Ready Player One – Review by FattyCatOn April 3, 2018 by HungryOwl
So, I will come out with my stance immediately. I do not like Steven Spielberg. I don’t rate him as a filmmaker at all. He is, in my opinion, a hack. I know, readers can point to films like, Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark or Schindler\’s List but those are early works. Now, Spielberg relies on sentimental, moralistic tripe. He doesn’t take risks, nor does he produce work that is challenging.
This criticism leads nicely onto my review of Ready Player One.
The book, written by Ernest Cline has had the inevitable, “Hollywood” treatment, despite a long development process of around eight years, and frankly, the only thing I was ready for, was the end credits.
I read the book before going to the film, as usually books and better than movies, but in this case, it isn’t. I’ll add that neither book nor film is very good. This will go against the majority of fan boys and geeks who love this type of yarn, but let me elaborate on the points that led me to this shocking revelation.
I find Cline’s literally style to be basic, it is childish in a lot of ways. You can argue it’s therefore accessible, but it is an example of the current trend to, “water down” Sci-Fi. The continual anti-intellectualism of concepts is not only detrimental to audiences, but insulating. As a fan of arguably the master of Sci-Fi, Philip K Dick, I want more substance to my narrative. I want concepts that make me think, that blow my mind. I don’t want to be spoon fed or have to sit through things that are safe and sanitized.
Now to the film, which Cline and Zak Penn co-wrote. A lot of the source material comes from the book, which is fine, writers should exploit their own works. However, here is the rub. Cline continually gives nods to references on the flimsy pretense that the character, James Halliday loved pop culture. Halliday, a modern Steve Jobs type of genius created a virtual reality called OASIS where players can live alternate lives. It is a bit like World of Warcraft (remember that?)
It is all typical Dystopian Sci-Fi stuff, but the issue is, after you’ve seen Pac-Man, Freddy Krueger, Iron Giant and alike, it wears thin quickly.
The first few minutes are beset with knowing laughs and smiles.
“Hey, I had an Atari 2600, when I was a kid, that’s cool.”
“Oh, look there is a DeLorean from Back to the Future, that\’s awesome.“
I agree, nostalgia is great, I like to throw on the Super Nintendo for some Super Metroid, but it is also like Salt or Pepper. Too much and you ruin everything! Cline and Spielberg go from cool references to straddling the line of cultural appropriation.
This can be seen where the characters immerse themselves in Kubrick’s, “The Shining.” Whilst it is not shot for shot, lifting elements from a classic film doesn’t sit well. Another example is where the Iron Giant sinks into a pit of lava, he holds his hand aloft and gives the thumbs up – a direct copy of the Terminator 2 ending.
It begs the question where does irony stop, and plagiarism begin? All filmmakers and authors are influenced, we can’t help it, whether it is subconscious or not. Ready Player One just feels lazy, it is as if Cline et al have sat down with a notepad on a rainy weekend and listed all the, “cool” things they like from other films, then mashed them altogether in a stew of pop culture. The issue is, it’s overcooked, over seasoned and not worth the price of admission.
Away from the blatant narrative issues, the age-old problem of CGI does not replace storytelling crops up. Admittedly, this film would be having been hard to do without CGI, but the whole thing feels like a video game. Let’s not delve too deeply into the obvious problem with that, but it is a passive experience. Video games and films are supposed to be immersive and active; they should engage the consumer. I digress, but it is the same lazy BS that the AAA gaming industry churns out. I wouldn’t be surprised if the top brass at EA haven’t already greased their mucky palms with the game license and are busy thinking of how many micro-transactions they need to milk players all they can.
The film also suffers from generic character portrayal. It would have been far more satisfying if instead of Wade Watts, the lead protagonist was actually a girl. Not to tread over the ground of Gamergate, but we know gaming is a male dominated, orientated medium, (Dead or Alive anyone?) We don’t need it reinforced. All too often, female characters in both film and video games are eye candy, love interests or victims. It is shoddy in 2018 to think this is still acceptable. This isn’t a feminist rant, it is basic consideration. I want to see female characters kicking ass, making the male characters subservient and saving the day. If I wanted a pair of boobs that did little else but titillate, I can watch Pornhub.
Hungryowl, who watched the film with me said immediately afterwards, the end felt a bit Willy Wonka and it is. Gatekeepers, the film is about gatekeepers and getting keys to the kingdom. James Halliday passes on some words of wisdom to Wade: “As terrifying and painful as reality can be, it’s also the only place where you can find true happiness. Because reality is real. ” Well yeah, I agree. The problem is, the world of Ready Player One has no time for reality. It is too busy being, “cool” with its knowing references. Imagine those terrible bores you avoid at parties who recite word for word their favourite scene from a film. This is a two-hour recital and who the hell has time for that?
Do yourself a favour. Give Ready Player One a miss. Go and visit your family who you never speak to because you are too busy leveling up on mobile games. Better still, go outside and talk to a stranger, find that meaningful connection with another human being.
I’ll end with a quote from Terence McKenna, “You want to reclaim your mind and get it out of the hands of the cultural engineers who want to turn you into a half-baked moron consuming all this trash that’s being manufactured out of the bones of a dying world.”
McKenna knew this would happen, and now so do you.