Larry “Ler” Lalonde
Directed by Ludvig Gür
Pretending I’m a Superman: The Tony Hawk Video Game Story Review
As a kid who grew up in the late ’90s and 2000s, the Tony Hawk video game franchise and the whole skating scene was a big influence on me from my personality to my clothing and while there have been plenty of films and shows over the years diving into this world, Pretending I’m a Superman: The Tony Hawk Video Game Story finally takes a look at its titular subject and explores an interesting slice of history in mostly compelling fashion.
Pretending I’m a Superman tells the story behind the game that changed lives and shaped a generation. From award-winning Swedish director Ludvig Gür and acclaimed videogame producer Ralph D’Amato, the documentary is the story of the skaters and developers who came together to create the best-selling gaming franchise, as well as a look into how skateboarding became a part of the mainstream, and continues to influence modern culture. Featuring never-before-seen footage and interviews with legendary skater Tony Hawk, as well as industry stars Steve Caballero, Rodney Mullen, Chad Muska and Eric Koston, Gür takes audiences through an intimate yet extraordinary journey, chronicling the meteoric rise of skate boarding’s most famous name
The documentary wastes no time in getting to delving into the historical background of its iconic titular athlete and his introduction to the world of professional skating, but it also thankfully doesn’t rush through this time period, as it is a rather compelling time period. Learning of his time in which he and the skating world almost ceased to exist and he had to earn a living as a part-time video editor to his friends and fellow skaters felt like an area of skating and time period for Hawk that hasn’t been seen on film before and to hear him and fellow pros Steve Caballero, Rodney Mullen and Chad Muska open up about it was moving.
As it started to transition into the gaming element of its story, the filmmakers take the appropriate time to cover every element of the development on the first game, from the multiple studios trying and failing to find the right formula and engine to bring it to life to Hawk’s embarrassment over having to wear the old-fashioned motion capture suit and it’s plenty compelling. However, this is also one of the film’s major flaws because as the filmmakers devote so much time to this era that when the time comes to continue down the road, they try to hurry things along.
With a runtime of just over an hour, the pacing for the majority of the film is pretty well-handled, properly shining lights on the pre-video game Hawk and first game, but as the timeline progresses and we get closer to the present day, the film dedicates far less time to each subsequent era of the franchise, despite them being some of the more interesting to dive into. Be it a desire to keep things positive in reflecting on the series or a lack of interest in exploring the divisive latter Neversoft and Robomodo titles, it feels far more surface-level in comparison to what came before it. The detail that went into the research of the first two games is so pervasive it makes any person who grew up with the games giddy to get to revisit their development and unearth new facts, but for those who want to learn about the transition to more story-driven titles like the Underground series or racers such as Downhill Jam, there’s hardly anything in the film one can’t get from a visit to Wikipedia.
Another of the film’s major flaws is also its attempt at connecting to the modern day, not just with the video games but with the audiences and gamers themselves. There are a few up-and-coming skaters the filmmakers chat with that offer very moving tales of their being inspired by Hawk and the games, but again it feels very lackluster and uninvolved, more like an afterthought than a deliberate effort to show the series’ timelessness and present status in keeping the skating community alive.
Though it could have definitely benefitted from a longer run time and further exploration of some of its history, Pretending I’m a Superman proves to be a plenty fun, nostalgic and intriguing dive into the iconic video game franchise with some interesting interviews, stylish direction and killer soundtrack.