Title: Reformat the Planet
Format: Two-Disc DVD
Studio: 2 Player Productions
Directed by: Paul Owens
Film [Rating 3.5/5]
Review by: Bill Jones
Reformat the Planet is a feature-length documentary that delves into the scene of chip music, or as mass audiences may know it before seeing this film – the music that sounds like it came from an 8-bit video game. As well as paying homage to its gaming technology roots, and at the same time separating chip tunes into its own art form, Reformat the Planet offers an exciting look into a subculture custom tailored for tech geeks.
Using the New York area as the example for the larger chip-tune community, Reformat the Planet focuses on the inaugural Blip Festival, a coming-together of performers for a four-day festival in Manhattan.
The interviews alone do much of work in driving the film, with purveyors of the scene talking about everything from the music they create, to the technology behind it, to other artists and performing live. It is enlightening material in its own right, aided by solid direction and editing.
The inherent problem with Reformat the Planet, though, is the same as in performance of chip music, and the same as the performing of any pre-rendered music. The musicians aren’t really “playing” live, in the strictest sense. The music is created beforehand, and they’re simply hitting go. From there on out, they’re mostly dancing along like everyone else in the crowd, some to greater effect than others.
It leaves the performances sections of the film feeling a little lackluster, though the editing does its best to cut excitement into the mix. It’s unavoidable with the subject matter at hand, but it leaves certain elements of the movie feeling a little dry and ill-paced. Yet all-in-all, it’s a fascinating look into a fantastic culture.
The DVD release for Reformat the Planet is absolutely stellar, something that bests what most major studios put together for their big films. In addition to the film, the first disc also contains the standard filmmaker’s commentary. More interesting are the additional interviews, which delve deeper into the characters of the film. It also features trailers and deleted scenes.
The second disc features “Reformat the Planet 1.5,” an all-new documentary, running somewhere around 30 minutes, which acts as a follow up to the feature, documenting where the scene has gone since the initial release of the movie in 2008 at South by Southwest. That also features a commentary track, music videos, conversations with the musicians and two fairly deep tutorials on chip music that will go a long way with aspiring chip musicians.
The real fantastic touch is not only great box art, featuring pixilated characters on a cool blue background, but the full-color 18-page collector’s booklet contained within. It features great essays from critics and members of the scene, as well as a bunch of great pictures. It’s a great way to cap off a fantastic collection for a great movie, and again, a lot more than gets offered by most studios.
For more info, 2playerproductions.com
Pads & Panels received a copy of the DVD courtesy of the studio for review purposes.