March 27th, 2006 | Other | Review
Karnov (the Movie)
A group of energetic Pittsburgh talent delivers a coming-of-old-age tale for our times.

Galaxy 454 Productions, 2005

A live-action continuation of the NES game of the same name, bringing the circus strongman out of retirement for one last battle.

There was mention… of a leash

Ask any Hollywood insider before he speeds away from you, his steel blue Bentley crushing your tender foot: remakes and belated sequels are hot right now. Basic Instinct 2? Rocky Balboa?! The revival of old properties that nobody asked for has all the industry insiders atwitter. Pittsburgh area director Adam Taylor and his production studio Galaxy 454 have taken the concept of the decades-late sequel and applied it to the NES game Karnov. The result: 30 minutes of awesome.

The original Karnov was one of Data East’s early entries into the arcade market, later ported to the Famicom by Namco. The Family Computer 1983-1994 book describes it thusly: “It was a really weird action adventure game, in which its main character was Karnov, a fat, bald, and sweaty old man. The plot in which Karnov was the messenger of god, could fly, use magic, and blow fire, was pretty astonishing.” The cinematic potential is obvious.

Taylor’s sequel to the game finds Karnov (played by F. Deacon Taylor, the director’s father) idling away in his retirement after defeating the dragon Ryu and saving the kingdom of Creamina. In his days as an ex-savior he has grown even fatter, balder, and sweatier. But when word of Ryu’s return reaches the King of Creamina, the great Jinborov Karnovski dons his pants once more to defend the kingdom… or so one would think.

What follows is Karnov’s attempt to regain his former glory with the aid of several other Nintendo characters through what is quite possibly the greatest training montage ever put to film. Dozens of characters make cameo appearances; if you grew up with a Nintendo (and if you’re reading this you probably own at least three), you’ll get a lot more out of the film than a non-gamer. Turnip-tossing, ice-climbing, unearthing delicious beef from deep within castle walls; it’s all here, people.

A great majority of the footage was shot in the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning, posing here as the great castle of Creamina. Taylor himself plays the kingdom’s rulers, reproducing himself onscreen in triplicate through the high-tech sorcery of cinema. Naturally the cast is rounded out with family and friends (and an impressive claymation Kirby), but the acting that occurs between scenes of Karnov drooling and sweating is solid. Taylor Sr.’s performance as the lead, set to the music of the Minibosses and the NESkimos, is nothing short of inspiring.

Despite its brevity, the DVD is recommended for the impressive extras that accompany the main feature, including a rather in-depth making-of video, running commentary, and a host of hidden minigames and features accessible through hidden menus; a walkthrough for these hidden puzzles is available for the less adventurous. The disc itself houses an NES emulator and ROM of the original Karnov should the movie inspire fans to revisit Creamina. The entire package is sweetened by a paltry $10 price tag.

Okay, maybe you never played Karnov. Maybe you just appreciate 8-bit gaming in general, or have a soft spot for clever, low-budget cinema. Perhaps the image of a fat, bald man standing erect in full King Hippo victory pose over the fallen body of Little Mac gets you going. If it doesn’t, it damn well should. Alex Fraioli


Galaxy 454 Productions
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