Ready Player One

THREE STARS

         
 

16 April 2018| No Comments on Ready Player One     by Sean Chavel

 

 

Third-tier Steven Spielberg, yet third-tier by him are better than most of his contemporaries best efforts. Ready Player One is one respect is about video games fandom which is not something I’m interested in. Except in the year 2045, the real world is so filthy and dilapidated that the virtual reality video game world is a more attractive way, and less boring way, to live out an existence – this kind of a hook, the addiction to cyberspace, is a theme I am interested in. This isn’t Spielberg’s entire emphasis, but it’s there.

Spielberg instantly gives a lot to admire. Spielberg opening shots of the dystopian stacked housing projects are astonishing with RV’s toppling each other on scaffolds, this being a visual riff of what top-tier Spielberg first played with in “Minority Report.” Tye Sheridan, that excellent “Mud” actor, is quite the terrific as a stand-in for what the young Spielberg geek or young George Lucas geek must have been like. His Wade Watts is a brainy, analytical game player but he’s a lonesome and a tad ashamed by how tepid he is in the real world.

The real world of disconnect, of people at large lost in self-absorption, is as I said fascinating to me. But Spielberg announced himself he is delivering a movie here, meaning that he wanted to make a movie for the masses. Shots and references announce everything from Iron Giant and Batman, King Kong and Mechagodzilla, Minecraft and Halo, and more and more geek overload. I should be bored out of my mind by the wall to wall video gameness and synthetic fantasy of the OASIS world that the movie spends the majority of the time in, but in earnest I was pretty much entranced by it. I reached trance-out bliss when for about ten minutes the movie goes into the world of “The Shining,” taking Kubrick’s scenes and interspersing them with video game avatars running loose trying to solve a riddle and find a key, and some of the most iconic moments of Kubrick’s classic get rapturously replayed all over again. This is Spielberg’s mash note to what is the all-time greatest horror film.

By the way, “Ready Player One” to me itself is a horror film in that a person is worth less than their video game avatar. All these kids stay inside the game all day long and barely come out of it in time to eat dinner. There’s not even enough money to wash up well, this isn’t exactly a future where hygiene is important. People put on their headgear through most of the day to avoid social connection and to numb out. Yes, a horror film.

What these kids of the future are so obsessed with is solving the ultimate Easter Egg hunt game after OASIS inventor James Halliday (Mark Rylance) has kicked the bucket. The funniest and most touching scenes of the movie? The flashback slices of Halliday as a genius and social dimbulb who hasn’t a clue on how to talk to an actual human being. Spielberg loves Rylance going back the last few years since “Bridge of Spies,” and here Rylance really goes the distance in playing the ultimate geek out of touch with the reality that’s happening in front of him. At the same time, his Halliday character is aware of what went wrong in his life. Figuring that out could make any one player very, very rich.

Whoever wins the hunt gets to take over the multi-trillion dollar OASIS enterprise as the new CEO. Rival corporate jerk honcho Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn) has hired an entire team of kids and mercenaries to help him win – his employees are treated like slaves, but I don’t think any of the slave wagers notice or aware they are being taken advantage of. If Sorrento wins, he can be corporate master of the universe. Nobody should want that.

Wade Watts’ avatar Parcival gets ahead in the game first thanks to his “Back to the Future” DeLorean and to his riddle solving skills, but trouble spells for him when Sorrento learns where Watts lives in the real world. Watts, with the help of a new girlfriend Samantha whose avatar is named Art3mis, has to dodge bad guys now in the real world in within the game. Spielberg’s suspense is more of the one second’s notice eruptive ADD kind this time, yet the gift he has as a filmmaker is to keep it coherent. Here’s some analog suspense: Will Wade kiss the real Samantha once he takes the headgear off? Spielberg imparts his usual crowd-pleasing touch in a way that’s hard to resist, which of course, it’s not really a horror film since I only really wanted it to be one. But if you want a serious masterpiece on how virtual reality video games could destroy reality, David Cronenberg’s mindbending and uncompromising 1999 “eXistenZ” is the one to check out.

140 Minutes. Rated PG-13.

ACTION-ADVENTURE / VIRTUAL REALITY / WEEKEND GEEK-OUT

Film Cousins: “The Shining” (1980); “Brainstorm” (1983); “Disclosure” (1994); “eXistenZ” (1999).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of flickminute.com, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.

 

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