Gaming Editor Louis Wright reflects back on Channel Awesome’s To Boldly Flee

Gaming Editor | ( ̶T̶e̶m̶p̶) Lead Developer | MA Film & Television Research & Production | BSc Computer Science | BurnFM Deputy Station Manager | Generally Epic

YouTubers, for years, have been trying to break into the sphere of cinema. From Smosh to Ashens there have been varying levels of success for online personalities making their break into mainstream entertainment. The Channel Awesome anniversary films, Kickassia (2010), Suburban Knights (2011), and To Boldly Flee (2012) are therefore some of the first, and arguably most infamous of this genre.

Channel Awesome, a media production group established in 2009, saw content creators (predominantly reviewers) come together to form their own website away from the stringent copyright laws of YouTube. The Nostalgia Critic (Doug Walker) was the main attraction of this platform, acting as an unofficial leader and frontman while CEO Mike Michaud worked from behind the scenes.

the film is an absurd mess of ideas and references to other, far better, films

To Boldly Flee, the third of the anniversary specials that brought creators from across the platform together in an ‘epic’ crossover event, is easily the most intriguing production of the company. The creators of the website come together to go into space to stop the ‘Plot Hole’ from tearing the universe apart while Hollywood capitalists attempt to stop them for their vendetta against internet critics. The film is an absurd mess of ideas and references to other, far better, films while also masquerading as a poorly disguised pilot for Walker’s next venture Demo Reel (2012-2013).

Trying to decipher To Boldly Flee is like trying to understand hieroglyphics.

Poorly directed, horribly acted, and atrociously edited, with a runtime clocking in at 3½ hours, there is nothing redeeming to this film. It is a fever dream of unbelievable proportions and utterly incomprehensible as a film. Nothing presented to the screen works and is only analogous to watching gibberish spew from the mouths of what the film describes as “D-list internet celebrities”.

To Boldly Flee holds the audience’s suspension of belief by a string

The only merit the film is capable of mustering is its (likely completely accidental) postmodern reading. Being a heavily meta-reliant narrative and yet playing itself completely straight, To Boldly Flee holds the audience’s suspension of belief by a string. Everything that occurs within the film is unbelievable in the regard that any acclaimed director would never be able to conceive of such a plot; Doug Walker, as director and writer, does something that no other human could realistically achieve.

The impact of To Boldly Flee and the wider Channel Awesome can be seen most prominently in the ‘Not So Awesome Document’– a 74-page expose on the company and its chief staff (namely Mike Michaud, Doug Walker, and Rob Walker) by the content producers and employees of the site. The condensed version of the document has described that the working conditions of “To Boldly Flee in particular was not a pleasant experience for a large number of cast and crew”.

The Not So Awesome Document and To Boldly Flee’s impact in its production resulted in a mass exodus of content creators from Channel Awesome, eventually leaving the Nostalgia Critic as its only show (by way of the IP and by extension Walker being owned by Michaud).

To Boldly Flee is a film that is only remembered now as an odd footnote in internet history. A terribly produced and all-around horrendous experience of a film that is possibly the worst piece of art ever produced, it is something that even in an ironic fashion cannot be truly enjoyed.

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