been jokes; they haven't ever taken over the entire plot before, and here, they really do. The majority of the movie is actually taken up by an unbelievably overlong Star Wars parody, and most of the rest is taken up by random shenanigans with villains who didn't need to be here to begin with. "Turrell" and Zod don't have anything to do with the themes at hand, they're not actually very villainous, and they don't really have any story to them, either. They're only here to be aimlessly wacky, but their shtick goes on far past the point of being funny. As a result, after the initial setup, the actual story and good jokes don't really kick into gear until about part six out of eight, which is...pretty damn late, to be frank. Probably the most painful part is where the Critic dresses up as Judge Dredd for no reason and spends a huge, extended sequence shooting up nameless, faceless mooks we have no cause to care about. The entire segment could have been cut, which probably could have cut the movie down from eight parts to seven right then and there.
And all of this is a real shame because at the movie's core, there's a really touching, genuine story about what it means to be a critic, what it means to be a fan of films, and even what it means to be alive. It's surprisingly deep and truly compelling, and you can tell everyone involved poured so much passion into it. It's a top-notch exploration of where the site's been and where it's going. It's a great celebration of TGWTG's legacy and a pretty good skewering of its foibles.
It does have its issues, though. Namely, its cast is so huge that it becomes unwieldy, with many characters being sidelined for almost the entire movie, and its jarringly unsubtle SOPA satire that peters out without ever making a meaningful point.
Still, on the whole, To Boldly Flee is funny, charming, fairly emotional, and occasionally even very clever. It's not the best anniversary special, but it's certainly a good one.
Like a lot of Internet junkies, I am a fan of the reviewer's website 'That Guy Withthe Glasses'. Oancitizen, Cinema Snob, Mike J, all are funny and charming. However, this anniversary special indicates that the muse of the aforementioned critics is to leave us. I cannot describe how saddened I am by this revelation. The Nostalgia Critic has provided me with countless afternoons of unproductive frivolity. He can't go, he must not go, he... I'm starting to sound like Film Brain, aren't I? No matter, for if this is to be the Critic's farewell, it is a more than admirable one.
After the slightly-too-juvenile 'Kickassia', 'Suburban Knights' impressed us with it's more sophisticated structure and wit... but it still couldn't shake off the terrible truth that it was a feature-length in-joke that possessed little artistic merit outside of it's memorable cold-open. 'To Boldly Flee' is possibly an even bigger in-joke (indeed, part of it's plot essentially compresses 'Revenge of the Sith' and the original Star Wars trilogy into roughly thirty minutes of screentime), but it's a far more impressive and original one. Intergalactic spaceships piloted by an assortment of deranged Internet celebrities and General Zod (as well as Turell from 'Battlefield Earth'), an odyssey to a literal plot-hole, a Death-Star built by studio executives, the Critic on the moon of Europa (which looks suspiciously like a field in California) whilst clad in the armour of Judge Dread shooting rows of faceless henchmen? It's an assault of great ideas and inventive concepts. And the witty SOPA satire just sweetens the deal.
However, 'To Boldly Flee' gets real marks for the drama. If you are ever doubting he acting ability of Mr. Doug Walker, look no further than this special to hang your head in shame. I never knew I could actually empathize with such a psychotic, whiny twit as the Critic, but Walker really gives the character a type of humanity that makes you realise that he really is just a guy trapped in a world that demands he be miserable. But Walker is not the only impressive player; Rob Walker has a ball as Emperor Pal- I mean the Executor, Jim Troken is the slimiest businessman since John Daggett, and Brad Jones' voice is caramelized ecstasy.
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