“Maybe one day, I’ll inspire so many people to help so many other people suck less, there will be no suck left in the whole world.” —Jeremy, aka teh_pwnerer
With the occasional Pure Pwnage reference I make here and there in my other reviews, it should come as no surprise that I would take an interest to the Pure Pwnage film, dubbed Pure Pwnage Teh Movie: announced back in September 2012 and released in January 2016 (I was in Kelowna assisting with a The Giant Walkthrough Brain performance for UBC Okanagan the night the movie première back home), Pure Pwnage Teh Movie aspired to be the gamer movie that captured the spirit of gaming. Originally a web-based mockumentary on gamer culture, Pure Pwnage‘s earliest videos were characterised by over-the-top, hilarious takes on what life as a gamer is like: captured through Kyle (Geoff Lapire)’s perspective, Pure Pwnage follows the misadventures of Jeremy (Jarett Cale) and Doug (Joel Gardiner) as they interact with both the gaming and real worlds. A TV series was also created but was later cancelled: the web universe generally was met with greater acclaim, so in filming the movie, the creators decided to capture the spirit present in the web series as best as they could, and Pure Pwnage Teh Movie winds up meeting expectations: its been some ten years since Jeremy and Doug have last picked up a controller or pwned someone with a keyboard and mouse. Both are working, but when Kyle decides the time is ripe to produce a film and wishes to bring back the Jeremy and Doug of the web series, he finds out that Jeremy has settled in to life in the real world. However, not everything as it seems: it turns out that Jeremy’s been longing to do something beyond accounting. Rejoining the world of gaming, Jeremy’s surprised at how much games have changed in the past ten years. Things are more team-oriented now, and Jeremy must learn to be an effective team player. While he is able to lead a team to the world championship for a League of Legends tournament, Jeremy discovers that it’s ultimately not about winning, money or fame, but rather, it’s the spirit of friendship, cooperation and being true to oneself that truly matters.
Pure Pwnage Teh Movie rightfully earns its place as a comedy film about gamers: this movie is characterised by outrageous imagery and dialogue, whether it be Jeremy applying his über-micro towards working more effectively at his desk job or Doug smashing up a keyboard in frustration when he dies in Counter Strike: Global Offensive. The movie consistently delivers humour throughout its run, and fans who are familiar with Pure Pwnage will note that many of the elements that made Pure Pwnage‘s web series make a return in some from or another in Pure Pwnage Teh Movie (at one point, when Jeremy takes off, Doug chases after him but grabs a kitchen knife first, reasoning that “you run faster with a knife”). Similarly, in preparation for the competition, Jeremy decides that, given that the South Koreans are the greatest gamers on the planet, the only way he will reach their level of proficiency is to “breath the same air” and “eat the same food” as they do, dining on Korean cuisine and training as he imagines Koreans would. This particular aspect mirrors the legendary training scene during the web series where Jeremy trains under teh_masterer to further his skills after losing to a n00b. This is a movie that will bring smiles to gamers at all turns. While it is a fantastic caricature of gaming culture and non-gamers may find some of the jokes or references difficult to follow at times, but the film is reasonably friendly towards audiences as a whole, presenting a coherent story about Jeremy’s journey to understand what he really wants from life.
In spite of its prominent comedy aspects, Pure Pwnage has always managed to fit in life lessons into its seemingly frivolous narrative. The web series suggested that one must be willing to work hard in order to succeed (“it’s those people who are better than you that make you get better, you know? You gotta just put your nose down, you gotta work harder, you gotta train harder, you know? And you gotta think about that guy so, next time you meet, you’re gonna walk up to him and say ‘you know what? I’m gonna kick your ass!’, and then you do!”), be humble about one’s ability and never become complacent (“you don’t wanna be like all pro up in people’s faces, right, ‘cuz sometimes, you start thinking that you’re probably better than you actually are, and when that happens you start to lose focus, right? Next thing you know, you’re losing to a n00b”) or to be multi-disciplinary in order to adapt to different situations (“If one is to truly pwn, one must pwn in all games”). Pure Pwnage Teh Movie brings these subtle messages back in different forms. The one of major themes in the movie is that a team is only successful if its members cooperate: Jeremy, having played independently for such great lengths, is unfamiliar with working with his teammates to win, but with some tips from Doug, manages to be a better team player. Similarly, when Jeremy’s stubbornness nearly costs him the world championship, it’s Doug, understanding what friendship means, who returns to help Jeremy out. Overall, the main theme in Pure Pwnage is that happiness arises from being true to oneself: Jeremy is not truly happy with his job and returns to gaming, but when he goes pro, he realises that teamwork is a challenge for him. When given a chance to lead a team and sponsor a product, Jeremy decides that in the end, he merely wants to be true to himself, doing what he’s good at under his own terms. He tells Kyle that the film should happen on Kyle’s term’s (rather than the studio’s), and decides to play in the championships, because he wants to, not because he’s here to showcase a new piece of technology. In the end, this is the main message that Pure Pwnage Teh Movie truly seeks to convey: more often than not, people follow paths and careers because it’s what others want, losing sight of what they themselves want in the pursuit of satisfying someone else’s ideals. However, for those who are bold enough to remain faithful to themselves (and put in the effort to make their dreams a reality), the end results can be very gratifying. In Jeremy’s case, he wins the tournament with Doug’s help and goes on to use the winnings to start his own gaming school, where the goal is to make the world suck less and inspire others to do the same.
