Short films have as long a history as cinematic features, although they are often not as beloved or as well remembered. Still, there is something to be said for the artistic vision needed to complete a story arc in less than 60 minutes, relying more heavily on more shorthand ways to get the point across. Of course, the Internet has made it easier than ever to get your movie out to the world, for better or worse.
Let’s take a look at Game Companion.
The issues with judging short films, especially when not made by people with access to the best of the best in equipment, is that it has to be judged on its own merits and not compared to that of big budget blockbusters. The Avengers this is not. But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have merits, it just means you have to take it for what it is.
The film revolves around Bob, the typical stereotype of dude living in his basement playing video games all day with snarky comment provided by best friend Cecil. After obsessively playing one particular fighting game until reaching the master level, the Game Master allows him to pick a companion. Before you can say “wait, haven’t I seen this premise before?” the girl he chooses, Kimiko, appears from the screen, believing that she and Bob are to fight evil together. Bob tries to sleep with her and fails, Kimiko finds out from Bob’s niece Janey that it’s all a game, Cecil finally beats the game and summons Kimiko’s sister Haruka, who banishes both men into the video game. All of this in the span of 12 minutes (we’ll tackle that in just a second). The plot feels very Weird Science mixed with the wet dream of many an avid gamer, and it’s compact nature doesn’t keep it from being cliche.
To be blunt, the writing needs a lot of work. The dialogue is wooden and the attempts at humor fall flat. Characters interact in the most bizarre ways: Janey just comes into a scene, gives a brief information drop and then gets called off screen in like 30 seconds. The pacing also suffers because of this curtness. Stories this complex usually need 30 minutes to be told, developing characters and ideas beyond quick scene cuts and awkward transitions. With an expanded runtime, this film could have been not only more fleshed out, but also more interesting as the title picture suggestions. Also, just going to put it out there, just because the ladies win in the end doesn’t make the men treating them like sex objects and fuck buddies any less creepy or gross or straight up cringe-worthy.
The acting ranges from good to passable. Bob and Cecil, played by Gord Bestwick and Leon Potter, respectively, do a good job of being skeevy but the second-hand embarrassment I feel whenever their characters are on screen keeps me from really enjoying their performance (maybe that’s just how good it is?). Sydney Howllet and Hannah Ryan as Janey and Haruka aren’t on screen long enough to make any real judgement of their skill but they certainly don’t leave a bad impression. Special mention should definitely go to Julie Townsend-Tyskerud, who really shines in her role as game character come to reality Kimiko.
I will give credit where credit is due and say the special effects themselves are actually pretty good. The video game is actually pretty solid in its design and it’s blending of art and live footage. The design of the characters from the video games themselves are actually really well done, with great costuming and make up. Even the fight choreography is interesting and fun to look at when on screen.
Game Companion is not a bad film per se but it very much a diamond in the rough product that with some refining and some extending could be something more engaging. It is because I see this potential I’m giving it the score I am, a charming little gem that just needs refinement. If this is the directors’ first efforts then I have to say kudos to them, it’s a solid step to bigger and better things. Just, you know, don’t be afraid to hit that 15 minute mark.
– Good acting.
– Great costuming and make up.
– Good overall design/cinematography.
– Poor writing and pacing.
– Unoriginal premise.
– Uncomfortable at points.