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Mazes And Monsters [DVD]
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Tom Hanks stars in this fantasy drama that tells the story of four college friends and the imaginary world that slowly consumes them all. When Robbie Wheeling (Hanks) starts the new academic year at college, he quickly makes friends with Kate, Daniel and Jay Jay, three fellow students with one common interest Monsters & Mazes. A game of magic, myth and mystical powers, the four players decide to take the roleplay into the real world but quickly find themselves drawn deeper into the gameplay until players and characters are barley distinguishable from each other.
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What's pretty clear is that there was a lot of paranoia about Dungeons and Dragons style gaming in the US at that time this story was conceived (it was a book before it was a movie), the classic ideas that A grade students would neglect their studies and lose their minds if they had the proper diversions or distractions acting like the mythical siren. I'm always a little incredulous about this, like can anyone take the idea of board gaming make believe so seriously that its as threatening as drugs, alcoholism or other trappings of campus life that could screw you up when taken to extremes? On the other hand, and this is pretty clear from the beginning of the story, not all the players are adversely effected, only the one which appears to have delusion problems to begin with, in fact the face to face and interpersonal nature of the game means there are friends who go to great lengths to rescue Hanks protagonist when fantasy takes over altogether. Which did make me think about how differently this story could have turned out now when people have fantastical and submerging relationships with social media or devices instead of anything remotely involving actual other people.
A couple of, major enough, criticisms here, Hanks is great as a performer but some of the others can be flat or the opposite extreme of being too much in earnest, then again it could be the writing and character development being shoddy or one dimensional as opposed to the actors, I dont know. The story also creeps along at a snails pace and more than once I was thinking cut to the chase here. It can be a chore of a watch and as I say maybe there's not a lot of rewatch value either, I know too that given how bleak it all turns out some people would class this as a "depression movie".
Finally, there's a murder in the course of the story unfolding which no one seems to care much about! Seriously it doesnt get much of a mention! I found that a little concerning, equally just how quickly a group of adults indulged their friend's madness given that context, I just had a vision of their disappearing back to campus and Hanks' character's family being like "Awh, hell, months of therapy undone there".
Some other reviews have already mentioned the special effects, I couldnt believe this was a TV movie actually, they are pretty great all things considered. The set design too, along with the monster, is good too.
The film was not bad exactly, just not what I was expecting and clearly born from a time when there was a lot of fear over D&D (though I don't think it ever was to the same extent over here in the UK as it was in the USA). It seems nowadays strange and outdated, but as a reflection of its time it is a benchmark of it.
As a film about a college student having a mental breakdown and struggling with separating fantasy from reality its actually ok, although is does not go into any depth to that aspect.
So disappointed but only because it was not what I was expecting from the description and cover.
The film production is awful. Ham acting, clunky script, unimaginative cinematography. And that's most 80s films right there.
The actual premise of the story is actually very relevant. You're hard pressed to notice it because the actual subject matter is so badly handled - forgivable given a generation of people who had never heard of mental illness. Instead, the executives that bankrolled this production seemed Hell-bent on scaremongering viewers in the 1980s that allowing your kids to play Dungeons and Dragons is as bad as experimenting with Crystal Meth.
This film could and perhaps should be rebooted, updated and remade.
Online gaming and immersive Virtual Reality are simply the next gen of this theme and could easily be substituted into this film's story. What needs to be really focused on however is the mental aspect of the protagonists: Ordinary young adults coming to terms with issues rooted in dysfunctional family, anxiety, self-worth, addiction, acceptance, love and death. The whole story behind the film screams Who am I? What am I doing here? It's no coincidence that Robbie is at the roof of the Twin Towers about to end his life when he says Why can't I remember how I got here? It's like an epitaph to those of us who went through life constantly climbing a corporate ladder and forgot who we were before. This film is littered with sub-story lines that needed massive expansion: Feminism, Aspergers, Priveledge, Geek-cool, over-bearing parents....it could almost be a blueprint for The Breakfast Club...Ha!!
Remake this with some thought. The story is good....just terribly told. And a terrible cover picture!!
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