Virtually Heroes G.J. Echternkamp
Published Jan 20, 2013With films like Hobo with a Shotgun and V/H/S validating the nostalgic, antiquated fantasy ethos of a generation of emotionally limited young men unconsciously keen on implicit power, a movie like Virtually Heroes, a glowing testament to insecure male identity performance, isn't much of a surprise. It posits an adjacent video game reality—mostly like Call of Duty but occasionally like Street Fighter or Far Cry when it helps the flimsy plot progress—where the heroes, Books (Robert Baker) and Nova (Brent Chase) have become aware of their existence.
Utilizing an abundance of stock footage from Roger Corman's library, the film plays out with exceedingly cheap sets and effects, using the static, repetitive video game dynamic to justify budgetary limitations. This aesthetic works in a comic capacity for those in the know, often injecting floating medical kits and crates inexplicably filled with weapons in sets that have been cleared of enemies—who incidentally vary in degree of difficulty based on wardrobe, much like a real video game.
As such, most of the referential material, including incoherent, but arty (and sexist), cut screens and video game glitches on the border of the game-playing environment (they occasionally hit glass walls or get stuck in corners trying to maneuver their way into an assault position) adds some knowing levity for video game players to enjoy. Even the power bars and weapons cache elements are extremely similar to the experience of playing an array of first-person shooter games.
But despite the clever inside joke acknowledgement of gamer experience and some tagged on existential woe--Virtually Heroes is ostensibly set up like a shitty version of Groundhog Day--there's an overriding sense that director G.J. Echternkamp is more interested in being "cool' than creating a legitimate film.
In fact, the majority of Virtually Heroes is too snarky, narrow-minded and self-conscious to have any lasting effect, much like the outspoken dilettantes it caters to. Within the set-up and structure there are an abundance of possibilities, which are, in part, explored superficially, but the repetitive and puerile manner in which it all plays out makes the quirky set-up little more than an alienating and embarrassing veneer by the time the third act—and final boss—come around. (New Horizon)