Reviews have changed over the years. While originally a brief synopsis of the story and a spoilerless review there is so much media over the years that doing a full scene-by-scene breakdown of things done right and wrong in movies, episodes, games, and comics past are now possible. But for many reviewers that isn’t enough. Jokes riff on the strange parts even if there is no commentary attached, or sometimes to show why that particular story beat is messed up. Deep examination reviews are done by many on the internet these days. I’m certainly no exception between “Yesterday’s” Comic, Scanning My Collection, and the BW Video Reviews.
For some in the reviewing community even that is not enough. They take on character roles and have silly or even serious adventures, celebrating the medium they happen to be reviewing and story types they love. Probably the best of those, and inspiration for many who choose the path of longform continuous tales in their reviews, is Lewis Lovhaug. Known as Linkara, the host of Atop The Fourth Wall has taken time from reviewing bad comics to deal with mad scientists, outer gods, supernatural horrors, and invaders from other dimensions. Probably the most persistent of these threats is Mechakara, an evil version of Linkara’s assistant, Pollo (pronounced as if the “l”s are “i”s; I don’t get it, either), from another dimension who wants to kill every Linkara ever due the poor treatment he received from the Linkara of his dimension. It’s no surprise then, that Linkara’s biggest adventure would feature him once more.
Now Atop The Fourth Wall has popped up a lot here at the Spotlight (and I really need to replace the dead Blip links with what YouTube links I can match them to). He was the first creator of something I reviewed to comment on my site. He allowed me to post his History Of Power Rangers series here at the Spotlight…which I can’t do anymore because Blip is gone, Toei hates anything of theirs on YouTube even in review form, and Screenwave doesn’t give out public embed codes while my host probably wouldn’t use them anyway because WordPress is worried about security and limits the available embeddable sites, while a code is available if the video player in question works with it which isn’t always the case. That was a longer sentence than I intended. At any rate, since Linkara has posted his long-awaited movie to YouTube, in which there is no review–just a feature-length adventure, it’s only right that I bring it to the three of you who have yet to see his work. Join Linkara and his reviewer friends–MarzGurl, Nash, Angry Joe, Obscurus Lupa, and the Cinema Snob–plus his usual allies–90s Kid, Harvey Finevoice, Nimue, and Pollo–in the greatest adventure of his life across the galaxy!
(As a heads up, there is some mild use of swears and don’t be eating when Cinema Snob pops up on the enemy screen. I made that mistake during breakfast today unaware of what was about to pop up.)
As a crowdfunded indie film this works very well. Lovhaug makes good use of the many characters he plays and his friends, including those not playing their internet persona, like former reviewer and Team Four Star member Lannipator as the government agent. The story is well written and well performed, which also speaks well of Lovhaug’s first stint directing a large group of people besides himself and one or two others. With the exceptions of Iron Liz, Doctor Insano, and the Gunslinger (and the randomness that is Snowflame), he usually plays every role not involving a full body costume or a machine. And even some of those he plays. While I don’t follow all of these reviewers I have seen their work and they’re in keeping with their reviewer personas. (Nash’s reactions would probably be mine, so he was my favorite.) The other characters from the other ship and the bar are also well done.
Speaking of which we get some development from two of Linkara’s usual support team. During a special set of Christmas episodes we learned of Harvey Finevoice’s son dying (I don’t remember if the specifics were given, it’s been awhile) and his connection to Linkara, whom he usually refers to as “the kid”. (I don’t think we’ve learned how Linkara has met any of his supporting cast. Iron Liz he was dating in real life at the time and she had a proper introduction in-show. Linksano’s and Boffo’s joining were also explained, the latter as a joke, but that’s it.) Finevoice is still driven partially by his loss while the Christmas Ghosts did help him come to terms with this. His scenes with Longhair, I mean Nash, are good to show off who he is. It’s 90s Kid’s interactions with Lupa, however that come off the best. 90’s Kid is usually seen as an idiot obsessed with the 1990s and the extreme times in the stories that tend to drive me nuts when reviewing comics from those years. While some of them were good there’s also a common aesthetic that ruins just as many, and some of those influences are still in comics today. His obsession with guns may make him the right guy to maintain Linkara’s collection of sci-fi and fan weapons, otherwise known as the Arsenal Of Freedom (the link is to an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, which I bet influenced his weapon cache name as much as Nimue was influenced by Lovhaug’s love of Arthurian lore) but here we see another side to him that not only explains why he would be trusted with maintaining the Arsenal safely but his obsession with the 90s and that he’s not as big an idiot as he appears to be. It was my favorite part of the supporting cast moments.
Also, did anyone catch when Linkara swore? While visiting reviewers have sworn on his show before and he’s left swears uncensored in comic panels the only reviewers I’ve seen swear less than Linkara are myself and fellow Reviewers Unknown refugee Rowdy C. Moore. It’s actually a character point that Linkara doesn’t feel he needs to swear for his reviews, #$$hole being the harshest curse word he’s ever used. So when he drops the f-bomb in this one it kind of has more weight to it than the others when you know the show. Or it’s like Transformers: The Movie and he thought he could get away with it because it’s a movie, but I’m calling character point.
My favorite scene, however, is where Linkara is discussing his concerns privately with MarzGurl. He admitted not only the running theme about wondering how his life got so out of control, but that he was scared for his friends. He was kind of scared period. Scared that the reviews he loved had no meaning, that every manner of horror seemed to be targeted at him and nobody really understood what he goes through. Scared not that he might not make it out of this so much as his relief at no longer dealing with all of the paranormal threats he has to deal with if they succeed. The only flaw with the scene was that MarzGurl HAS gone through a similar problem in Farewell, FamiKamen Rider, and we know FamiKamen Rider (and a third Saturday Night Showcase entry, The Reviewaverse Saga), is as much a part of Atop The Fourth Wall continuity as To Boldly Flee, the final TGWTG anniversary movie that is tied in to this film. (That means I’m a radio newscaster in that continuity. :D) Sure, it’s a rarity for MarzGurl to deal with things like that and it may not necessarily be on the same level as The Entity, but she is the only other person to face a greater threat that bad media among the cast. This was not acknowledged and it would have been a nice nod. Or maybe the MCU has spoiled us all, who knows?
The effects may not be ILM-level but for a crowdfunded indie film they do a good job, and Linkara finally has a physical set he can use in later episodes of the show. Before this, Lovhaug used a virtual set and green screen but now has his own set to play in. While I would have thought by now Linkara would have softened the colors a bit (Comicron 1 was taken from a dimension-conquering despot obsessed with destroying one of those outer gods I mentioned), something closer to Kirk or Picard’s Enterprise (Enterprise-D would be my choice) than Archer’s, the physical set looks a lot better than the green screened effect just by the fact that it’s there and something to interact with besides air and hoping your hands are in the right spot. The bar was used in episodes of Nostalgia Critic, and the house gag comes from To Boldly Flee, and I don’t know where movie night was held or where the warehouse came from, but all of those set pieces are used well for the story.
For a budget movie Atop The Fourth Wall: The Movie is a great tribute to the stories Lovhaug loves (if he could have fit a stronger Power Rangers reference in there you know he would) and to the show that has made him internet famous. While people who don’t watch the show may wonder about how Linkara got all his gadgets and ship, or why six characters were played by him (making Ninja-Style Dancer’s absence stand out since even Linksano and Boffo get a cameo), there’s still enough there for newcomers to get something out of it while fans of the show can also enjoy it. Which means every comment I see that this CAN’T be done by other adaptations is a load of horse wash. As I said before, Lovhaug and everyone involved with making this should feel proud of the work they did. Ace job indeed.