Reign Over Me is a great multimedia confluence

by phil on Thursday Apr 5, 2007 12:37 AM

The stars are aligning for me on this one. Three different pieces that I love from three different mediums have come together in perfect synchronicity to make a media epiphany. The film Reign Over Me started showing a few weeks ago. It stars Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle, and deals with Adam's character coming to grips with losing his entire family in the Sept. 11th attacks. First, the film was great. The theme is about love's power, both positive and negative. Love can cast a deep shadow over your entire life when it is lost. On the other hand, love can redeem and liberate you.

The film, just on its own, does a great enough treatment on the theme. However, the film is tied heavily to a second piece in a different medium with the same theme. The name of the movie is a reference to The Who's, "Reign O'er Me." (1973) It's the final song in the rock opera Quadrophenia and it's an epic dive into pretty much the same deal: "bow down to the power of love, it doesn't just conquer all, it reigns over all."

The song is played frequently in the film. And not as a repeating part of the soundtrack, but as an actual device. Sandler wears headphones the entire time, and whenever he has to face intrusive thoughts about his dead family or other issues in life, he turns up the volume on his iPod and wraps himself up in the wall of sound that is that song. The heavy placement of the song—plus the title—almost puts both the film and the song on equal billing. The song doesn't just accompany the film, and the film doesn't just quote the song. The film is almost like the "film version" of "Reign O'er Me," and "Reign O'er Me" is the song version.

Finding the same theme in two pieces from two different mediums, and then finding out that the two pieces can be integrated together is in of itself an accomplishment. But finding a THIRD piece with the same theme from another medium that ALSO works well with the other two is even more incredible. The third piece is the PS2 video game, Shadow of the Colossus (2003), a game which is featured as a massive product placement in the film. Scratch that—"product placement" doesn't capture what actually happens to the video game. The game appears throughout the film, with the main characters talking at length about it, including the specifics of the gameplay. You can tell that both Sandler and Cheadle actually play this game and enjoy it. In Colossus, the main character has lost his princess, and so he asks the Gods to bring her back. They agree, but on the condition that you destroy sixteen behemoths. These colossi tower over your character, and most of the game is spent trying to grapple your way up the colossus to find a weak spot to dig your sword into. Most of the time the colossus flings you off and crushes you. In the film, you see the little character climbing up the colossus, just as Sandler is also climbing up his own emotional towers.

Kotaku has a great article on how exactly Colossus became such a big part of Reign Over Me. It wasn't initially supposed to work out that way—Sandler was supposed to just be an MMO player, or a player of an Alien shooter. So the confluence is pure serendipity.

What inspired me to write this post is this blurb at the end:

Reign Over Me must be one of the first Hollywood films, if not the first, to deal with games thematically and intelligently. While other industry pundits try to figure out how to take the latest blockbuster game and turn it into a movie or vice versa, Reign Over Me already has an insightful leg up: Let the games speak for themselves. Characters bond through games and lose themselves in them, only to find themselves again. They enjoy the simple act of play. "We're starting to get people in Hollywood who have perspective of what the video game experience is like," says Roush, "what it can feel like. And all that gets integrated into Reign Over Me."
I have a copy of Colossus, and it's incredible, and that theme does come out.

That there is, in one place, something that integrates three different great pieces under the same umbrella so perfectly is awesome.

(The New Yorker also has a review that first clued me into a deeper connection between Colossus and Reign Over Me)

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