Don’t Hate The Player, LOVE The Game
A potential measurement of my enjoyment of a movie is the amount of notes that I haphazardly scribble in the dark confines of the screening room. In the reality of daylight the resulting notes bring a new level to the cut-up technique opiately wrangled by the likes of William Boroughs, words and sentences are energetically (mistakenly and blindly) written on top of each other, at times becoming a puzzle or code to be painstakingly deciphered.
Loads of notes can indicate an affection for the movie as it triggers millions of thoughts and inspirations exploding around the inner multiple universes that are my mind, but equally in a parallel dimension little to no notes can indicate that I either hate something, or that I am being entertained to such a level that I’m forgetting to write anything at all, as my dopamine releasing neurons are being repeatedly slammed as I pinball around the world I’m being shot into.
Ready Player One had the least notes I’ve ever taken at a movie screening.
I arrived late to the 2011 sci-fi best-seller and debut novel ‘Ready Player One’ by Ernest Cline. I had read that none other than the cinema demigod that is Steven Spielberg was so entranced with it that he was going to bring it to the big screen. Considering I thought we had lost this autre to a direction of sombre movies I really didn’t care for, I was wonderfully intrigued by what sparked this return to his earlier works of unmitigated pure entertainment. I read the book.
Set in the near dystopian future of 2045 where everyday existence is pretty bleak, the entire population distracts itself from the harsh realities by addictively venturing into the virtual online world of the OASIS, where your avatar can be anything you want it to be. Irrespective of ones social standing in reality, once the virtual reality (VR) goggles and haptic gloves are donned, the multiple realms of the OASIS are entered, and everyone is on the same level, a transient digital utopia. With the understandable draw of such idyllic vistas, a lot of folk tend to spend a great deal of their waking life in VR.
The OASIS was created by genius recluse James Halliday (think Steve Jobs meets Howard Hughes) and it is the most successful company in the world, and as such the most powerful. So when it’s announced that Halliday has died and has left the complete ownership of his company and OASIS to the winner of various tasks that he has hidden in his virtual kingdom, he basically announces a Willy Wonka and the Digital Chocolate Factory for a new age. And EVERYBODY, good and bad, wants it.
The adventure focuses on teenager Wade Watts, a very adept and keen player, who lives with his aunt in a tumultuous caravanstead of significant poverty where the trailers are built upon each other in ‘stacks’. Any time not spent at home is quality time, so he spends it as his avatar Parzival in OASIS as a ‘gunter’ which is effectively an egg hunter detective searching for the clues that Halliday left behind.
Wade is a nerdy geek to say the least who has studied the entire history of the recluse which is effectively the pop culture of EVERYTHING from the 80s, be it films, books and in particular computer games. Obsession begins to pay off as he successfully begins the quest to find the three keys that will take him ever closer to the ultimate prize.
And what a journey it is. There are SO many cultural references in particular copyrighted branded material and characters that while it became a spectacular joy to read and paint in my head, I also though it couldn’t be made by anyone as it would cost billions to get the rights alone. Of course Steven Speilberg isn’t just anyone, he’s Steven Speilberg!
Speilberg’s film has major significant differences to the book which for me aren’t a problem at all. It isn’t the best thing I’ve ever read, nor the best written and under scrutiny has quite a few flaws, but it absolutely was the most fun thing I’ve EVER read. That’s somewhat important in regards the movie as some of the flaws have been addressed, some haven’t, but ultimately they are irrelevant, it’s 100% pure spectacular entertainment by one of the greatest entertainers in history, who happens to be living in our timeline.
It must be said that I got all the references liberally peppered throughout the book/film (Halliday’s coffin made me scream with joy), and even though I’m not actually a gamer, I do know quite a bit about it, so it no doubt added enormously to overclocking my joy receptors. Nevertheless the levels of sheer spectacle that are presented are second to none, it is truly phenomenal, in particular the race task.
The tasks have been changed from the book, aren’t as profoundly geeky, but what they have been replaced with are truly stunning set pieces, the amount of times I was saying WTF to myself during a movie had reached records highs within the first few minutes, even the first drop into the worlds of OASIS is what most films have as their climax, whereas here it’s a brief introduction at the beginning.
The overall arc of the movie is effectively the same. Wade (Tye Sheridan) perseveres through the levels of the game, collecting and bonding with friends along the way as he aims for the ultimate prize that Halliday (Mark Rylance) has left behind. Of course we have some really nasty corporate folk (is there any other kind?) led by Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn) who is the head of the giant tech company Online Industries (IOI) who’s aim to monitize the entire OASIS.
There are plenty more great folk and characters who roll up, but they were such joy to behold, I’ll not spoil the fun.
As I’ve mentioned there are potential flaws, but to focus on them defeats the entire purpose of the event. If you are the type of person who can release themselves to unmitigated joy, you are in for a real treat. It’s a stunningly made movie, a virtual roller coaster ride throughout an entire beautifully rendered theme park, where there’s as much fun to be had in the simple joy of splashing in puddles as the biggest ride in the park.
It’s an instant cult classic, skilfully balancing the past, present and future all at once, it’s already rightfully doing extremely well in the box office, but will explode when it gets released on Blu-ray as millions of people around the world freeze frame every single moment to search the background for hidden gleeful nostalgic 80s references, I really hope the studios decide to turn the Blu-ray release into some sort of search within the movie competition, and also release special OASIS 3D goggles for it to keep us all entertained until the sequeal Ready Player Two is written and made into another blast of digital dopamine.
10/10 ‘Ready Player One’ is out now See it in the BIGGEST screen possible.