WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Wreck-It Ralph: Ralph Breaks the Internet, in theaters now.
Wreck-It Ralph was a critically-acclaimed and commercially successful Disney movie, but for all the solid comedy, video game references and bright visuals, it was the characters at the core of the film that not only grounded the story, but made it so impactful.
Ralph was more than just another “villain tries to go good.” He was a sweetheart under 10 layers of bluster; someone who wanted to be seen for more than just the role he plays. It’s what made him, and his journey, so endearing.
But as Ralph Breaks the Internet shows, that isn’t always enough. Just being happy with yourself and not allowing room for growth can stunt your relationships, and cause unintended destruction. Ralph reached a point of acceptance, both externally and internally, and refused to realize that the world can keep growing. Life changes. He does everything he can to stop that, even endangering the person who means the most to him, just so things can remain happy and static.
As such, in one of the most interesting decisions of the film, the villain of Ralph Breaks the Internet is Ralph himself.
One of the more unique aspects of Ralph Breaks the Internet is that, at first glance, there’s no real villain in the film. The first movie set up Ralph’s journey, introduced him to Vanellope and her similar plight, and revealed that King Candy/Turbo was a dark reflection of their desire to become something “better” than what they are. He's a great villain who symbolizes what they want, and how bad things could become if they don't learn to rein themselves in.
But in the sequel, there’s no malicious force behind the scenes. There’s a ticking clock to the plot -- if Ralph and Vanellope can’t get a new steering wheel from eBay before the end of the week, the broken Sugar Rush game will be removed from the arcade -- but there's no force behind it.
There are also characters who initially seem as if they may have secret machinations (such as Bill Hader’s Spamley and Taraji P. Henson's Yesss), but both end up throwing themselves into harm’s way to help our heroes by the end of the film.
There’s no antagonist for Ralph to punch out, because by the end of the movie, Ralph has realized through his actions and behavior that he’s become the antagonist. The final act of the film even consists of Ralph having to fight himself. Well, it's a King Kong sized amalgamation of thousands of copies of Ralph piled on top of each other into his shape, but the point stands.