Remember Back to the Future? Remember The Iron Giant? Remember Akira? Remember Godzilla? Remember Battletoads? Remember Chucky? Remember The Shining? Remember Marvin the Martian? Remember Atari? Remember Asteroids? Remember King Kong? Remember Jurassic Park? Remember Star Wars? Remember Battlestar Galactica? Remember Monty Python and the Holy Grail? Remember Halo? Remember Street Fighter? Remember Sonic the Hedgehog? Remember the Sawmovies? Remember Van Halen? Remember the Bee Gees? Remember Overwatch? Yeah, I remember.
Remember when Hollywood had interesting and original ideas? Nope!
Remember stories about a chosen one saving the world?
Ready Player One is a film based on the masterwork of fiction by Ernest Cline, well, Ready Player One. The book is essentially a series of bloated pop culture references revolving around a story so boring and generic it seems like it was procedurally generated, like worlds in Minecraft. The book, however, mostly limited itself to ‘80s pop culture, because that’s what Ernest Cline wanted to write about. Does the movie adaptation escape being an overloaded reference fest? Nope! Well, it sort of does.
The references in the movie take a backseat to the story, aside from the story-integrated pop culture references because of course there are those. Instead, the movie subjects the viewer to a narrative so plain that I imagine it orders cheese pizza, vanilla ice cream with no toppings, and watches wholesome family sitcoms like Family Matters. Our hero, Wade Watts, is some guy who has no particularly interesting traits about him, other than being a pop culture buff. He’s hunting for a secret Easter egg, placed in the virtual world of the Oasis by its owner, so he can inherit the company and make a lot of money. It’s like a modern-day Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, if Willy Wonka was Mark Zuckerberg and Charlie Bucket was Plank from Ed, Edd, and Eddy. The generic evil corporation, IOI, is also hunting for the egg so they can gain control of the entire world through the Oasis. Wade Watts and his friends use the power of love and friendship to battle IOI along with a number of movie and video game characters.
Wade Watts isn’t necessarily a “chosen one,” but he fills all the same roles as the normal uninteresting main character that somehow saves the world, like Tenchi from Tenchi Muyo. He doesn’t have a harem of girls though, just one girl in Art3mis (yes, that’s her gamer tag). Art3mis, however, also has no real personality and doesn’t do anything that affects the story, other than shooting some dudes. She and Wade also don’t have much in the way of chemistry, somehow having less chemistry than Harrison Ford and Sean Young in Blade Runner. This movie has a narrative that serves its purpose in being a bland, passable love story and hero’s journey. It may have a couple of neat ideas, mostly tied to the idea of the Oasis itself, but none of those ideas are used properly.
And of course, even if the writing was better, it’s still loaded with pop culture references. Without spoiling anything, there’s a long section of the movie that’s an extended reference to The Shining. It was like something out of those terrible parody films, like Epic Movie. Also, the ending of the movie had some of the dumbest cop-outs and pseudo-deus ex machina that is just cringe-inducing.
Remember acting being better than the movie deserves?
Surprisingly, there were a number of good performances put into the movie. Well, any actor that wasn’t Wade Watts or Art3mis put in a good performance, though admittedly they weren’t bad. They were definitely better actors than how the leads of Solo: A Star Wars Story are looking right now. However, aside from the leads, almost everyone else puts in a very good performance. Props given to Lena Waithe for putting in an amazing performance as Aech (pronounced like the letter “H”), who was my favorite character despite some of the dumber lines. Mark Rylance also does a fantastic performance as Halliday, and T.J. Miller continues to put in good vocal performances. I feel bad for every actor in this movie other than T.J. Miller. He was in Yogi Bear and The Emoji Movie, he deserves this. The only really bad acting in the movie was the fight choreography, which looked like the worst parts of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers.
I’m not saying that the cringeworthy pop culture references and embarrassing romance plot are below the actors in this movie (other than T.J. Miller) but I definitely saw them putting their hearts into this movie that’s essentially sad nerd bait, designed for applaud-iences to clap when they see things they recognize, and I felt bad. This movie won’t hurt their careers, of course, but I have a feeling that somewhere down the line, this film won’t be as fondly remembered as its current rating. Or maybe it will, and I’m just an angry hater.
Remember visually appealing movies with terrible usage of sound?
Another thing that Ready Player One deserves credit for is good visual design. The Oasis looks fantastic, and all of the character models look great, even if they seem extracted from a Final Fantasy game. Not that it’s a bad thing. The movie world is a video game after all. The movie is incredibly appealing to look at. Even the parts outside of the Oasis have a good style, that sort of normal future that’s still got poverty and problems like Robocop, except only one person says the F-word. The fights inside the Oasis are also great to look at, and the car chase at the start of the movie in particular looks fantastic.
Unfortunately, the usage of sound in the movie is complete trash. The sound effects in fist fights seem pretty unrealistic, even in the real world, and guns don’t have satisfying sounds to match the satisfying particle effects. The soundtrack is a mix of ‘80s music that’s either too on the nose or used poorly, and John Williams-esque sweeping scores that don’t really match the situations within the movie. The John Williams-esque music at least sounds kinda nice. The worst offense during the movie is that, during the early car chase I mentioned earlier, there’s absolutely no music. When was the last movie that had a car chase without music? It felt uncomfortable, and was just an awkward choice. In an awkward movie with awkward characters, maybe it makes sense. I refuse to believe that. It’s just bad.
Featured image from Road to VR
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