Friday, September 2, 2016

Movie Review: "Atari: Game Over" (2014)

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Movie"Atari: Game Over"
Director: Zak Penn
Year: 2014
Rating: TV-14
Running Time: 1 hour, 16 minutes

A documentary investigating the urban legend of the burial of millions of copies of the worst video game ever made, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and if and how it led to the demise of Atari as a whole.

Documentary filmmaker Zac Penn takes an interest in investigating the urban legend that is "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial," a video game for the Atari 2600 console. This is the game that consistently tops many internet lists as one of the worst video games ever made. According to urban legend, it was so bad, Atari had to bury millions of copies in a landfill in New Mexico just to get rid of the surplus. The game was even said to be a contributing factor to the eventual downfall of Atari itself. You wouldn't think that a documentary movie about digging up a video game in the middle of a landfill would be interesting, but amazingly, it is interesting, engaging, and compelling. This is not to say the act of digging up garbage itself is riveting, but the mythos surrounding the garbage beneath the landfill is enough to make any geek's heart burst.

In this film, interviews are conducted with programmers, executives from Atari, as well as video game enthusiasts alike to not only find out the backstory about "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial," but the conditions of how it was made, what led to it being an initial commercial success but a legendary failure, and why the legend of its burial exists. There are many who come to the defense of "E.T.," claiming it is far from the worst game ever made. When you peel back the layers of this urban legend, it's actually quite an impressive achievement considering it was constructed from concept to final product in just five weeks in order to received a Christmas 1982 release date. Through this documentary, w are able to learn a lot about the history of Atari itself and what the work culture was like for programmers there. Many do not realize that those employed within the company were really working on the dawn of home video game innovation. There is also a fandom surrounding this game and old games in general, one that many may perceive as crazy. Once the red tape is finally cut down and excavation actually begins taking place, there are a plethora of people that flock in a sort of nerd pilgrimage to this small city in the hopes of learning if the legend is true or not. The fact that people traveled to New Mexico to see garbage being dug up is something that is just hard to wrap your head around, but damn it, it's fun. The amount of enthusiasm these people show when a small piece of an Atari 2600 joystick is found in some dirt after a sandstorm is more excitement than we can muster up for just about anything as human adults.

In the end, if you're into video games new and old, "Atari: Game Over" is absolutely worth a watch. It's almost always an engaging documentary, and at only 66 minutes long, it's a breeze to get through time wise. As it tells the story of Atari, the people who worked there, the video games they created, and "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial," we couldn't help but think of how far we've come in the world of gaming from these humble beginnings.

My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: ---%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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