Screenshots and Commentary
- This is my first time doing a full-sized review of a live action feature film in the blog’s entire history: the Skyfall review I wrote back in 2012 was smaller in scale and scope. Boasting thirty images, I encountered some difficulty in distilling out which moments to feature in the talk, since the entire movie, from start to finish, was one hell of a riot.
- From the writers, the movie is a direct follow-up to the web series: by this point in time, both Doug and Jeremy have full-time employment at an unspecified firm. Jeremy is working s an accountant of some sort, and Doug seems to be involved in various jobs around the office, ranging from mail delivery to window cleaning (both tasks, he performs with the zeal of someone who is one with the first person shooter).
- Jarett Cale admittedly resembles our current Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, in physical appearance. Pure Pwnage Teh Movie is a Canadian-produced film, although through the movie, it should be clear that not all Canadians are hockey experts who live in igloos and eat copious amounts of maple syrup: here, Doug and Jeremy have bacon-and-kale salads for dinner while discussing technical tax terms that I have no understanding of. As Doug says, the bacon offsets the kale, making for a perfect (“strange” seems more appropriate, though) combination.
- A parody of modern augmented reality devices, the XOBO is leaps and bounds further ahead than anything that currently exists: it’s supposedly able to read neural impulses and use those to control the UI. The closest we have at present is the Microsoft HoloLens, and my old research lab has acquired a device for development purposes. I’ve used the HoloLens, and it is an incredible experience.
- Throughout the earlier scenes, Jeremy is taking an inordinate number of pills, and although their effects are never specified, it appears that they slow down Jeremy enough, allowing him to focus on the present. So, when Kyle takes the pills away, Jeremy suddenly realises that everything around him seems to suck, causing him to create a ruckus at his workplace and becomes fired in the process.
- Jeremy and Doug later return to their old lifestyles and habits: here, they bring back the old RTS vs FPS debate while taking a stroll around the neighbourhood. In the web series, Jeremy and Doug have their differences with respect to which genre of game requires more skill. Jeremy argues that RTS requires more skill in demanding players keep track of multiple events and actions at once, while Doug contends that FPS is superior, boiling down to how well one knows the environment and tools needed for victory.
- Anastasia (Miranda Plant) makes a few cameo appearances in the film here and there. In the web series, she briefly dated Jeremy but the two broke up near the finale. Jeremy and Anastasia appear on amicable terms in the movie and here, she remarks that Jeremy quitting his job might allow him to begin pursing the things he loves.
- So, for the first little while, Jeremy and Doug spend their days playing games: a few modern titles, including Street Fighter IV and Counter Strike: Global Offensive make an appearance. Bringing back old memories of Doug smashing his keyboard in a rage after dying to lag, Doug tears up a keyboard after losing in CS:GO. Long accustomed to Doug’s outrageous actions, Jeremy calmly hands Doug a new keyboard.
- Gaming in and of itself is a hobby, but there are professional competitions that result in payouts for participants who are successful. Jeremy is surprised to learn that competitions are team-based; this stands in contrast to his background as a gamer, as he is most comfortable with playing and winning on his own. This would suggest that Jeremy’s instructor, teh_masterer (a mysterious gamer clad in ninja attire), does not place particular value on teamwork and therefore did not cover it in Jeremy’s training during the web series.
- Thus, while trying to recruit members for his team, Jeremy runs into considerable roadblocks and constantly tears down his teammates for not playing flawlessly to his standard. It’s ultimately Doug who provides Jeremy some suggestions and pointers for being a more effective leader. With this, Jeremy finally manages to work with his team and train with them in preparation for their first tournament.
- I personally value self-sufficiency to a very high extent, but in my professional life, I understand the importance of good teamwork and communication: a large majority of humanity’s greatest achievements arise from the result of teamwork, and working independently (such as my graduate work) presents numerous obstacles that might be handled more effectively while working in a group of people.
