Stiq Flicks – from film and video game industry freelance writer Kevin Kelly – examines video games and attempts to pair them with matching films. It's like wine and cheese, but with more aliens.
Quantum Conundrum has already been confounding people on PC for a couple of weeks, and soon you'll also be able to pick it up for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The first-person, puzzle-platformer offers up a more whimsical version of the reality-bending physics you'll find in Portal, with tons of tongue-in-cheek humor.
Our film pairing for this title offers up similar brain-crunching puzzles, albeit without the lighthearted humor. Director Vincenzo Natali's excellent movie Cube (Rated R) is a perfect puzzle in a box, but is anything but a cute, whimsical adventure.
Thanks to the DNA of Kim Swift that helped develop the worlds of Quantum Conundrum and Portal, recent puzzle-platforms have you feeling a bit like a lab rat trapped in a series of experiments controlled by a semi-deranged nitwit. Cube takes that feeling and puts a human face on it, with characters facing life and death situations in a massive puzzle box.
Cube may be the perfect video game film that isn't actually based on a game. Characters in the film are dropped into a bizarre environment made up of multiple rooms without any idea how or why they are there. As they begin to puzzle their way through the maze, it becomes clear that certain rooms are filled with deadly traps. But where you're normally given a tutorial and extra lives to figure things out, these characters aren't quite as lucky. The decision to move forward can be fatal, but characters are compelled to press on in search of an exit and answers to their ordeal.
The Canadian-born Natali had a long career as a storyboard artist on animated television before moving on to live-action science fiction. Cube was his first feature film. In fact, to secure funding and show how confined space could work as a film's setting, Natali directed the short film Elevated, which conveys claustrophobia and panic much like Cube would. It's worth noting that Cube actually uses only one full "cube" set with one working door. The production designers would slide the panels around and change the lighting to make it look like a completely new room.
Where You Can Watch Cube If you want to catch Cube, you'll need to turn to Amazon Instant Video, where you can stream the film in standard-definition ($1.99) and high-definition ($2.99) or purchase a digital version for $4.99 (SD only). The film is also available to own on the Xbox Video Marketplace for 1200 points ($15) in HD, or in SD 800 points ($10). Rentals on the Xbox 360 range from 360 points ($4.50) HD and 280 points ($3.50) SD. The PlayStation Store has it as well, priced at $15.99 HD and $9.99 SD to own and $4.50 HD and $2.99 to rent.
There are two flavors of the DVD available: a bare-bones edition for under $10; and the bells and whistles version for under $15, which includes director commentary, deleted scenes, storyboard images, production design, and more. The bonus features are definitely worth the extra few dollars.
Natali's equally strange Splice is available to stream on Amazon Instant Video ($2.99 SD and $3.99 HD), and is the only one of his movies currently available on Blu-ray. And make sure to check out the director's strange spy thriller Cypher on Netflix streaming – it's worth your time.
Check out the intricate puzzles and deadly traps in Cube this weekend, and ready yourself for next week when Quantum Conundrum drops onto a console near you.
Oh, and skip the sequel Cube 2: Hypercube, which Natali had nothing to do with. Although the prequel Cube Zero (again without Natali) actually isn't half-bad, and attempts to explain what the structure is.
Kevin Kelly is a writer and pop culture junkie with a fixation on video games, movies, and board games. His writing has been seen at Moviefone, io9, Film School Rejects, TechRadar, Wizard World, G4, and The Austin Chronicle. He lives in Los Angeles and does not know how to surf. Follow him on Twitter @kevinkelly.