Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Film Review: Ready Player One

This has been out a long time so it's unlikely I'm spoiling much, other than to state that this is another great example of a good movie you can take the family to. Unlike Rampage (reviewed last week), Ready Player One has some interesting subtext to it....there's a thoughtful movie hidden underneath the armada of VR skins that this movie is essentially all about.

Fair warning: unlike many of the other reviewers on this movie, I have A: very few nostalgic memories of the content of this film (I remember the 70's and 80's as something I got through/survived, not something I think back on with any sense of delight); and B: I have not actually read Ernest Clines' novel of the same name. As such, I have no opinion on how this movie reflects the novel, or "fixes" it as some other reviewers appeared worried about. 

The short and quick summary: about 27 years from now an 18 year old protagonist Wade, alias Parzival in the virtual reality world of the OASIS, is one of many people trying to unlock a grand easter egg left by its now deceased creator, Holloway. Figure out the puzzle, and you gain ownership of the OASIS. Other players are after this, of course, as well as the evil corporation IOI, which is funding an enormous number of "players" to unlock the easter egg and take OASIS for itself. 

Naturally the IOI plays dirty, people die in the real world, heroes are born in the virtual world, and gradually three mysteries leading to keys are resolved and the plot ends on a suitable high note. 

For what it's worth, I suspect that in 27 years people will look back on Ready Player One with great amusement. "This is what they thought it would be like???" our future selves (and my adult son, no doubt) will say. Like Lawnmower Man in the nineties or Tron in the eighties, Ready Player One will no doubt fill that void for the late twenty-teens.  That said, it was a very fun movie and quite straight forward in how it depicts what amounts to an almost painfully damaged future that is nonetheless utterly disguised by the cultural and economic obsession with virtual reality as a means of literal escape. Hell....the glipses of "life" in this future were really fascinating to me, probably the best part of the movie, overall, from Wade's insanely damaged relationship with a parent and a "step dad" who were both highly self-absorbed and utterly devoted to the VR universe to the general level of social and cultural decay that was exhibited literally everywhere. 

The movie's consolation is that, in the end, the new OASIS owners shut down the servers twice a week to foster human interaction in meatspace. It's all presented as a happy ending....but....yeah. This was like the friendliest and most upbeat Spielberg-type movie you could imagine that still basically sidesteps the entire issue of the film's underlying social decay, even as it plays the entire display straight, a sort of matter-of-fact "Yeah, this is coming, and this is what it's going to look like, but whadda ya gonna do???"

I had a hard time feeling very emotionally invested in the bulk of the virtual action since there wasn't a lot of consequence to it (any more so than an elaborate World of Warcraft raid would), but the overall tale still worked well....and for my son, this was a joy to watch, and he had to get on one of our two VR headsets as soon as we got home. For my wife and I, it kind of felt a bit uncomfortably like our current experience with gaming online, just in a more immersive future where the most improbable thing on screen was how the OASIS developers got so many IP licenses going for the skins of various IPs. The absence of any Disney characters (Star Wars, Marvel, etc.) actually worked for the film, because we all know in this future, Disney has it's own OASIS somewhere, seriously locked down. 

Without the subtext of the future soft cyberpunk dystopia this would have been a fun B, but I have to say that the overall film and its unfortunate implications worked well to bring it to a solid A for me. 


  1. great movie and book, obviously in the book they make character death a lot more significant. Not sure if the movie went over it but if you died you would have to start the easter egg all over. Also, I was sad they changed the first key up, (Book SPOILERS)

    in the book he goes into the Tomb of annihilation and faces off Acererak(sp) in a game of joust.

    1. I need to read the book! The movie had the iconic Tomb of Horrors Demon Face in which you lose your arm as an image, but I wasn't sure of how that related.