“It’s a mistake to confuse pity with love”
Imagine going on a blind date with a guy who’s MO is re-telling movie quotes without the required sense of self-awareness for it to stop, and there you have the collective experience of seeing Steven Spielberg’s second straight failed installment. At this point, Spielberg’s twilight years are turning into a season of turning out banal products that cater to the widest possible audience without taking a second look at the creative legacy that comes with his reputation. And why not, after all, seeing as how Scorsese has paved the way for working on a respirator: the audience continuing to expect less while increasing in its volume of Amens.
Ready Player One tells the life of an obsessive gamer whose days revolve around the virtual reality identity he created in THE OASIS—with only the annoyance of eating and sleeping that force him to draw back into the “real world.” When the creator (Mark Rylance) dies, he leaves his legacy and a trove of wealth inside his creation to be found by anyone who makes it their life goal to learn about his pop-culture obsessions and about his anti-social failures in the real world that come with the territory. Wade (Tye Sheridan), who has no friends in the real world and desperately needs the money to buy a mansion and fill it with “cool stuff,” needs to stop some professional organization of gamers who also need some stuff to their other stuff. I won’t bore you with the details, but everything ends as expected with the only the improvement of an involuntary euthanization left wanting.
The problem wasn’t so much the general idea of glamorizing children to spend the majority of their week in a virtual reality circus and contribute nothing to society; or, the mass influx of diabetic pop-culture nostalgia, torturing our vision like a scene from Clockwork Orange without a breath of appreciation; or, the Dan Brown-like revelations that add merit so long as you’re a viable offspring of the iGeneration; or, the butchering of The Shining (shame on Kubrick’s estate for allowing this) resembling the scene in Goya’s Saturn Devouring His Son. It says a lot about the Rolling Stone’s writer, Peter Travers, who actually thinks the desacralization of Kubrick’s masterpiece “is alone worth the price of admission.” Maybe we can board a couple teletubbies onto the Discovery One and send Travers on his way to a giggling retirement with Robert Daly.
For the rest of us, Ready Player One, simply put, is just boring noise pollution. How Adam Graham can think “[i]t feels like a new classic” is beyond me. If anything should receive the accolade for doing this right, it’s Wreck-It Ralph. Through it all, among its worse features is the utter moral malasie in its finale: generously advocating for a two day Sabbath from the wows of virtual reality, into the throes of a female counterpart.
Anthony Lane (New Yorker) asks:
“Is this the best that Cline and Spielberg could dream up? And, given that we hope from the start that Wade will be the victor, what has changed since Willy Wonka yielded control of his chocolate factory to Charlie Bucket?”
The answer is nothing. Ready Player One is the equivalent of those cut-out poster collages that teenager girls do as shrines to their favorite celebrity crushes. No one is confusing that for art and no one is impressed with its subtleties of storytelling. Once you find yourself at a reasonable age, those girls will hide their collages beneath their princess covered beds or burn them at the altar of better judgment: which is exactly what Spielberg needs to do here.