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  1. #1
    @.~*virinaĉo*~.@ Totenkindly's Avatar
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    Default Ready Player One (film version)

    Just got back an hour ago, so I sat down and wrote up my review. Anyone else seen it? I know my comments sound more critical; I still would say I enjoyed the film overall but it was only like a 3/5 for me. I actually felt more when watching the trailers, to be honest.

    I think I kept out the bulk of spoilers, there's just a twinge here or there if you want to go in completely cold. But is it really a spoiler to say, "Hey, the good guys win?" Probably not.

    Nostalgia and cultural allusion is not a bad thing in itself. Many novels and books in fact pull references to other sources -- mythology, religion, cultural practice, other older literary and cinematic works. It mostly seems to be a matter of time. Pop culture are references to recent cultural artifacts, but when enough time passes, if it remains in the public lexicon of discourse, it would be fair game for allusion much as Shakespeare is today.

    The issue MORE is about how the new work uses the reference, and here is where "Ready Player One" is a mixed bag of tricks. There are times when the film does make a reference that actually defines their purpose in the story to knowledgeable viewers... like the avatar names of Percival -- the pure knight of Arthurian legend who originally sought the Holy Grail -- or Artemis, the female warrior hunter from Greek mythology. Or the setting of the second quest, which reflects on the nature of the quest itself. Or the ending of the old game involved in the third quest, which actually exists and means what the movie is expressing it to mean. These are the best moments of "Ready Player One" ... where the cultural references are not random or just for the "awww" or "awe" factors but actually inform the viewership of something underlying the story. Like with good architecture, form and purpose meet.

    Unfortunately, while sometimes it's enjoyable, many references just seem to be sentimental trigger points rather than relevant to the story. As much as I loved seeing the DeLorean again, it pretty much serves no important role in the story based on our knowledge of the specific workings of the car in its own movie(s) -- it's a visual touchstone without actual substance, where this film wants to swipe our affection for the car as some kind of investment in its own plot. Or the Iron Giant ... Damn. As much as I loved seeing the giant (and it pulled at my heartstrings), I was also kind of dumbfounded by how the Giant is used (against the whole purpose of what we learned about it in the Iron Giant film) until perhaps the very end of its presence in the film here -- this was another case where the appearance of the Giant but not its substance was appropriated by this film to make a quick emotional connection.

    (To be honest, this is also a real grip about pop cultural pastiche in general... it often swipes form and appearance but says nothing relevant on its own, like it is just a shadow of a memory. "Ready Player One" suffers under this onus; sometimes the connections are relevant, sometimes they are superficial.)

    Another oddity is that the film very much is directed at young teens, while all the emotional nostalgic content necessarily is directed at older adults. Who is the audience exactly? I guess kids will be wowed by the in-game stuff without needing to pick up on bulk of culture allusions, but how many 13-year-olds are well-acquainted with The Shining, or Atari's Pitfall? You have to be an older adult with a knowledge of games, toys, mythology, television, movies, and other shared cultural influences from decades past to recognize much of what is in the film, but much of the film's messaging seems to be a PSA geared towards young teens who don't understand the dangers of the Internet ("No one is who they seem! Never tell anyone your real identity! Don't spend all your time online, real life is where you actually exist!") versus a broader story, although older viewers might pick up on the pervasive sense of regret and missed opportunities motivating Willy Wonk -- I mean, James Halliday (Mark Rylance), the OASIS creator, who gatekeeps the selection of an heir for his life's work. Or what sounded almost like director Spielberg himself talking, after a career of making so many films that have resonated with audiences: "Thanks for [watching]."

    Still, what's odd is how the movie undermines its own messaging here. Pretty much everyone is exactly who they seem to be in the OASIS (aside from a small irrelevant tweak), finding each other IRL actually is the key to winning the challenge, and very little in the movie that doesn't revolve around the OASIS in some way is that interesting or achieves that much. And when you step back, you recognize that pretty much all the people living in unhappy squalor at the beginning of the film, if they didn't win the half billion in stock, don't really have their real lives improved at the end, aside from no longer being enslaved to pay off debt incurred to IOI, I guess. Still, this is the rosy ending that the last minutes of Tron: Legacy seems to have missed celebrating in greater detail, where players triumph over crabby corporate enterprisers. ("We love you Art3mis!!!")

    I know I have complained substantially here for a film I ultimately gave a Like to. "Ready Player One" isn't a bad movie per se, it's just that the trailers (IMO) evoke more emotion than the film itself. There are some YA films (like Hunger Games, with its exploration of class warfare and the role of entertainment in culture) that generate thought carrying beyond the films, while Ready Player One is mainly just entertainment. The script is functional to move the film along but surprisingly not necessarily deep.

