SMG4: It's Gotta Be Perfect

Posted on: 03/19/2023

The year is 2022. SMG4 has just redesigned their beloved original characters: Fishy Boopkins, Bob Bobowski, and the titular SMG4 alongside his evil doppleganger SMG3. It's a controversial move, especially at first. It's widely agreed that Bob's redesign is okay, but SMG4 and SMG3 look like "Cocomelon" characters and Fishy Boopkins has somehow become even more puntable than he already was-- likely owing to the fact that he has become a ball with arms and legs.

I share this news with my good friend Gummy, who I watched the 10th anniversary movie with a year ago on my birthday. We riffed on the designs a bit, we had our laughs. A few weeks later, we watched the Lawsuit Arc, and that's where this story begins.

Post-redesign, SMG4 has gotten better. While the redesigned models leave a lot to be desired and have their fair share of glitches, SMG4 is not particularly famous for its technical prowess and-- well, after staring at them for a while, they (sans Fishy Boopkins) are actually kinda cute. I can live with them, honestly! The writing, particularly in their comedy, has gotten noticeably better. The episode plots are more interesting to me, a grown man, and it doesn't feel like I'm getting sensory overload every time I open up a video... most of the time!

And so, Gummy and I simultaneously become hyperfixated on the Mario recolor haha funny GMod show.

The year is 2023, the day is March 18th, and a new movie has just come out. Let's talk about it.

This movie was everything I personally wanted it to be. That doesn't mean it's spectacular. For SMG4 quality, however, it's some of their best work yet.

The animation quality was pretty good. There were some scenes with subpar shot composition and others with weird or just plain bad lighting, but for something animated mostly in GMod, you kinda have to take what you can get. I'm not sure how long they worked on this movie either. Given its runtime of 39 minutes, it feels like a shorter-term project. As always, their strengths in animation lie in their action scenes, which they seem to devote the most time to. Not that I'm complaining, personally.

While some line deliveries can be a bit stilted (and this is in part due to them occasionally not matching the animation, or vice versa), the vocal performances in this movie were some of their best yet. Both James and Luke brought their all to the emotional moments. I didn't think I was going to like Luke's crying voice, haha. As always, the highlight for me was James' pathetic screams and whimpers. He's got such an energy, and it meshes so well with SMG3.

As for the writing, this movie had good characterization and some pretty funny bits, too. Even Fishy Boopkins was slightly less unbearable than he usually is. I'm also glad that the movie didn't have too much in the way of metacommentary about SMG4's fanbase-- this was something I was a bit worried about seeing, because it has a great deal of potential to sour the whole movie. There's more interesting stories to be told about the creative process that don't involve shitting on fans, even if the fans totally deserve it.

I left the movie with a sense of hope about the future of SMG4 as a series. It's true that things have changed since I first started watching SMG4 content, but I firmly believe it's mostly been for the better. It's just growing up with us, is all. (This is for a completely different blog post entirely, but if you think old SMG4 is remotely funnier than what we have now, you need to go back and pick out a random episode to watch again. Don't just show me Who Let The Chomp Out. We all know it's a banger, and an outlier.)

Anyways, with the general stuff out of the way, let's get into some specifics. From here I'm gonna start talking spoilers. If you don't want those, go watch the movie, or stop reading. If you haven't seen the movie and you still wanna read this, here's a brief overview of everything that happened up until this point:

SMG3 has started a Twitch channel called "PoggieKing3". In the background of the show's Saturday episodes, he's quickly become famous. This draws the attention and jealousy alike of SMG4, who can't seem to measure up to SMG3's growing popularity. Mr. Yeast won't even look at him.

This jealousy causes SMG4 to stoop to illegitimate means of growing his YouTube channel: he hires children to turn the SMG4 channel in-universe into a content farm, but he stops once SMG3 exposes his entire operation and cancels him. SMG4, believing his life to be completely over, cowers in his room. To his surprise, SMG3 comes back to help SMG4 back onto his feet, and they create a video together.

After they finish, SMG4 realizes that quality is better than quantity. So, he endeavors to make the "perfect" video... whatever that might entail. Over the course of the next few weeks, he locks himself away, only coming out of his room to scream at his friends to leave him be or to turn the internet back on.

That about brings us to the movie. Mid-channel-announcement, SMG3 has to stop everything to find SMG4. He and Meggy Spletzer knock down SMG4's door to find he's still focused on making his perfect video. He attempts to capture them, claiming that the "video needs sacrifices", but they just barely manage to escape.

Letting SMG4 be the villain completely of his own volition is a bold move for the series to take, and I appreciate it a lot. While he is in part influenced by a keyboard he bought from a suspicious Clippy-esque desktop assistant, SMG4's actions and emotions are his own. The series seldom tackles these sorts of domestic threats, and usually relies on external monsters to create their villains.

I enjoy the general creepypasta theming present when our main heroes re-enter the castle to find SMG4: the castle interior reeks of "every copy of Super Mario 64 is personalized", SMG3 becomes molded with Red from the Godzilla NES creepypasta later on in the movie, and the mere premise of SMG4 buying a demonic keyboard that slowly takes over his mind and feeds on his obsession with perfection is very creepypasta-esque in nature.

