Just forget the words and sing along

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Ready Player One

Here we go again, Fishing in the Discount Bin.   You know the drill, I watch a movie and blog about.  "Just rant about why you like it," was how a friend told me I should do it.  Today we're doing Ready Player One, which I originally watched and blogged about on August 5, 2018.

My first exposure to Ready Player One was seeing it talked about online.  Had a co-worker who read about it and was raving about it.  When I broke the news that Spielberg was going to be directing the movie version, but deleting all references to his own works, my co-worker said, "But that's like half the book!"  I'd still like to read the book someday.  Hoped to do that before the movie came out, but never got around to it. 

Although, those first trailers really intrigued me, with its mash-up of the Delorean from Back to the Future and the motorcycle from Akira in some gigantic, epic, pop-culture reference filled race.  And then reading how the original book was just stuffed to the brim with pop culture references, especially to the pop culture of the 1980s, it felt very much like the kind of book I would write.  I agreed with one critic who described it as Forrest Gump for Generation X.  Hence all the Spielberg references, as his films dominated pop culture in the 1980s.  And why many agreed that Spielberg was the right choice to direct the movie adaptation.  And as for deleting all the references to his own stuff?  Well, Spielberg said he didn't want the film to come across as self-congratulatory. 

The film takes place in the not-too-distant-future...2045, according to the opening narration.  The world is in rough shape.  The rich are richer, the poor are poorer, and the only escape is Oasis.  Oasis is a virtual reality MMORPG that has become the world's #1 pastime.  In Oasis, you can be anyone or do anything, which is why it's become so popular in the rundown hellhole of the world.  And Oasis was the brainchild of computer programmer James Haliday. 

Upon his death, Haliday announced to the world that he hid an Easter egg in Oasis.  To find the Easter egg, you need to complete three challenges and find three keys.  The first to find the Easter egg wins Haliday's personal fortune (about half-a-trillion dollars), Haliday's company, and complete control of the Oasis. 

And it is here where we meet our hero, Wade Watts.  Wade lives in the slums with his aunt and her abusive boyfriend, his parents long dead.  In Oasis, Wade Watts goes by Parzival, and he's one of the many who's hunting for the Easter Egg.  The first challenge has been unlocked -- the race I mention above -- and Parzival is trying once again to win it.  This time, though, he meets a legendary gamer named Artemis, and he saves her from near virtual death by losing the race.  In their resulting meet-cute, Artemis says something to Parzival that triggers something in his mind.  Consulting Haliday's personal archives in the game, Parzival cracks the code.  He completes the first challenge, and becomes the first to find the first key. 

This makes Parzival famous, and of course, earns him some enemies.  The evil corporation IOI has staked their future on finding the Easter egg, taking control of Oasis, and exploiting it for their own profit.  They even have an entire division dedicated to winning the game, led by the evil Nolan Sorrento.  Before long, Sorrento is trying to take out Parzival in both the real world and Oasis.  And now, it's up to Parzival, Artemis, and their friends to find the Easter egg, and make sure that Oasis continues being the virtual paradise that it is. 

I guess my biggest gripe would be that, despite Spielberg directing it, it doesn't feel like a classic Spielberg film.  Which is weird.  I was looking forward to it, because Spielberg hasn't done one of the big, effects-driven blockbusters that made him famous in a while.  He's been doing mostly Oscar bait.  It just felt too modern, and didn't have enough of that classic Spielberg magic.  No where is the modern influence felt more strongly than in the climax.  Following the trend of many blockbusters these days, the third act is an overlong, protracted action sequence that just doesn't let up.  And because of all the pop culture references on display, there's lot of things that flash by just far too fast to be enjoyed. 

Watching it in the theatre;  Wait a minute, was that the Ninja Turtles?

Watching it at home, where I could freeze frame it:  Oh, it's the crappy Turtles from the Michael Bay movies. 

I will say, though, that I'm glad the pop culture references didn't overwhelm and become a bunch of references in search of a plot.  That being said, it's still a pretty standard hero's journey kind of plot. 

At the end of the day, my feelings towards Ready Player One are a lot like my feelings towards Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.  This was a movie designed by super-nerds to appeal to super-nerds, and since many consider me to be a super-nerd, it`s supposed to be right up my alley.  Instead, I just kind of walked away going, "Meh."  I guess if I want some classic Spielberg, I'll just have to watch Jurassic Park again. 

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