    It would have even been interesting to at least touch on issues related to MMOs (like griefing, doxxing, sexism and racism -- there's a dark underbelly to online gaming that we never really see hinted at in the film). Also, having a cast that looks unconventional outside the game might have been pretty fascinating too. Think about how the role of the OASIS for those experiencing gender dysphoria, or people with physical handicaps, or for some other reason are able to feel liberation within the game. [As a side note, there's a really great character in Joel Rosenberg's "Guardians of the Flame" series, James Michael Finnegan, who has muscular dystrophy IRL, setting up a really complex interplay when the protagonists enter their gaming world as their characters. Yes, maybe the real world IS real... but maybe some people have substantial reasons for wanting to spend their time within what some might call a fantasy.] The film again is happier to just focus on the basic plot of chasing down the Easter Egg and thwarting Ben Mendelsson's corporate baddie... with whom the film seems unwilling to double down as a truly bad person, in the end?

    Oh, I did have my share of geek-out moments. For example, I have never read the book, so until looking at the book synopsis while writing this review, I wasn't even aware that D&D's "Tomb of Horrors" plays a role in it -- but boy, during the film did I get a HUGE kick out of unexpectedly seeing that image on the back of the High Five's roving van, knowing exactly where it came from. This film is peppered with Easter Eggs, there's no doubt, and it is definitely a pleasurable jolt to feel like you are privy to something that few others might recognize. It's the same jolt you might get when finding a secluded area in World of Warcraft that most players never find, or running across a hidden room in Wolfenstein 3D, or recognizing a voice of an understated actor from an animated movie. That kind of thing is fun, it's a definite "A ha!" experience.

    I guess this whole review could be tl;dr'ed pretty succinctly, in the end: "Ready Player One" is a mostly fun film that can be enjoyed for what it appears to be, it just doesn't extend very far past its two-hour run time nor linger in ways that similar films (like "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory") have resonated in their viewer past for decades past their release, making those films part of the pop culture lexicon. "Ready Player One", assembled as it is from pieces of other works, doesn't have anything of its own to offer unfortunately.
    "Hey Capa -- We're only stardust." ~ "Sunshine"
    "You can't take a picture of this, it's already gone." ~ "Six Feet Under"
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  2. #2
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    I saw the trailers and, from what I remember being said about the book I couldn't be arsed to watch it. It genuinely tried to hard and in doing so seemed insincere and it never caught my interest. Coupled onto a topic (Geek wish fulfillment film) which is tainted by the media to me as our all portrayals of consumers of so said "Geek ephemera". Generally speaking narratives based on fantasy, action adventures, sci-fi, superheroes themselves are fun, and deconstructive, and even sometimes just straight up meta narratives about them can be good, but going the step beyond that step to the actual consumers being inserted into those worlds turn me off. It's one step removed from a self insert, only it's not done by the consumer themselves but a studio or writer who approximates what a modern geek looks like and places them in a world where there knowledge of these "Geek topics" is not only valued but in fact essential and so that always white, teenage, male geek is given the advantages they perceive that they don't have in real life by means of that knowledge. Because it's a fantasy I can excuse it for not addressing the other reasons why that person might believe they lack power in the real world to improve their life, such as "That girl isn't not attracted you because you collect Transformer toys, it's because you just you're better with information and objects then you are people" or "Maybe your dad doesn't respect you because notjust because (this one is trickier because dads can be real dicks for stupid reasons)you like video games over sports, but because you don't seem capable to him to take care of yourself and what he hopes his grandkids." However for the same reason, because it's a fantasy, I can say it's not any fantasy I have nor want to even humor.

    It pangs of Sword Art Online to me as well, hitting some of the same story beats and maybe that also ruined it for me as well. Steven Spielberg is a great choice to direct however and I'm sure he will do the book justice or improve on it.

  3. #3
    @.~*virinaĉo*~.@ Totenkindly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Atomic Fiend View Post
    I saw the trailers and, from what I remember being said about the book I couldn't be arsed to watch it. It genuinely tried to hard and in doing so seemed insincere and it never caught my interest. Coupled onto a topic (Geek wish fulfillment film) which is tainted by the media to me as our all portrayals of consumers of so said "Geek ephemera". Generally speaking narratives based on fantasy, action adventures, sci-fi, superheroes themselves are fun, and deconstructive, and even sometimes just straight up meta narratives about them can be good, but going the step beyond that step to the actual consumers being inserted into those worlds turn me off. It's one step removed from a self insert, only it's not done by the consumer themselves but a studio or writer who approximates what a modern geek looks like and places them in a world where there knowledge of these "Geek topics" is not only valued but in fact essential and so that always white, teenage, male geek is given the advantages they perceive that they don't have in real life by means of that knowledge. Because it's a fantasy I can excuse it for not addressing the other reasons why that person might believe they lack power in the real world to improve their life, such as "That girl isn't not attracted you because you collect Transformer toys, it's because you just you're better with information and objects then you are people" or "Maybe your dad doesn't respect you because notjust because (this one is trickier because dads can be real dicks for stupid reasons)you like video games over sports, but because you don't seem capable to him to take care of yourself and what he hopes his grandkids." However for the same reason, because it's a fantasy, I can say it's not any fantasy I have nor want to even humor.
    I can relate to it on the overall concept level, which is basically "Willy Wonka but with computer tech / MMO / virtual community geekery". But I can't say I super-enjoyed it on that level.

