Some times ago I read on Road To VR the review of a VR movie called Miyubi: the opinion of the journalist was that the movie was nice, but not worth the time spent seeing it. Since I love listening to other people’s advice, I watched it 😀
Honestly, I think that he was right, it is a so-so experience, but I don’t think I wasted my time. Let me explain you why.
Miyubi is a movie shot by the Felix & Paul studios, with the collaboration of Oculus Studio (RIP). I wanted to watch it since the first time I read about it, at the beginning of the year. The reason is that it is the first long film in virtual reality: it lasts 40 minutes. 40 minutes is an insane amount of time for a VR movie, considering that most VR videos last 5-10 minutes and that the maximum comfort time has been set at 20 minutes. I’ve always been curious about how they could have the full attention of the user for such a long time.
The answer is: it is not exactly a 40 minutes movie. It is a 40 minutes movie composed of various little episodes. This helps the viewer in digesting better the length of the movie, since it is as if it was composed by 13 (+2) episodes of 3 minutes each. As you can see, this way it is much easier to be watched. It managed to keep me with my headset on for 40 minutes and I didn’t suffer from any discomfort, so kudos to them.
Furthermore, the quality of the shots is really high: we are talking about a high-budget movie for sure… the quality of the recording is incredible, actors are talented (there’s even Jeff Goldblum!) and the final credits are long as in a cinema movie. So, why am I talking about a so-so experience?
Well, the reason is the type of movie and the plot in general. In this movie, the viewer is Miyubi, a little robot that gets gifted to a little kid for his birthday. His father works a lot and has often to go to Japan, so has decided to take an awesome Japanese robot to his child. We’re in the ’80s: at those times we all wanted some crappy plastic robot that in the commercial seemed able to do everything: speaking, walking, grabbing objects and killing John Connor, while in reality it was only able to light some LEDs, emit some voices and slowly move forward. We had EMIGLIO here, every Italian kid wanted it…
The situation here is exactly the same: the little robot is called Miyubi and it is able to tell its name, move around, light some colored lights, make math calculations and answer to simple voice commands. What an amazing toy for a little kid. In fact, he loves it. Or rather he loves you, since you’re the robot in this movie and can see through its eyes.
The robot sometimes gets turned on by the family members that want to play with it and so you can assist to various moments of this family life during the year. These are pretty moments, like:
- Parents arguing with kids;
- Kids arguing with kids;
- Parents arguing with their parents;
- People of all ages doing sad or annoying things.
This is why I didn’t like the movie… it is that kind of movies that put you inside a family where people argue all the time. That kind of movies that when are on TV make me switch immediately channel to watch Hardcore Pawn. I already argue with my family, don’t know why I should see other people arguing on TV. It is not my favorite movie genre… if it is yours, well, then you will like Miyubi a lot.
The main characters of this movie are:
- The dad. He’s always away because of work, so kids seldom see it;
- The mom. Lots of things to do, too many babies to look after;
- The elder son. Teenager, rebel, argues with his parents a lot;
- The little daughter: annoying little girl, wants to play with Miyubi as if it was a doll;
- The little guy: a crazy little guy, loves playing a lot.
- The grandfather: an old war veteran. For all the movie continues saying that once he was in war and they had to eat and there were “six potatoes and we were eleven men”. He continues saying six potatoes and eleven man so many times that in the end, I hoped Miyubi transformed into Terminator and made this man shut up. Damn annoying… even if it develops a bond with the robot during the movie, so in the end, you don’t hate him… you just find him annoying.
So, it is the classic American family, with the classical problems (apart from the potatoes stuff). And you are into it and have to see their issues. This has been my reaction face all the time.
Ok, so I didn’t like the movie. But as I’ve said, I’m happy to have seen it. Let me explain you why.
