Short of the Week

8 Bits

Action-packed homage to the childhood games of yesteryear led by a shirtless avenger in boxers.

With a surging nostalgia for the technology of yesteryear (Da Chip’s 8-bit renditions of Daft Punk songs, Pixels, and Tron: Legacy) there’s a strong desire to return to the simpler days of early gaming. Perhaps no one feels that desire as strongly as our hero in the short film 8 Bits. The film plays out like a ‘boss level’ where our hero attempts to rescue a goddess called 8-Bit from the evil 3D boss. A battle ensues as our shirtless hero fights through rounds of enemies helped in part by the 8-bit goddess herself who lights up, transporting our hero into 2D ass-kicking mode. When he finally reaches the boss, the ultimate battle ensues.

On the surface, 8 Bits clearly provides commentary on an unwillingness to let go of something one loves even when obsolete. It comments on the industry that constantly works to convince us to buy more by upgrading to the new and latest. These are themes echoed in the evil bosses cries to his cronies, “She made this world weak, and limited. But her age is about to end! Our domination is almost complete! And more is up to come my friends…”—even his red/blue color shift represents the future of 3D gaming. But the film clearly wants us to question that. After all, it takes a certain brashness for a character to walk into a club in his boxers and tear the place apart. Perhaps a way of saying, “Look at what I can do with so little.”

Stepping back a little, what’s really interesting about 8 Bits is its delivery. The film often breaks the fourth wall with an awareness of the world it inhabits. At one point the boss turns to the hero and asks, “Where do you think you are, pal? It’s not f***in’ Duke Nukem here.” 8 Bits is an homage to early video games and likewise a dialog from one early game lover to another.

Stylistically, I love this film. It combines a slew of animation styles that (for once) seem to come from the story rather than act as supplemental eye candy. The ending is particularly fun, where the gameplay slowly devolves into more primitive game styles—from 16-bit, to 8-bit, to Atari, to Pong. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that the creators behind this gem are in fact students at Supinfocom. It’s been extremely successful online with 500K views and now looks to rule the festival circuit with screenings planned at OneDotZero and Sundance this January.

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Andrew makes no attempt to hide his love for the magic art of animation. He appreciates compelling visuals but never forgets that in this modern age, a strong story always reigns supreme. You can see his work at andrewsallen.com or his latest film The Thomas Beale Cipher.
  • http://dabottomsproductions.com Daniel Bottoms

    Another fine example of technique over content.So many films made today, regardless of the budget lack enough investment in the heart of any film, the screenplay.I agree the most telling part of this film does not lie in the obvious plot.The real societal story, is the love of video game violence the film pays homage to. The use of violence so casual and no longer shocking,the main character 18 to 34 years, old only wears boxer shorts.What better way to market to the demographic,than to dress and look like it.
    Meanwhile the community living in the present, hopes the out of work neighbor’s adult son videoholic doesn’t have access to real firearms.

  • Jason Sondhi

    Oh Daniel, thanks, that made me smile.

    I should stand up for the demographic though since Google Analytics tells me it’s our audience. Plus as I look, I’m in my boxers writing this comment…

  • Daniel Bottoms

    Jason, Thank you! I LOL with your refreshing honesty. I am a rebel from my own baby boomer generation. I am discovering the art of the camera when many are dreaming of retiring. I know better discoveries are out there for both our demographics.Best regards to all explorers of cinema.

  • http://www.shortoftheweek.com/2010/12/22/madagascar-carnet-de-voyage/ Madagascar by Bastien Dubois | Watch the Best Online Short Films

    [...] our French Animation Playlist. However in just the last week, we’ve added Madagascar, 8 Bits and Meet Buck to our little web collection. We’re finally seeing real and interesting [...]

  • http://www.shortoftheweek.com/2011/01/20/sundance-2011-short-films-online-program-3/ Sundance 2011 Online Short Films 3 | Watch the Best Online Short Films

    [...] 8 Bits hasn’t garnered much love from you our dear readers since Andrew posted his feature review of the action-packed Supinfocom animation last month. The film scores a rather abysmal 2.86/5 on our home ranking. I don’t know who you are, but you are all wrong. 8 Bits is a wild, kinetic and visually imaginative work that’s a lot of fun. It hits nostalgia points for a whole generation of gamers, and…well I’ll just let you read Andrew’s review. [...]

  • http://dabottomsproductions.com Daniel Bottoms

    Dear Sundance, I am that dear reader!I am sorry, I didn’t understand that a fun review of 25 years of video technique montage, was the only purpose of the film.I agree it is fun to watch….technically.Not even your young video fan Andrew, tries to describe the storyline outside of homage to gaming technique and marketing.It sounds like we are all correct, the film has all the imaginative input to storyline of the video games it portrays.So recognition at Sundance only requires dazzling technique?

  • Jason Sondhi

    I think you’re right Daniel, but in being right don’t give credit to what is clever about the film. It is barebones in plot and yes, that IS due to the referentiality to video games that is the essence of the film. Throughout history you’ve never been given much more than, “Mario, go save the Princess!” or “Sonic go defeat the bad guy”.

    In that sense it is a genre film, but when viewers recognize the genre conventions of a piece they don’t ask them to be upended, just executed well. 8 Bits is no different than a slasher film, or a rom-com in that sense, its just we’re not used to the genre conventions of video games being depicted in a film, and yes, most of those genre conventions are visual— relating to gameplay—rather than story-related.

    The pleasure therefore is in the way that video game turning points: the capture of the princess, the powerup, the boss battle, are re-envisioned into different gaming worlds, and used to dramatize a meta-narrative of the advance of technology. That takes a certain kind of imagination to incorporate, and is a storytelling technique in and of itself despite no dialogue.

  • http://dabottomsproductions.com Daniel Bottoms

    Jason your point is well taken and I appreciate your thoughtful dialogue with me about it.The amount of work that went into creating this project looks overwhelming to me.