Everyone has heard how scathing the reviews are, but Pixels is not that bad. It is full of some exciting graphics and some compelling action sequences all scattered amidst a sea of cleverly placed wisps of nostalgia. My only complaint is about the story itself and how I wish it had more depth to it.
Something could be said about the outlandish idea of sending a message to outer space and it being received as a death threat by other intelligent beings, but the movement of the film relied solely on that premise at the expense of the human drama that could’ve really captivated the audiences. (For a sci-fi film that has a more agreeable balance of style and substance, I’d recommend Pacific Rim.)
The on-screen chemistry between the actors, however, does make the film more enjoyable. Adam Sandler and Kevin James have a knack for playing off of each other, so their scenes are always a pleasure. Josh Gad and Peter Dinklage compliment the comedic core, and it’s all countered by the calm, cool, and collected presence of Michelle Monaghan. The whole of these protagonists make the film’s ambiance, as far as characters go, feel homey and jovial throughout.
Props also have to go out to the effects staff because they had to carry the rest of show and did so gracefully, especially with the brilliantly conceived and well-crafted pixelation effects. Another bonus for Pixels was the collection of …old… video segments. As the alien send their messages, they emulate the forms given them in that capsule; digitally edited clips of Ronald Reagan, Madonna, Hall and Oates, and the crew of Fantasy Island (and so on) take the screen, and it’s pretty hilarious.
The Christian Angle: When I Was a Child
Without spoiling anything, I can say that the engine behind the human forces are the main characters’ video gaming skills that they acquired in their adolescent years. While these skills may have proven useful in childhood, the friends had little use for them as adults (improbable plot notwithstanding). Considering their static existences before the intrusion of the aliens, it is highly implausible that audio/visual tech monkey, an underground conspiracy theorist, and POTUS himself would ever need to be able to play video games to save the world from a superior alien race.
This short passage of Paul blipped in and out of consciousness as I watched the film:
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. (1 Corinthians 13:11 ESV)
Definitely not meaning to make a judgement call on any of the creators of this film, but I don’t believe any story can be effective if its primary engine runs on 80’s ephemera and the arrested development of its protagonists. But as I write, I’m reminded of Jesus’ own words:
Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3 ESV)
The film walks a fine line between the veneration of something noble and the exaltation of something that needs to be left behind. And as it is, I am at an impasse, because I myself am still working on erasing those juvenile processes that will never help me get closer to God as they are – like a selfish attitude and letting pride for myself get in the way of loving my neighbor – while still trying to retain those that do help me follow Him – like listening without back-talking and simple, single-minded obedience.
The solution, then, and what Pixels moves me to do, is to find out which childish ways Jesus wants me to keep and which ones Paul urges me to leave behind.
I’ll let you know when I figure it out.