Ready Player One (2018)
Nostalgia the movie. Let’s be honest here, if anyone goes into this movie and comes out complaining about the amount of pop culture references, than they probably shouldn’t have gone to see the movie in the first place. The trailers for this thing told me everything I needed having never read the book that existed before hand - I’m gonna get things I remember from my childhood, and from one of my favorite past times. If I don’t get fond remembrances, I’ll get a video game movie that isn’t strictly tied to a franchise in which to be labeled a horrible adaptation but instead just a lot of gaming as a whole. I don’t see anything in this trailer that tells me “No, do not watch this” and finally the day has come for me to test and see if it was all a fabricated DLC pass grabbing at my quarters, or if my expectations can be delivered upon without seventeen thousand hotfixes. Tonight, we check out Ready Player One.
This may or may not come as a surprise to some of the readers, but I never had an interest in reading the book this came out of. To be honest, it can often times be rather difficult for a book to grab my attention enough to make me want to read it - not that I have something against reading or book, just that I’m far more picky with them than I probably am with other media types. The reason I get this right out of the way is so that I can before hand get everyone prepped for the opinions of a person who isn’t look at this thing as an adaptation - at the very least not of a book adaptation. There could be staggering character discrepancies, plot flow upheavals, or even underlain theological points that have been spun right around - but I don’t know of them and in turn it doesn’t effect my enjoyment of the movie at all. From what I gather, it’s rather up or down in that regard, but it seems people have tended to enjoy it as a whole at any rate, so perhaps this could be a case of “poor adaptation, great film” where it might not knock it out of the park in being faithful but still ends up being a fun time on it’s own - a distinction lost on a lot of super-hardcore fans of any franchise at times. That said, it does have quite a few accurate things to say about gaming, if at times a bit dated (which considering the levels of nostalgia-worship going on here seems appropriate). Being a dude who enjoys some games myself, they have a lot of solid points in there when it comes to types and breadth of people who play games, as well as things that are even current concerns - such as corporate greed. I may not be able to attest to it’s book adoption rate, but I can say that as far as a game experience is does a relatively good job speaking to me on that front.
Enough of that however, we haven’t even touched on the plot yet! I’d say it’s simple, but in a way it only is such because you can boil it down to a core paste that would make any movie simple. The movie centers around a near-ubiquitous virtual reality game that goes far beyond just being a game, instead serving to many as practically a replacement reality. Upon the creators death, a mystery game within the game was revealed with some pretty serious stakes - whomever wins this mini-game ends up owning the entire of the virtual realms. In turn, a lot of hardcore fanatics start the search for the fabled keys, which lead to clues to the next in the line, and a shiny golden easter egg at the end. Of course, some of these fanatics aren’t just competitive gamers either, some are corporate slaves under employ of the “man” who, in typical fashion, wish to monetize the crap out of the thing in the most horrendous ways that currently can’t be done due to lack of ownership. Thus we enter our plight with our lead character and his eventual pack of friends, with his main lady lead also acting as a comparable hunter of her own - all experiencing troubles caused by this hunt as the corporation tries to undermine them and beat them at every turn. Thanks to the real world and game world being inter-cut, it gives a nice flow of events inside and out to help build up the characters and their reasons for doing things and remains relatively simple to follow throughout - unless you are trying to figure out the clues before the characters, as some of that info isn’t given to us at the start. On the flip side, there are plenty of exposition scenes, as we the audience need to be caught up to all the intricacies of the world and state of affairs of the deceased creator.
As much as it might displease me to watch some of the more mundane moments of the movie, with a lot of them taking place in a virtual world filled to the brim with references to things I know the pain of the situational dumps is lessened by giving something on screen for my eyes to dance around and recognize. This doesn’t effect all of the informational scenes where things get forced at your brain, but it’s still an improvement over a complete set of talking heads. That said, this is a movie where I do feel that some of it could have been shortened down without too much impact on the experience as a whole, but considering how easily some people get confused when watching movies without having things spelled out to them and the amount of pop culture or game related things in this movie I suppose I can also see how it’s necessary that this movie expand to the time it’s at. Much like other longer movies where I get that feeling, this one does at least have a lot of very fun or otherwise great scenes to look at - although to be sure sometimes the amount of things they try to jam in for the art of fan service and pop culture reference can make things feel incredibly cluttered. This works great during the epic ending battle scene, but almost feels a bit detrimental to keeping track of whats going on in the opening race scene. If nothing else, I guess it would add to re-watchability, since there’s always new things you could pick out, but it’s an observation I made in my mind regardless.
