Usually not a film I’d give the honour of a full O@tM but since it’s a Spielberg and somehow connected to Virtual Worlds and with that also to Second Life, I’ll make an exception for Ready Player One.
In the year 2045, the real world is a harsh place. The only time Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) truly feels alive is when he escapes to the OASIS, an immersive virtual universe where most of humanity spends their days. In the OASIS, you can go anywhere, do anything, be anyone-the only limits are your own imagination. The OASIS was created by the brilliant and eccentric James Halliday (Mark Rylance), who left his immense fortune and total control of the Oasis to the winner of a three-part contest he designed to find a worthy heir. When Wade conquers the first challenge of the reality-bending treasure hunt, he and his friends-aka the High Five-are hurled into a fantastical universe of discovery and danger to save the OASIS.
I guess you’ve all heard about Ernest Cline’s novel Ready Player One and how much it was influenced particularly by Second Life and other MMOs or what these games are called. I only know it in context with SL and have never read it. I guess it’s just one of the many books for Young Adults and therefor out of my interest range. Nevertheless when the movie for Ready Player One popped up on the dark side of the interwebz, what is a poor little pirate to do?
And anway, when a legend like Steven Spielberg makes a movie, it’s always at least entertaining and not too stupid and without the glaring plotholes of modern Star Wars shitshows. And having kinda good actors (Ben Mendelsohn, Simon Pegg, Mark Rylance) and the new sexy crowd (Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, and my favourite bish Hannah John-Kamen) meet in one movie, the outcome promises to be at least interesting.
Unfortunately the result was a bit sobering and underwhelming. 😦 And I blame it completely on Mr. Spielberg. I know it’s heresy. But hear me out please, when I go into detail: It wasn’t the actors. They did what they were told to do by Spielberg. Lacking charactersation and drama is not their fault.
In fact the whole cast are doing good jobs, trying to fill their pretty much one-dimensional characters with life. It’s just that nobody gets enough screen time and attention to develop fully. And that’s particularly bad considering the very long playtime of almost 2.5 hours. So here the screenwriters and Mr. Spielberg put too much weight on the virtual world and visual effects. They’ve tried to pack as much spectacle and gimmickry as possible into Player One, and obviously forgot to make a really good movie from it.
The story was straightforward as expected and the pacing was just right. A bit too fast for old slow-mo farts like your editrix but perfect for the target group of young adults. Most important tho: We felt well entertained all the time. Nothing spectacular but a good watch.
The production seemed to be flawless as well. Without knowing how Mr. Cline imagined and described his vision of the future in the novel everything seemed to be alright. No cheap shots, no visible cost cutting. On a visible level Player One was a grande spectacle. And the film didn’t linger long on the dystopian future aspects of the real world anyway and went on with its lightweight entertainment. So don’t expect Player One to be a thoughtful and deeply pessimistic tear jerker. A little bit more soul and humanity on the other hand wouldn’t have done no harm neither.
Of course the action scenes, particularly with masses of players, are happening in virtual and are therefor not engaging as real, or let’s say more realistic fights, like we know them from Private Ryan, where Steven Spielberg gave us the most realistic battlescenes ever to be seen in a movie. Not saying it was a great movie but the first half hour, the D-Day, was more gripping than anything I’ve ever seen before or after.
Not so in Player One. Here almost all action scenes are happening in virtual and are logically “filmed” mostly in totales, no close-ups, what gives us another filter thru which we see the action unfold. It’s brutal, yes alright, but not haptic, we don’t feel it. Like in all those Marvel movies the action has no impact. Car explodes in mid air! Player respawns and rezzes a new vehicle. Wash, rinse, repeat. Catch my drift?
Ok, those inworld/in game action scenes couldn’t have been “filmed” any other way I guess. Wouldn’t make any cinematographic sense. But why didn’t Spielberg use the potential of his actors to give us more drama in the real world scenes?
Sorrento (Mendelsohn) and his sidekick F’Nale are barmy figures, needlessly evil, and more cartoonish than all the in-game characters of the others. They were probably destined to illustrate evil corps like Gøøgle and sumsuch. But again Spielberg failed to convince us of their hazardousness, hilariously as he showed them to us.
Let’s summarize a little, shall we? If most the action scenes are happening in virtual and the actors are replaced by avatars, shouldn’t the director then put some more bias on the RL scenes with RL actors and RL filmcrews and all that stuff? I think so, and I guess you do too. No?
And this is were I think old man Spielberg lost the plot. Sorry to say but I guess he just couldn’t be bothered to ignite the fire and the youthful, adventurous charme of his older movies in Player One. I think he left the poor actors hang out to dry. And the audience too.
The flow between the ingame and real life scenes is fluid and easy, Spielberg did that very well. We hardly ever see the log-in or spawning/rezing process but still we always know exactly where tf we are. The scope of the Oasis is gigantic and Hollywood’s computer and CGI experts did a really great job with their depiction of the game world. I doubt Spielberg himself had a great deal to do with that part of the movie.
Verdict: Without knowing the source material I was really looking forward to the movie. Who doesn’t wanna know how their culture is portrayed in the media? And I can’t even say that I’m very disappointed with the result. Better a tired, old Spielberg than some idiotic millenial SJW director to handle this project! Oh yes, it could have been better, probably even a lot better … but it could have been sooo much worse as well! 😮 And I bet my skinny ass in 97.3% of all imaginable cases it would have been worse!
Watch it? Don’t break a sweat to watch Ready Player One at any cost. Not even for SL residents this is a must-see. But it doesn’t hurt and gives you about 140 minutes of mild amusement. And if you don’t fancy the movie but are bored you can amuse yourself by detecting the over-abundance of cultural references. Particularly the gamers among you should find a lot of easter eggs. More than 300 in fact! 😮
So grab your popcorn and join in on this easter egg hunt.
What the Critics Have to Say: