PRETENDING I'M A SUPERMAN: THE TONY HAWK VIDEO GAME STORY -- A Brief but Enjoyable Doc about Gaming History
Review by Sean Boelman
Every generation of gamers has a video game that epitomizes what the industry was going through at the time, and for one group, that is Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. Ludvig Gür’s very nostalgic documentary Pretending I’m a Superman: The Tony Hawk Video Game Story explores why the definitive skateboarding game connected with gamers so well and changed the face of gaming forever.
The film takes a look at the rise and fall in popularity of the video games inspired by skateboarding legend Tony Hawk and the genre of extreme sports games that Pro Skater helped to launch. One doesn’t need to have extensive knowledge or understanding of gaming or skateboarding to appreciate this documentary which shares more in common with an underdog sports movie than a history lesson.
One of the more interesting angles that the movie takes is in exploring the meaning of these video games as a means of inclusion for outsider communities. There was a time in which the skating community was not looked upon favorably, but the work that Hawk did with the Pro Skater series went a long way in bringing it into the mainstream.
Of course, the film is going to work better for those who have nostalgia for playing Pro Skater and subsequent Tony Hawk video games, but there’s also an intriguing story here about how the video game industry has changed. It’s been years since a celebrity-driven game like this could be one of the best-selling games of all time, so it’s fascinating to discuss why replicating Hawk’s success is an unlikelihood at this point.
At only an hour and thirteen minutes in length, the movie sacrifices depth in the name of accessibility. More often than not, it feels as if the viewer is getting a summary of what happened rather than an exploration of the factors that went into making the series resonate with its fans.
The film features some pretty extensive interviews with Hawk and the designers who brought the game to life, in addition to some other professional skaters who contributed their likeness to the game, it’s really missing the perspective of the fans. For a movie that is so centered around a feeling of community, it’s disappointing to see this potential resource be underutilized.
That said, Gür tells the story in a way that is constantly engaging. In addition to these interviews, there is a lot of gameplay footage from the Pro Skater series and some real skating sequences. Some of the best moments in the film show the motion capture sequences that were done with Hawk, although it’s easy to be left wanting more of this.
Pretending I’m a Superman: The Tony Hawk Video Game Story may not have sufficient length to go into too much depth, but it’s a compelling watch nevertheless. Gamers will be particularly pleased with this stroll (or rather, skate) down memory lane.
Pretending I’m a Superman: The Tony Hawk Video Game Story hits VOD on August 18.