But as most shots of this movie would tell you, there are a lot more to this movie than just story and pop culture. Okay, that’s a lie, there’s more to it than story. I mean, seriously, the absolute logistical nightmare it had to be to get all these different licenses on board to have their things included in this movie makes my mind turn off trying to think about it. Sure, we have some original stuff in here, but you also have everything else in there from Gremlins to Spawn to Halo. If you’ve been alive and watched a movie or played a game or read a comic in the last thirty years, you’ll find something you recognize almost hands down. It’s nuts. Of course, a lot of these parts tie most into the effects department, but before I get that I’d also like to point something out here. All these crazy things you see (for the most part) exist within a virtual realm - a game - so when you see things like Iron Giant busting MechaGodzilla in the face, nothing they do is out of character because it isn’t really those characters. That fact might be lost on people, and I know I’ve either read or heard at least one person complain about “this character would never do that” at least once - maybe it’s just people who get so involved in the movie they forget the entire premise of the movie. I digress.
The effects are great here. Sure, at times they look rather unrealistic - just like a game. It’s funny, because I’m totally convinced that it’s on purpose this way - game avatars, especially in such a nostalgia ridden game made by a guy obsessed with the past, would probably be more likely not to be super real uncanny valley sort of things. The part that makes me think this the most is a scene where the crew visits a movie the creator really liked, and if you’ve actually seen that movie in reality (which I have) the amount of things that look like they lifted it straight off the old footage instead of recreating it would absolutely blow your mind. So yes, sometimes things might look a little gamey, but that’s totally the point. In the movie’s real world, things also still look pretty good. Given all the reality around them, it’s a bit easier to see them as fake in comparison, but it’s mostly all passable still. This is the kind of movie that I expect would look much better on a BluRay with a higher definition screen, especially if you are the kind of person who wants to go through and dissect every little reference they have in there - which at times is a bit overwhelming, as previously mentioned. The movements also help to sell everything - although it also brings up a few silly tidbits that you could argue about as being a plot hole if you wanted to - such as the questionable need to run to make yourself run as seen by some on the streets or on treadmills, whilst others don’t seem to need to run at all. Probably a bit of a controller preference option, but seeing a group of Halo troops running and then cutting to the real world where it shows a group of people running down the street in similar stances really makes me question how effective the group would be in game when they ran into other people, cars, or the side of a building. Did it look silly? Yes. Was the point still kind of cool regardless? Also yes.
Usually I’d say nothing stuck in my head for audio - but this thing hits the spot. It’s like how I can walk out of Thor: Ragnarok humming the Immigrant Song. This thing is lousy with actual retro songs and it’s own compositions that would fit right in. Given it’s music that I would or do actually listen to, the earworm probability goes through the rough. Heck, some of the stuff I could even tell you what it’s from. When the old MechaG pops up and it starts playing a modified version of the Godzilla theme? That solid action that stands out to me. So yes, I find I enjoyed the soundtrack here quite well. The other audio also comes out pretty good and is balanced nicely so that you can still, despite everything going on, hear what a character is saying clearly - even if they say something that makes you groan or laugh. Humor is subjective, as I always point out, but I still ended up laughing a few times across this one - and without them resorting to fart jokes either. Also of relevance here is the actors, who do a good job providing some depth with their lines when they need to, even if some of the lines or deliveries might not impress. It goes a long way to adding some sympathy or connection to the characters, particularly when most of their face-time is as a game avatar instead of their real selves. That said, not all get as advanced as others, and really only the main two get any sort of depth to them, although I guess you could make an argument for our big baddie by the end, although it’s hard to tell with that character how much of it is “I’m just doing my job” and how much is “I’m a corporate greed machine.” Can’t really tell if that’s a good or a bad thing for that character to be honest though.
Overall, if you want a fun time with a lot of references to comics, games, and movies of older and sometimes more modern times these are the droids you’re looking for. The effects are pretty good, the acting is totally passable, and the story moves along enough to keep you interested despite the large amount of exposition that you’ll be getting. The action scenes get pretty elaborate with some nice visual shots in various places, and the soundtrack will make you wanna Bee Gees like nobody is looking. It’s a fun time, and as long as you like what you see in the trailer than there’s nothing in here that should make you do anything but enjoy it.