    I'd rather just watch "Edge of Tomorrow" three times back to back or something.

    as far as geek nostalgia, I appreciate pop culture references being used in service to an idea. Like on the Simpsons, while they throw some stuff in for kicks, they often also use it compare and contrast things or to make a point. This was really about pop culture imagery being swiped for use, except for a few items of import.

    It pangs of Sword Art Online to me as well, hitting some of the same story beats and maybe that also ruined it for me as well. Steven Spielberg is a great choice to direct however and I'm sure he will do the book justice or improve on it.
    Since I have seen the movie and have now read the opening chapter of the book, in terms of the finished work, I would say this did not happen.

    One thing I think Spielberg DID do was make the film more accessible because (due to the difficulty in purchasing various rights for the film) he focused on VISUAL nostalgia vs more niche geek nostalgia, which for example means instead of getting some obscure geek game or book that only a true geek would know, you get something much more widely known by everyone regardless of geek status (like the DeLorean); but you still can't make a pig sing and the pig in this case was the script -- it has a few good ideas but in general lacks relevance, and meaning and (well) cajones. Even in the first ten pages or so, the book actually seems to create a world that makes more sense and is more balanced than the film's view of the world, where the film also basically touts how we should spend more time in the real world while barely exploring the real world and making the fantasy world seem far more interesting. It's just kind of incoherent conceptually, unfortunately.

    I think in terms of Spielberg's total film roster as a director, I'd rank this film in the lowest 25% of his achievements. If he HADN'T directed it, I bet it would have been worse.

    I've read a little more about the film development, after having seen it. Apparently the center sequence was supposed to be Blade Runner, not The Shining, but they were not given the rights (in part because Blade Runner 2049 was coming out and they did not want to water down their own product's impact). Although considering The Shining sequence also has an element that comprises the emotional heart of the film, I'm kinda unclear what they were even trying to accomplish via Blade Runner or what purpose it would have served -- was this serendipity?
    "Hey Capa -- We're only stardust." ~ "Sunshine"
    "You can't take a picture of this, it's already gone." ~ "Six Feet Under"
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  4. #4
    Poking the poodle Frosty's Avatar
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    I enjoyed the movie more than I was expecting to. It was interesting without being overly... confusing. Lots of times with science fiction... I think directors go over the top trying to fit EVERYTHING and MORE in to a movie- and it just turns into a mess that really only a niche community of- really avid viewers would appreciate and for everyone else- it is just tiresome.

    So I think this film did a good job at reaching a larger audience. Reading the description... I was expecting to be confused. Or at the very least- it would be another super-hero movie with the same old tired tropes. The plot to this movie- was a bit different- played a bit more with unknowns/riddles/mystery... which I appreciated. Carried a message throughout it- but wasnt overly preachy or over the top with it... and was overall... just not a bad film.

    I am going to say I teared up at the end. But thats been happening... anymore... I cant watch a movie without tearing up at some point. Even commercials. Kind of a new thing for me- and its a good one- means Im engaged. Means the movie was engaging enough.

    But yeah. The tearing up in this movie- lol its not a tear jerker- its like- a tear ‘extremely lightly suggester’ and thats all I need anymore when it comes to media.

    Anyways. The movie felt more human than I was expecting it to. It didnt super get carried away with odd plot tangenrs (which are good when done right- but can be a mess otherwise (leave tangents to writing- or SERIES imo- movies just arent long enough)- and the one thing I would say is that... while I enjoyed the pop culture references and GET that ‘pop culture sort of ended when the gaming system was created and wiped out the need) well... that happened in 2025 so... the 80s references and stuff... I think some of it was a bit TOO aged and pandered more to the audience age/preference than to the cultural referencing youd expect from the time the movie took place. It was enjoyable- but a little... much.

    I did enjoy the part with the shining though... but thats just because I love Stephen King. Youd have to be crazy not to.

    Anyways.
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