- This screenshot captures a sizeable crowd at one of the competitions: such crowds were never depicted in the web series, and the largest competition was the Lanageddon event held in Calgary’s Bowness Community Center during 2005. I visited the venue for myself a few summers ago during the Omatsuri festival (a redundancy, but that’s what it’s called), taking in some of the Japanese community’s cultural events and food in the area.
- When Jeremy discovers that Kyle’s taken his pills (directly precipitating the movie’s events), he tears up the scrip and resolves to get his job back. This scene remains one of my favourite in the entire movie: Jeremy lectures Kyle on how his actions are for drama, prompting Kyle to go with it. Kyle suggests that Jeremy continue where it’s brighter, so Jeremy counters by moving to a darker spot. When Kyle says he’ll turn up the ISO, Jeremy retorts that he’ll turn down the ISO, even though this is not possible on his end.
- ISO refers to the sensitivity of the image sensor, and turning it up results in camera gain, but as Jeremy predicts, his actions result in camera lose: it turns out that the movie’s gone overbudget, lost its main protagonist and failed to deliver the romance component. As a result, the company backing the film takes the rights to production and filming.
- This is perhaps the only R-rated moment in the entire film, when Jeremy decides to expose himself on camera in protest that someone else is filming Pure Pwnage Teh Movie. The TV series had a few moments that were censored, while the web series was careful to ensure that everything remained 14A. I encountered some difficult in capturing screenshots for the movie because, unlike anime or games, there’s a great deal of motion blur, but I did manage to get a good spread of screenshots that capture some of the movie’s spirits.
- Another director, Mike, is assigned to look after the movie.Here, Kyle and Mike fight over filming Jeremy, slinging insults at one another about notions of pedestrian and the F-stop. It turns out that Jeremy is not conducive to having someone else film him.
- With some encouragement from Dave, and Jeremy’s background in accounting, Kyle agrees to Jeremy’s request that Pure Pwnage Teh Movie should not involved anything scripted, and simply, “just let stuff happen”.
- With this new take on the movie, another aspect from the web series is brought back to life in Pure Pwnage Teh Movie: in the first season, Jeremy loses to a n00b and seeks teh_masterer for additional training. After succeeding in convincing teh_masterer that he is indeed ready, he trains in a variety of unorthodox ways, ranging from practising his micro in an empty room with nothing but a keyboard, jogging and executing shoryuken in real life, or eating rice with a Nintendo controller in a scene mirroring that seen in Kill Bill.
- I love the shots of Jeremy walking down the streets of Toronto, showcasing the different areas of inner Toronto. Here, Jeremy steps into a Korean restaurant and explains that in order to best a Korean at video games, he must immerse himself in their ways. Scenes of him learning to eat (and eventually mastering) Korean food are interspersed with training scenes and Jeremy’s infamous monitor dance.
- I watched Pure Pwnage Teh Movie on my flight back nearly two weeks ago, and found it to be the polar opposite of When Marnie Was There: whereas the latter is emotionally charged, Pure Pwnage Teh Movie delivers nonstop humour, and I could not stop smiling on my flight back home. The evening I got back, I had dinner at a Cantonese restaurant that served excellent dishes, including sweet and sour pork that was clearly grilled. The next day, I visited the Stampede for the free admissions and pancake breakfast, then walked the midway before having a smoked meat poutine, plus a deep-fried whole onion with chipotle sauce for lunch. Carnaval food is absolutely delicious but also ridiculously unhealthy.
- Jeremy’s infamous victory dances are a critical part of Pure Pwnage, and it was most definitely welcome to see them (taking the form of Jeremy humping and spanking the monitor or controller of whatever device he’s using to pwn) make a return in the movie. I intend to upload a .gif of this happening somewhere and use it as my default response to whenever something hilarious happens (such as when a certain onee-sama got banned at an anime forum I frequent).
- Like the web series, whether or not the training actually happens is left ambiguous: in the web series, Jeremy is found sleeping a most uncomfortable sleep on the floor after seemingly overcoming teh_masterer in a micro battle as the final phase of his training, and in the movie, he’s asleep at the keyboard at the internet café he’s training in. In both cases, I imagine that the training did indeed happens, since the sessions do appear to have a non-trivial impact on improving his performance.
- Jeremy meets Charles, the CEO of the company behind the XOBO. A collected, laid-back businessman, he convinces Jeremy to be the face of XOBO and participate in the international competition. He assures that by backing XOBO’s branding, regardless of how the actual tournament ends, he will be paid handsomely for his troubles, and Jeremy agrees.