First of all, it is a well-crafted experience and it is really high-quality. And seeing how they did make a 40-minutes enjoyable and comfortable movie is very interesting: splitting the whole movie into separated pieces has been the winning choice. Surely they’ve experimented a lot to understand how to make a long movie. Then there are some special tricks inside the video: in a particular sequence, the dad is in the same room with the robot and he’s shooting a video of himself with the robot. Looking at the TV, you will be able to see yourself… and your head in the TV will rotate coherently with your head movements!! What sorcery is this? The experience adds a real-time render of your head to the pre-recorded 360 video and gives it a little magic.
Then I loved the audio. Every time the robot gets started, there is a super-catchy audio and video sequence that is ultra-addicting. I continued watching the movie just to see and hear the robot startup-sequence that was super-cool. People talking to me was just an interlude to all the robot’s start-ups.
The 8-bit theme of the whole experience is lovely: every graphical element from the menu to the robot HUD are in 8-bit theme. Even the music follows the same theme. The 80s were times of 8bit, so having made everything using this theme makes the experience coherent and cool to be seen (and heard).
The menu where you can choose the sequence to be played is just wonderful: it is an 8-bit themed menu with the preview of each scene. The amazing thing is that the little preview of the scene is in 3D! It is not a flat image, it is a 3D image… so the menu is a 2D menu with 3D elements… it is really cool to be seen and one of the thing that amazed me the most of this experience.
Then there are gaming features. When the movie ends, you are a prompted with a writing telling you “SECRET ELEMENTS 0/3” and some 8-bit drawings. You may be confused and close the experience, but you would lose a very important feature of its. Watching the movie for the first time activates 3 secret elements inside the video, that you have to find and select with your controller trigger. Since no one has the time to watch again 40 minutes of videos, I advise you to use your controller to activate the movie timeline, so that you can jump to different moments and look for the secret elements without watching the whole movie again. Notice that you have to select the 3 elements in a single session: every time you stop the execution (for instance returning to the main menu), it forgets your selections. When you look at a special element, you see a red and yellow highlight all over it and you can grab it with your triggers.
Where are these magical elements? Well, the fun is in finding them… but if you have no patience, click on this spoiler section…
Look behind you in the classroom sequence
In the bedroom sequence, when the kid plays with Miyubi, wait the moment when the robot walks forward and look to your right, near the window
Look behind (and up) in the Christmas sequence
After you’ve selected all the three elements, you will be teleported to the place where you, Miyubi, have been created. With you there is your creator, that is Jeff Goldblum. The funny part is that when you watch the video for the first time, you never see him and then you see him appearing in the final credits and you are like… “WHY?”. The reason is: he is in this secret episode. He talks with you for some minutes (having a celebrity so close to me has been intriguing) and in the end, he will give you some special head movements you have to perform every time you want to be in a safe place (every moment, if that were my family!).
When you come back to the standard movie, you can perform that sequence and be teleported in another secret episode, that is an 8-bit paradise, where there are unicorns, flowers and the soothing voice of Jeff Goldblum. I expected paradise a bit different, but I guess that for a little robot in the 80s this is the best place ever.
And these are the things that I loved of this movie. Basically the fact that it is not only a movie: Miyubi tries to make the movie experience interactive, it is one of the first experiments to mix a VR video with a VR game. It is just an early experiment, but I loved the idea: adding elements in the scene that reacted according to my movements made me really feel more immersed into the experience. And the subsequent element-hunting game made me watch a lot of parts of the movie again, so the experience has not been a throwaway one. And the moment that I managed to find all the three hidden elements, I’ve been so proud of me.
The movie itself is interactive: beside the boring plot, in every episode there is some person that speaks with you, that interacts deeply with you, that make you feel as part of the action. And this, together with the high quality of the experience, makes it more immersive.
So, in the end, I haven’t liked the movie Miyubi, but I have liked the experience Miyubi. It is an interesting experiment, another step forward for storytelling in virtual reality. As always, I invite you to craft your own opinion about it, downloading it and watching it. But before, please, share this article and subscribe to my newsletter (or send me a little robot, I would appreciate that as well!)