At first it seemed like the folk over at ThatGuyWithTheGlasses.com had failed me. The first trailer for their 4 year anniversary special showed me very little aside from puzzling visuals and some of the Channel Awesome reviewers standing around in a house. I thought that Doug Walker hadn’t managed to come up with something as crazy or ridiculous this time around and I felt that maybe the time has indeed come to give The Nostalgia Critic a rest. But then – the second trailer came out!
Trailer #2 for To Boldly Flee was just awesome. It made me understand why all the characters were seemingly just in one house for most of the time, it had enthralling music, it seemed to have a pretty weird yet epic story after all, and it proved that Walker has upped the special effects work, which explains the delay of the project and the earliest trailer’s lack of clips. Basically, I was hooked, but how is To Boldly Flee as a whole? Let us examine.
Our story begins in the home of The Nostalgia Critic (Walker), an Internet reviewer who is starting to realize that his time might soon come to an end. He grieves still the death of his friend Ma-Ti (Bhargav Dronamraju), killed during the battle of Malachite’s Hand in Suburban Knights and he gets even more miserable when all his crimes against humanity are finally taken to court by Terl (Noah Antwiler), an alien from Battlefield Earth, although it’s copyright infringement that puts Critic under house arrest. Terl, however, wants him dead for blowing up his home planet and panning his movie. But then, when a mysterious wormhole, The Plot Hole, is formed near planet Jupiter’s moon Europa, spreading continuity errors and anomalies across the galaxy, as well as calling his name in Ma-Ti’s voice, Critic gathers all the site’s reviewers together once more, preparing them for their greatest adventure yet – the search for Ma-Ti. In space. Using a flying house.
The crew, aside from the ship’s captain Critic, is Spoony (Antwiler) who holds Ma-Ti’s soul (or “his character”) inside of him, Linkara (Lewis Lovhaug) who gets attacked and replaced by his droid double Mechakara early in the story, the Nostalgia Chick (Lindsay Ellis), her love interest Todd In The Shadows (Todd Nathanson), his love interest Obscurus Lupa (Allison Pregler), Sage (Bennet White), Film Brain (Mathew Buck), Cinema Snob (Brad Jones), good ol’ Luke Mochrie, Oancitizen (Kyle Kallgren), Jesu Otaku (Hope Chapman), MarzGurl (Kaylyn Dicksion), Phelous (Phelan Porteous), Paw (Paul Schuler), Jew Wario (Justin Carmical), Angry Joe (Joe Vargas), Sad Panda (Julien Diaz), 8-bit Mickey (Mickey Paradis), Last Angry Geek (Brain Heinz) and CR (Chad Rocco).
Of course, they cosplay a bit whilst on the voyage. As various sci-fi characters this time, logically! Star Wars, Star Trek, Matrix, Cowboy Bebop, Robocop, Doctor Who, Judge Dredd – you name it.
At their tail, the critics have the evil Executor (Rob Walker), a mix between a Sith Lord and a corrupt Hollywood producer (I know, barely a difference), who has sent Terl and another character from the website, Doug Walker’s parody of General Zod, on a mission to claim Spoony and later destroy all critics once and for all. Another foe is Jim Troken as corrupt bureaucrat Lame R. Prick of SUCKA (Stop Unstoppable Copyright Killers Act), obviously spoofing Lamar Smith, sponsor of SOPA. I think it is fitting that a SOPA parody serves a majorly antagonistic role in a story revolving around these Internet critics, and how it may end them for good. Will they reach Ma-Ti , save the galaxy and bring balance to the plot before being destroyed and/or taken to the dark side of bad, greedy, art-less filmmaking? Watch and find out! It’ll be worth it.
Something I really liked was the vast inclusion of characters from different Channel Awesome shows. We got doctors Tease and Block (Elisa Hansen and Antonella Inserra) from Chick’s videos, Mechakara (who at this point has gotten his hands on Malachite’s Hand from Suburban Knights, somehow) from Linkara’s show, various other Walker-characters and yes, Antwiler dons the mantle of Dr. Insano one final time before his regretable recent departure from the site.
But it is the character interactions (a highlight in any TGWTG-special) and the surprisingly serious moments that makes To Boldly Flee stand out amongst everything on this website. Zod and Terl make a pitch-perectly hilarious and dysfunctional bad guy duo, the love triangle between Todd, Lupa and Chick gets remarkably moving at certain points, but what I really enjoyed was the “master-padawan” relationship between Luke and Snob, particularly during a scene where they lie awake at night, wondering what the future of media critics truly is and if their time is really out. They also discuss the beauty of how critics are essentially a family, tied together simply by Ethernet cables and a hatred for Michael Bay. Touching stuff. When Snob gets kidnapped by the Executor and offered to join the dark side, things get serious and it results in an even greater scene between Luke and Oancitizen, where Luke’s taught the “ways of the plot” and to think like those endangered filmmakers who still value art over money.
The other characters are enjoyable too, of course. Favourites include Mechakara, the delightfully apathetic Sad Panda, the Executor (mostly because Rob Walker’s performance is him at his finest), the crazy Joe, the often “surrounded by fools” Lupa, a mysterious space pilot who seems to be visiting the other characters’ dreams (I won’t reveal who he really is), and let me tell you, if you thought Jesu Otaku was relentlessly adorkable as she is, just wait ’til she becomes Ed from Cowboy Bebop. My heart melted. There’s not much of Oancitizen (whom I love a lot), sadly, but even he gets his time in the spotlight. The real star, though, is none other than Nostalgia Critic himself.
To Boldly Flee is a pretty big deal in the existence of one of the Internet’s favourite critics. There was even an episode of Nostalgia Critic’s reviews – which I admittadly think should have focused more on the film in question, Scooby Doo, but I digress – that forshadowed the events of To Boldly Flee, and even though I didn’t care much for the episode it was kind of saddening to learn that someone I’ve followed since 2008, a man who helped shape me and my love of film, was seemingly meeting his end. On Walker’s part, it is a smart choice to lay it off before it runs into the ground, but the Critic will be dearly missed.
Now, I am aware there will be an army of non-fans and haters spewing comments about every imperfection there is to the effects and the acting and whatnot, but look, if you’re gonna go ’round comparing this project to stuff like Sin City, Titanic, The Abyss, or, I dunno, Citizen Kane, of course it’s going to appear bad by comparison. But this isn’t a Hollywood picture, nor is it remotely intended to be, nor am I judging it as such! I am comparing this to this and I trust the true fans will agree that it’s an admirable and fascinating evolution.
And that’s the thing – this is for the longtime fans of these entertainers. They will share my opinion that To Boldly Flee is an epic adventure with fun action, surprisingly poignant acting, awesome music (the “Distraction” song is South Park–level!), good cinematography, great comedy, effects that are good enough, subplots that all work, a gripping story, top-notch characters and a touching message about the fun and beauty of Internet reviewing, free speech and even film itself, plus a great farewell to a great character. Now, you must excuse me, I shall spend my Friday night watching some classic TGWTG-reviews. Nostalgia Critic may be gone, but this site will forever be the place I go when I need a smile upon my face.
The only way to end this is to tell you my very first review: The Dark Crystal. Good times.