This past weekend I had the opportunity to view the highly anticipated “Ready Player One”, a movie that was filled with an overload of throwback pop culture that could choke the most die hard of fans. This was a movie based on the book of the same title, which was popular enough to warrant a big studio’s interest enough to produce a film featuring most of the major plot points intended by the original author. I should be honest up front about this scenario by letting you all know that I failed royally in that I have the audio book queued up on my phone and was heartily prompted by, of all people, my boss to listen to it because it’s most certainly awesome. I started of course but stopped after the first couple of chapters. So, needless to say, this happened only weeks before the movie trailer was dropped which should’ve prompted me to finish it, but had the unfortunate opposite effect and gave me an overwhelming sense of failure in completing a seemingly important task. Now, without spoiling anything, I can say that those couple of chapters I got to certainly had some detail that was immediately missing from the film which I thought unfortunate. With all that said, the film experience wasn’t ruined at all but I understood in the first few minutes that the book was definitely better in detail. I suppose that’s nothing new right?
What It’s About
“Ready Player One” is an adventure story that is based in the real world as well as a virtual world that is known as the Oasis. The plot takes place in a dystopian near future experience where the world as we know it is experiencing overpopulation, economic lows and an overall sense that life in general is difficult. With all the misfortunes of their existence, a beacon of hope springs to life as tech industry businessman and genius James Halliday creates what is known as the Oasis – a virtual world that billions of people log into providing the ultimate in escapist entertainment. This brings us to the main plot, where we find our main character Wade Owen Watts who goes by the avatar Parzival, is essentially drawn into a race with his friends to discover the secrets of the Oasis, as predetermined by Halliday and via an easter egg, that will grant the winner all of Halliday’s money and control of his company. It’s a race that is certainly mired by political intrigue and greed in which Parzival is faced with a corporate foe who is willing to kill to attain Halliday’s massive fortune.
Again, just referring to the movie, there are a great many things happening in this science fiction/fantasy outing. I call it both because the Oasis is very much a digital construct not unlike “The Matrix” minus the biologically dependent aspects of it. This could be viewed as what our immediate future could be in the real world. Companies today are certainly pushing for VR technologies and their development. We can think of the Oasis as the refined step in that evolution. The participants in the Oasis are essentially given a VR headset, haptic suit and a moving deck that allows for virtually feel and movement in one place. It’s an interesting concept because it certainly solves many of the problems of using a virtual reality setup as it is currently. You know what I mean – folks stumbling around because they lose their footing while riding a virtual roller coaster. Dangerous to say the least. After viewing this movie and folks having read the book, I’m sure this is in development if it already isn’t. That’s the cool technical side of things.
The other cool thing is the massive amount of nostalgic pop culture that’s found in this story. What I mean is, there’s something in this movie from the 70’s on up till now that anyone watching this film can stop and go “Aww man, I remember that…cool!”. Again, the book is chock full of this stuff that the movie simply couldn’t afford to put in just because of how much it would’ve swelled the budget, yet it was overwhelming enough and warrants a second, third and fourth viewing. I won’t spoil a bunch of stuff but will say that their was Atari, Colecovision, Iron Giant, Delorean, and the Charm of Making (for those who know). Those were just some of the overtly tangible things, but the movie, video game and music references were immense. One of the cooler things I felt while watching the movie was the sense that it was paying an overall homage to “Tron” which I still believe to be one of the most underrated and misunderstood franchises in cinema history.
One more thing I’d like to point out. As I viewed the film, I kept getting the sense that I had scene this type of movie before. It was a little distraction in the back of my head that kept gnawing at me. “This is so familiar” I kept thinking, but couldn’t put my finger on it. So I dismissed it in favor of taking in as much of the experience as I could. So when the credits rolled, I sat there like a good little boy (and as Marvel has trained us to do while we wait for the after credit scenes) and read the credits. Low and behold it flashed on the screen “directed by Steven Spielberg”. Just then it clicked. That was the feeling I was having… it was a Steven Spielberg movie and it felt every bit like one. A pleasant surprise to be sure. This brings me to my next point.
I mentioned “Tron” earlier. My issue with “Tron” has always been that it was marginalized by a lack of understanding as to what happening in the story versus the story itself. Sometimes viewers won’t enjoy a good story because of the actual content of the story itself. For instance, I could never get my Mother to watch “Star Wars” because she couldn’t stand the look of the aliens and other creatures in it. But because she was a spiritual woman, I know she would’ve really appreciate the conflict between good and evil. This is what I believe is the issue with movies such as “Ready Player One” and “Tron” – epic stories that run into the danger of alienating the general viewer because of specifics. This is one of the greatest formulas for movie studio execution of a franchise. There’s always this goofy idea that there’s no money to be made in making movies for the millions of furiously rabid and monstrously dedicated cult fans that refuse to stop paying money for good content. Just another false claim that the bottom line tells all. Most in corporate America will never learn that somewhere in all this, there is a balance and they have to consider their niche customers as well as the finicky general viewer. “Ready Player One” is super nichy with its massive reference to pop culture and is potentially in danger of being wiped out if the box office doesn’t yield the so called right numbers. That’s just my continuing rant.
I suppose my second concern is that, like other franchises, you simply can’t put everything from the book into the movie. I mentioned before that I made it through the first couple of chapters of the book then went to see the movie. Immediately there was a portion of the beginning of the story that was left out from the film but was an important detail of explaining the world in which the characters lived in. As reported by others, there were certainly a lot of pop culture details left out as well. It’s understandable from a filmmaker’s point of view but just kind of sucks. With that said, Spielberg manages to give a good translation of the book.
Who This is For
If you’re into video games, movies, pop and rock music and certainly anything 80s, you’ll probably enjoy this movie, if for nothing else, the allusion to pop culture. If you’re in to the whole dystopian storyline deal, then this is definitely a depressing enough environment to understand everyone’s desperation to want to escape their real world. If you’re into Spielberg, I would consider this one of his more moderate works in the sense that it’s not directly from him, but an adaptation. If you’re looking for a good weekend movie for the family or hanging out with the boo, it may be a mixed reaction because there’s so many specifics in the movie. As my wife put it…”It was ok. I mean…it was just ok”. With that said, keep an open mind and I believe the film is certainly enjoyable.
***Scale of 1-10: 7.0
|Directed by||Steven Spielberg|
|Based on||Ready Player One
by Ernest Cline
|Music by||Alan Silvestri|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Running time||140 minutes|