However, this movie has a habit of sometimes placing hooks into the plot that are never utilized. At one point, SMG3, Meggy, and Mario come across an avatar depicting SMG4's old Mario-fied design in the mirror room. They mutter about him potentially trying to bring his old design back, but nothing is ever done with this. (There is a chance that it will be addressed in a later episode, as it's unclear what has happened to Peach's Castle in general.)

There is one scene before they come face-to-face with SMG4 himself that I would like to address as well, for multiple reasons. SMG3, Meggy, and Mario walk up to the second floor of Peach's Castle to find the paintings have been plastered over with Arial-text statements of self-loathing, such as "YOU'RE GONNA BE A FAILURE". When Meggy sees these paintings, the first thing she says is "what could this mean?"

...Ok. I don't want to be mean to the Mario recolor show, right? It's got an audience that is generally a couple years younger than I am. However, it should be pretty clear what those paintings mean! When the characters were thrown back into Peach's Castle, it was warped by SMG4's thoughts and feelings! They directly address this potentially being the case when Toad transforms into a "redesigned" version of himself.

Then, as if that wasn't enough, SMG3 explains what the paintings mean. On the whole, this monologue is very touching. This movie hits upon themes that most, if not all creatives in the internet age can relate to: the fear of disappointing your audience, the self-destructive strive for perfection, and the importance of friendship over all. Something that struck me as strange, however, was the example SMG3 used to relate his experiences to SMG4's: the time that he briefly took over SMG4's YouTube channel.

As previously established, SMG3 has recently become a famous Twitch streamer-- and in fact, he's held that title longer than the single week that he had SMG4's channel. While Twitch content and YouTube content aren't the same on a purely surface level, Twitch content creators experience a lot of the same problems that YouTubers do when it comes to striving to create unique and engaging content. This suggested example would have served the movie's message better, but instead the movie offers a slightly confused perspective that may convince the viewer that this isn't something that could happen to any one creative-- just whoever owns SMG4's YouTube channel.

Additionally, I would like to note that this isn't even the emotional takeaway SMG3 should have had from briefly owning SMG4's YouTube channel way back in 2020. The more apparent message was that he should strive to create original content, rather than copying someone else's schtick just because it gets them views.

But whatever. I'm the guy getting mad about semantics in a GMod movie.

Some better scenes happen after this-- in particular, I enjoyed the segment where Mario and Meggy were forced to max out a reaction meter to be allowed passage into SMG4's room. I wish there were more challenges like this for the characters to face in the movie, possibly referencing other aspects of SMG4's side content or YouTube trends in general.

Following the reaction meter is an incredibly pleasing action scene between Meggy + Mario and SMG3-merged-with-Red-from-Godzilla-NES. Most of the action in this movie is pretty good, following the foundations laid by Genesis and Revelations. When Meggy's in one of these scenes in particular, you know it's going to be great.

Speaking of characters that make their respective scenes better, I think Swagmaster69696969696969 basically saves any scenes that take place outside the castle. Swag has always been one of the most beloved characters in the SMG4 canon, and as fanservicey as it is, I'm glad they keep finding ways to involve him in the other characters' antics.

Anyways, while the gang outside the castle debates with Swag over whether or not they should blow it up, SMG3 delivers a(n admittedly very homosexual) monologue to SMG4 about how he understands what the man's going through, and more importantly: his friends will always be here for him. This gives SMG4 the strength to break free of his demonic curse and hug everyone. It's all very touching. They decide to escape together, but SMG4's contractual obligation to his perfect video holds him back. Perhaps even more gayly than before, SMG3 chases after 4 rather than escaping with Mario and Meggy.

As the crowd outside the castle starts throwing bombs at it to sink it, SMG4 tells SMG3 to leave. The perfect video is his cross to bear, and he can't leave until it's finished. Just like he did before, SMG3 stops him and tells him they'll finish his video together. Once they do, they escape the castle, hanging on the edge of the demon pit that has spawned in its wake.

At the true climax of the movie, there's no monsters to fight, there's no group shots-- it's just SMG3 and SMG4, hanging from a ledge, reckoning with their feelings about one another. SMG3 slips, SMG4 catches him, but it's at a cost: the USB containing his perfect video, balanced perfectly atop his shoe.

"We can make another! Remember what I said? We..."

"We're friends!"

And SMG4 lets his perfect video fall to the wayside for the sake of his friend. They return to the surface, Mario embraces the both of them, and they start talking about rebuilding the castle. Because the video never mattered. What mattered the most to SMG4 was that his friends love him, no matter what.

Something that I adore about SMG4 as a series is that, despite all of its silliness, it isn't afraid of being genuine. This alone puts it ahead of most things like it, on-and-off the internet, that try to make themselves appear "cool" and "self-aware" to viewers. That alone makes it better, to me, than series that might be more tightly-written or better-animated than SMG4.

Or maybe that's just my decade-long brainrot talking?