Steven Spielberg, 2018, US
Screenplay: Zak Penn & Ernest Cline
A towering bore of empty effects work and fanboy fantasy. I mean, it’s distracting because by nature immense effects work usually is, but… Even ‘Star Wars’ transcends it juvenility with its original detail, if not its plots and themes; and even Tarantino grounds his magpie sensibility and movie-movies with distinctive casting and a recognisable voice. Although ‘Ready Player One’ is directed by heralded maestro Steven Spielberg it’s really the most generic, anonymous epic effects! direction: the camera swoops and sweeps, taking in all we are meant to be impressed by, but it signifies nothing. It speeds through and keeps on the move as if scared that if it slows down there will be nothing to hold it aloft.
It's that “Chosen One” thing, opening exposition narration, “These days, reality’s a bummer”, etc: Tye Sheridan as Wade/Parzival is appealing enough but this isn’t the place to show what you’re capable of; although evil corporate guy Ben Mendelsohn will always make some kind of dent. I started thinking that rarely has a film broadcast and signposted its own immaturity so insistently. We are witness to a nerd’s egomania that - in this future(?) – it’s 2045, apparently, so what’s all this 80s nostalgia? So: alternative(?) reality – is the basis of all the imaginations around him – they idolise him! But, dead as he is, he posthumously insists on this unreality being tethered to the pop-culture of his youth. So, this is future amazement landlocked to one man’s youthful obsessions (he symbolically keeps his silent kid self around because *shrug*). All around is a state of arrested development: Here are riddles solved by a grown man’s fear of kissing the opposite sex; riddles solved by going backwards (gosh, the symbolism!); proof of authenticity relies upon knowing about John Hughes and other mainstream 80s teen-movie fluff.
Speaking of which: the love interest (Olivia Cooke) is a feisty action-girl who is tediously cocky at first, who is characterised a little with a prominent birthmark, just to make her, you know, a tortured soul - but it’s okay: she can cover it with her flirty fringe. And it’s notable how she loses her individuality and voice more and more until our hero asserts that he's ready to embark on romance with her, to which she says nothing. I guess she was just waiting for a dominant male?
And this seems to maintain the objections and negative responses to Ernest Cline’s source novel, which I haven’t read but are covered here by Constance Grady. It would seem Easter Egging for Geeks isn’t my sense of thing.
It’s like a fanboy fantasy totally unleashed and warping reality. Here, let me show you how I can turn ‘The Shining’ into a cool computer game! Actually, ‘The Shining’ sequence is perhaps the most awake in the film, in that imagination is demanded to utilise it. But it’s still co-opting the cool of a classic. It’s one giant Easter Egg, and it’s meant to be. There’s King Kong, Rubik’s Cube, the Iron Giant, Mecha-Godzilla, Chucky (?), ‘Krull’ and… I am not familiar with the hardware but I assume that’s namechecking games… it goes on and on.
And then Wade and his mates rule the world’s imagination, but benignly and fairly, so that’s nice.
The best line: “Ninjas don’t hug.”
Perhaps it’s the cinematic equivalent of one of those chocolate egg cash-ins/tie-ins offering a disposable toy inside?