Opinion, Reviews

‘Ready Player One’: pop culture on overdrive

(WARRENSBURG, Mo.) – In 2011, Ernest Cline wrote his debut novel “Ready Player One.”  After spending years in development – it takes a while in Hollywood sometimes – the film adaptation was finally released to theaters on March 29, with Cline as a co-writer for the screenplay and film icon Steven Spielberg as director/producer.

The movie takes place in the year 2044, a miserable future filled with hardship. To escape their problems, people use vital reality technology to travel to the virtual world of OASIS. There, anything is possible; you can do anything and be anyone. The creator of this digital world, having recently passed away, has placed an Easter egg somewhere in the game; whoever finds it will inherit control of the OASIS. The film follows a young gamer named Wade Watts, played by Tye Sheridan, who goes by his gamer tag Parzival. Together with his a group of fellow gamers, he tries to find the Easter egg in order to escape his life of poverty. But his quest becomes dangerous as a ruthless corporation wants the same thing.

The idea of the OASIS is creative and amazing, but the story itself is kind of predictable. If you’ve seen any other movie about rebel teenagers fighting against the system, then you have a good idea of what’s going to happen. That’s not to say that “Ready Player One” is of the same generic quality as other young adult film series. The movie does have clichés, but what movie doesn’t?

I don’t know much about computer generated images, but I thought it looked awesome in this movie. And it had to be, otherwise this movie wouldn’t have worked. During one sequence, a few scenes from “The Shining” are recreated and it looked pretty close to the original film. The world of OASIS is massive and interesting. The worldbuilding for OASIS is done well, but more information could’ve been provided for the real world, especially about how their society works.

Very similar to “Stranger Things,” “Ready Player One” is a love letter to classic pop culture, especially from the 1980s. Gamers in the OASIS can create whatever avatars they wish: there are video game characters, movie characters, TV characters all based on classic pop culture, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. This use of nostalgia sounds true to form for Ernest Cline, as he was also a co-writer for the film “Fanboys,” which was a love letter to “Star Wars” and nerd culture.

The movie, just like the book, is filled to the brim with intellectual properties, like “Halo,” “Mortal Kombat,”  “Alien” and so many others. This posed a problem for the movie, as many of the rights to these properties are owned by different companies. But because Spielberg was attached to the project, the film was able to navigate through that potential minefield. “Ready Player One” producer Donald De Line said, “Having Steven Spielberg as your director opens a jillion doors that would have been locked before,” according GIZMODO.com. Through his personal connections, and being Steven Spielberg, owners of these intellectual properties were much more willing to allow the film to use them.

It’s interesting that Spielberg was the director of this film, as some of the pop culture comes from projects he’d been a part of in the past – “Back to the Future” as one example.

My main critique of “Ready Player One” is the pop culture references can get annoying. To be fair, it is really cool to see an army of pop culture icons fighting in a gigantic battle. However, sometimes the characters just make references nonstop about this piece of pop culture and that piece of pop culture. Some moments it feels like the movie is beating you over the head with trivia, it can be almost painful.

Although, as a fan of Quentin Tarantino films, it would be very hypocritical for me to criticize the overuse of pop culture references any further. If you know anything about his movies, all his characters ever seem to talk about is pop culture. I’ll admit, if you’ve seen my other reviews, I make plenty of pop culture references myself. I do actually enjoy listening to characters talk about pop culture, but when it’s in moderation and with more subtlety. I also feel Tarantino goes overboard sometimes with his movies too.

Now I try to take films seriously and have educated opinions on them, but I’ll admit, there were scenes in “Ready Player One” that made my inner twelve year old very happy. There were two great action scenes that were just epic to watch, the last one made me smile with delight. My only complaint would be there weren’t more of them.

Despite my criticism, this is overall a good movie. By no means is it as great as some of Spielberg’s other films, but it’s still worth watching. It’s well acted, paced and, of course, directed. Spielberg is considered one of the all-time great directors for a reason – though he did make “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.”

If OASIS was real, I would defiantly buy a console and start playing – like the characters in this movie, I’d probably make it my life. This movie has some good commentary on the nature of video games. I’m not sure if “Ready Player One” is technically a video game movie, but it might as well be. After all, there are not that many good movies about video games. Whether or not you’re a gamer, this is an enjoyable film.  If you’re looking for a fun movie, I do recommend “Ready Player One.” Now if you’re looking for a movie with some deeper meaning, you may or may not like this movie. There are some predictable moments and it does have other flaws. But I will say, I had a good time watching it.

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