Saturday, April 28, 2018

Ready Player One review

If you've ever enjoyed playing a role playing video game (RPG),  then you probably know the feeling of getting lost in its virtual world.   Game like   Skyrim  and the online World of Warcraft create worlds that you want to live in. These virtual worlds feel better than the real one.  That's because the real world can suck.  The virtual world is one you can control and find happiness.  This theme of favoring a virtual world versus the real one has been covered in the documentary Life 2.0 (2010)  and now in the film directed by Stephen Spielberg called  Ready Player One.

It's 2045, and America is a overpopulated and dystopian mess.  People get away from their troubles by playing in a virtual reality world called The OASIS.   This internet network was created by James Halliday  (Mark Rylance) who's part Steve Jobs and a big lonely geek.  Rylance is simply extraordinary.  He transforms himself from characters in Dunkirk (2017) and  Bridge of Spies.  (2015) into the awkward,  and sad geek.

In this world is Wade Watts  (Tye Sheridan) , a young kid who escapes his existence of living in a slum of stacked trailer homes by playing in the OASIS.  Halliday had died years before but in his will he left a way for anyone to inherit the Oasis by planting an Easter Egg, which is a hidden message, or feature in a video game.    Halliday left clues which included some left in his love of late seventies and eighties pop culture.  Wade devotes his life to finding the Egg.  One of his competitors, is the sexy Art3mis  (Olivia Cooke) who Wade has a crush on.   Unfortunately, a corporation called Innovative  Online Industries  (IOI) which wants to take over  OASIS also wants to find it.

Based on the novel of the same name, writer Ernest Cline  along with Zak Penn stuff this film with a ton of eighties pop culture references.  Look  for Star Trek, Back to the Future   and Excalibur (1981) nods. This tale being about virtual worlds there are nods to video games and systems.  The eight bit console Atari 2600 is featured.  Alas, the infamous E.T. video game and classic movie E.T.  are not.   Spielberg decided not to feature any of his film woks  which differs from the book.

The screenplay and story resembles a cross between Life 2.0 and Willy Wonka and The Chocolate  Factory  (1971).  Cline who also writes screenplays decided to stick more to a cinematic telling of his story.   Sometimes it works and other times he doesn't do enough to explain what is going on.  I mean the characters are not only looking for the Easter Egg but three keys.  And how these keys work require a gamer's guide.  Still, the film works when real people are in the Oasis where they find adventure and romance. 

Spielberg constantly reinvents himself.  I could tell you what a Spielberg movie looked like in 1980.  Big close ups.   Over the top, dramatic shots.  And while Ready Player One does have some epic shots, there are other shots that are more intimate.  I also like the way the CGI is used to depict the virtual world.  It's more animation than realistic.  That'probably is to tell the audience the difference between the virtual one and the real world.   Yet, it's the film's virtual one that is the most interesting.  Like I said, it's an  opportunity for a person to forget his real troubles and find a better world.  And it's this virtual world where one finds friendship,  adventure and happiness.

When I watched Ready Player One . and how IOI wanted to take over  OASIS, it reminded me of the current situation where there is an end of net neutrality. Science fiction often mirrors the real world. Ready Player One is a rollicking and heartfelt adventure The grade is A.

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