Movie Review : Ready Player One (2018)
I've never read Ernest Cline's novel Ready Player One, but I know people who hate it with ravenous passion. It has some of the most eloquent and passionate negative reviews on Amazon, so I always refused to invest eight to twelve hours into its retro-futuristic universe. But two and a half hours isn't so bad while in vacation because there isn't really anything better to do. I saw Steven Spielberg's adaptation of Ready Player One and I now understand better much of the criticism against it. While it doesn't have an openly fascist discourse, its idea of what the future should actually be is actually pretty distressing.
Ready Player One is set in 2045, in a dystopian version of Columbus. It is not explained exactly what happened to America, except that at some point "people stopped trying to fix problems and just tried to out-live them." Everyone is too busy living in a virtual reality resort called the OASIS, to give a shit about reality. Our teenage protagonist Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) is a semi-professional gamer in this system, who spends countless hours in it instead of facing his shit life himself.
After his death, the creator of this virtual wonderland James Halliday, announced in a pre-recorded video that he would basically cede the OASIS to whoever would complete his game first, making them more or less the new leaders of the free world because everybody lives in it. Independent gamers like Wade are all vying for it because the alternative would be an evil corporation named IOI, who would start charging everybody for everything and would make the OASIS like, you know, real life in 2018.
I know, it's a little convoluted.
So, the world of Ready Player One is a vision of the future built by someone who worshiped the past. It's supposed to be cute and make you feel nostalgic, but it's just bizarre. People living in a giant, life-sized arcade dedicated to pop culture just do two things: play endless video games and bask in pop culture from the past. It's like culture stopped existing once James Halliday launched the OASIS and made it finite. The world stopped turning outside of it. People are fighting over virtual reality in Ready Player One like it was the soul of the free world, but the OASIS really imprisoned them in an endless loop of artificial fun. Has anyone ever thought it was the problem to begin with?
The character who's supposed to be the bad guy is hailed as a God in Ready Player One because he stands for the purity of video games. He doesn't want corporations to get a hold of them and charge everybody for everything. Little did he know, we're in 2018 (seven years before the fictional launch of the OASIS) and it's already happening, thanks to mobile gaming. Halliday was a weak, dysfunctional person who sought refuge from reality in video games and pop culture because he was too afraid of rejection. The OASIS is an incel utopia and we're supposed to think it's neat? C'mon Ernest Cline. People already can't handle themselves on the Playstation Network.
Another thing that didn't make sense about this novel/movie was the protagonist. Isn't it just me or Art3mis (Olivia Cooke) should be the protagonist of Ready Play One? She's the one with personal stakes in this story. Her father died at the hands on IOI, so she understands the consequences of the company taking over the OASIS. Wade has nothing, so he has nothing to lose. He's a dude living out a fantasy of being a video game hero and Art3mis is supposed to be the princess he has to save. Only problem is that the princess can handle himself better than him and only gets into trouble in order to cover up for his sorry ass. So that was bullshit, too. Casting a perfectly fine female lead into a stereotypical role is pretty damn sexist.
Ready Player One isn't boring or stupid. It's a watchable movie despite its whopping 140 minutes running time. The forceful pop culture references people complained about in the movie have been downplayed here and the story is told in a somewhat focused way. But I don't see a human being that's not fundamentally broken can see James Halliday as anything, but the architect of that dystopia. Everything going on in the real world is his fucking fault. Living in a virtual reality dedicated to video games and pop culture isn't cool or something you should be excited about. It's like living in a graveyard. If you think this movie/novel is cool, you need to get some sun and meet people in the real world. Maybe see a psychologist, too.