Movie: Ready Player One
My Rating: 5 stars
I enjoyed this movie a lot. I saw it in the theater with a crowd full of people who were grinning and laughing right alongside me. But somehow, I feel a bit sheepish admitting that I liked it so much. It’s definitely because Steven Spielberg has gained a well-earned reputation for creating sentimental drivel. So, I guess I feel pretty uncool at having enjoyed one of his movies. But, I still don’t know why I’m feeling so defensive about this one. I guess people are pretty split on this whole story as a whole. I read the book first, and really liked it. But, some critics disparage it for shamelessly pandering to nostalgia (which makes it a perfect property for a Spielberg adaptation, in my book). But, I view it as more of a genuine expression of nerdy enthusiasm for 80s pop-culture. And I, of all people, cannot fault anyone else for being overenthusiastic. That’s my bread and butter.
The story is about a time in the near future when the economy has pretty much collapsed, life is bleak, and only a few mega-corporations are in control the entirety of commerce. Virtual reality has progressed to the point where people can work, go to school, and generally live complete, satisfying lives in an online world. And, since there’s not much waiting for them in the real world, more and more people are disappearing into “The Oasis.” This idea taps into some topics and sentiments that feel remarkably timely, so the story really speaks to me. Plus, a lot of the future stuff it imagines seems so cool. As bleak a portrait as this story paints of the world, I would be so interested in exploring all the experiences on offer in the Oasis. I can’t say confidently that I wouldn’t be one of the people to disappear into an online persona.
Since I really enjoyed the book, I was a bit nervous about the adaptation. I always get that way when a favorite of mine gets reimagined for the big screen. I’ve been burned many times before (Golden Compass, I’m looking at you). I respect an author’s work, and I generally feel that when a big studio gets involved in a project, too many cooks spoil the broth. But, I’ve been pleasantly surprised as often as I’ve been disappointed. And, this is one of those cases. This movie doesn’t try to recreate the book scene for scene. Sometimes that’s what you want, but other times, a story is too conceptual or scattered to translates well to the screen as-is. And, this story was heavily reworked to tell a tighter story. Some complete new ideas are added. And, there are whole subplots that are completely missing. But, the essence and heart of what this story is remains intact, and that’s why I found the adaptation to be pretty satisfying. And of course, this has the added benefit of preventing fans from either being bored because they know everything that’s going to happen or complaining that the movie didn’t do a particular plot point justice.
As you may imagine, this is a visually stunning movie. The majority of the story is set in the Oasis, so most of the movie is computer generated. And, that allows the filmmakers to go completely wild with effects and action sequences. And, the filmmakers really swing for the fences in that regard. One of the points the narrator makes in the movie is that there really are no limitations when it comes to choosing who you want to be online or how you want to look. So, the visual team has some real fun with character design. There are tons of fun (and, of course, nostalgic) references for people who take the time to take it all in. It’s the kind of movie that definitely warrants a re-watch, if only to catch more of the allusions. Of course, the movie is horribly cheesy. And, it’s sappy as hell. But, I found myself in the mood for exactly that sort of thing when I went to see it this weekend. So, I imagine that may be the same case for plenty of you too.