- It turns out that the team he will be playing with is the same team that he had won with in the local tournaments, and in the competition’s opening stages, they proceed to demolish all teams they go against on virtue of skill in League of Legends. I’m not sure how well I’d fare in League of Legends, myself, given that I’ve never been able to motivate myself to play the game and learn its mechanics closely. Like Doug, I prefer shooters.
- Like Anthem of the Heart, it would be quite vapid if Jeremy and his team waltzed through the tournament without any drama: similar to how Takumi’s revelation that he does not see Jun in a romantic light threatens to derail their performance, Jeremy’s remarks about Shawn being “friendzoned”, leading Emma to leave the team. This particular aspect of social interactions is one that is remarkably complex and therefore, difficult to discuss in a single figure caption (or several), so I will not explore it in greater detail in this post.
- The new XOBO is lighter than the older model, and Jeremy has an epiphany here, realising that after everything he’s seen, it’s not really about cool stuff or money bringing people together, but rather, it’s about people coming close to one another because they share a passion (for gaming, in this case). Understanding that he’s made a mistake, he accepts that he might lose the competition and proceeds to begin the final match against the South Koreans.
- Disappointed at Jeremy’s decisions, Doug decides to leave the tournament and return home. However, he has a change of heart, and right as Jeremy’s team is about to fold, he returns to fight in Emma’s place. When Jeremy asks him why he’d made this decision, Doug replies it’s simply because they’re best friends. This marks another theme of the movie: friends don’t expect favours to be returned, but rather, are simply there for one another when things get difficult.
- Their combined offensive allows Jeremy to win the tournament and the associated prize money, and in the process, Jeremy and Doug reconcile. This has been a longstanding theme throughout the web series, and to see it reinforced again in the film is a reminder that despite their differences in beliefs and preferences for games, Doug and Jeremy exemplify the sort of bond that best friends have with one another. Of course, it wouldn’t be Pure Pwnage without comedy: while the message here is profound in the aftermath of Jeremy’s triumph, the writers mange to work in another moment for laughs.
- It turns out that Kyle forgot to load fresh batteries into his camera for the tournament and runs out, leaving Jeremy to explain what’s happened. In contrast with the Harekaze sinking for no apparent reason in Hai Furi‘s finale, Pure Pwnage Teh Movie appropriately uses an unexpected twist to further reinforce an idea: here, it’s that the movie is supposed to be comical in nature. With his prize money, Jeremy decides to open a gaming school and make the world suck just a little less. He’s also back together with Anastasia now, and remarks that many things also happen off-camera that didn’t make it into the film, mirroring reality.
- As such, when the end credits begin to roll, I found Pure Pwnage Teh Movie to meet expectations for what I had been looking for in the movie: it brings back the elements that made the web series entertaining and scales the narrative up to work in a movie format. In fact, although this might be an “apples and oranges” comparison for some, I would tend to think that Pure Pwnage Teh Movie succeeds in presenting a larger story on the silver screen more effectively than Girls und Panzer Der Film did: unlike Girls und Panzer, Pure Pwnage Teh Movie manages to keep anticipation high and suspense palatable throughout its run, leading me to constantly ask myself “what will happen next?” Overall, this movie was superbly enjoyable, and I have no trouble recommending this film for gamers. For those wondering how this movie relates to those interested in anime, there is a model of Char’s Sazabi somewhere in the movie, and I’ll let interested viewers try and find it (hint: it’s not featured in any of the screenshots).
While it’s been more than ten years since Pure Pwnage first was posted to the internet, Pure Pwnage Teh Movie has lost none of its efficacy in both conveying a sense of humour, as well as integrating a rather compelling reminder about being true to oneself. It’s a film that I enjoyed immensely, bringing Pure Pwnage into the modern age, complete with Jeremy’s transition from an older gaming culture to one that’s more widespread and occurring at a greater scale. In Pure Pwnage Teh Movie, some of the moments served to remind me of why the old web series was such a phenomenal watch, while at other points, one must marvel at the scale at which some things happen, especially with regards to the tournaments themselves. The web series was done with a much smaller budget, at a much smaller scale, but the different tournaments and competitions in Pure Pwnage Teh Movie illustrate that the writers can effectively tell a bigger story with a bigger budget. In spite of this increase in scale, however, Pure Pwnage Teh Movie remains true to its own theme and true to its origins: it is a comedy about gamers, first and foremost, providing a humourous take on a hobby and community that’s only really begun to become more widely known. Pure Pwnage Teh Movie easily earns a strong recommend from me (I am a gamer and relate fully to all of the jokes), and even for audiences who are not gamers, this movie still earns a strong recommendation for being able to weave in a solid narrative and theme together with consistently good comedy.