REVIEW: Ready Player One

Hannah Parker reviews Spielberg’s newest venture into virtual reality…


Spielberg, a banging soundtrack, and a gazillion pop culture references; what could go wrong? Well, it’s another film lead by a white cis straight man. But as far as the downside of this film goes, that’s about it – not to downplay the issue that there are too many white cis straight male leads in Hollywood, but if that’s all there is to moan about, then it’s not doing too badly.

The Spielberg sticker is always going to draw huge crowds and very little criticism to any film, but there has been a certain amount of controversy around this one. For starters, many have called out the books for not being well-written enough to bag a film deal. Others have taken issue with a film being centred around gaming – a community that’s well-known to be full to the brim with sexism, racism, queerphobia etc. But among all of this, the film is still receiving high praise.

Why, I hear you ask? Well it starts with the characters. Aside from being slightly more geeky, Wade Watts (played by Tye Sheridan) is essentially the same lead character in every Spielberg movie. Never-the-less, Sheridan does convey a character whom encapsulates the underdog, fighting against the corporate machine, and for that, you are rooting for him.

The creator of this virtual reality named OASIS, James Halliday has hidden an Easter Egg within the virtual world, and the first person to collect the three hidden keys in the game wins the egg. Wade puts all of his effort and energy into finding these keys basically because he has nothing better to do in his dull, miserable life.

The creator of this virtual reality named OASIS, James Halliday has hidden an Easter Egg within the virtual world, and the first person to collect the three hidden keys in the game wins the egg.

But Samantha Cook (played by Olivia Cooke) is in a way even more heroic than Wade. After losing a family member to the virtual reality game, thanks to a large company (Innovative Online Industries) turning OASIS into nothing but a money-maker, she becomes a rebel with a cause. The way in which these characters meet is essentially because they’re after the same thing. But she’s trying to find the keys in order to keep the game out of the hands of Innovative Online Industries.

Eventually the two team up with some other awesome characters; Zhou, Toshiro and Helen. But wherever there’s a group of goodies, you have to have a group of baddies, and the leader of the villains is big bad boss man, Nolan Sorrento (played by Ben Mandelsohn). It’s not his first time playing a villain, and it certainly won’t be his last. His menacing, manipulative and controlling ways can’t help but remind you of the nastiest boss or teacher you’ve ever had to endure. It’s always nice to see the corrupt side of capitalism being represented in a negative way, rather than something we should be proud of.

The film itself is very Spielberg. It’s a group of young misfit underdogs beating the older, evil baddies. But it’s a much more modern venture than we’ve seen before. Virtual reality films have been done, such as Avatar (2009) which was a huge hit. But they’ve never been done quite like this before. Among the reminder of the repercussions of a world dominated by virtual reality, there is a huge amount of fun. The bright colours, the unique avatars, the accessibility of gaming, it’s a visual masterpiece.

Then there’s the soundtrack. It’s as if you’re spending two hours in an 80s night club, but instead of all the cheesy crap, it’s a celebration of all the awesome music that came from the decade. To be honest, it’d be impossible to not tap your feet to at least one of the songs.

The popular culture references act as the icing on the cake. From Back To The Future to Saturday Night Fever, and even the actual hotel from The Shining! It’s jam-packed. In fact you could watch it ten times and you’d still miss some of the pop culture cameo’s.

The film isn’t perfect. It’s far from it. The same protagonist in every Spielberg film is getting seriously boring. But the cast is certainly more diverse, and in a made up world that anyone can be a part of, so it should be. As far as the film itself goes, it’s a treat for the eyes and the ears, and the story isn’t half-bad either. In fact, it’s simple really. Corporate capitalism is bad. Young rebels are good. And ain’t that the truth.

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One thought on “REVIEW: Ready Player One

  1. That it’s lead is a white straight man isn’t the films only shortcoming. I think Spielberg is really the only saving grace for me because I really like and trust him as a director. I’m a little dubious about the rest of the film though, which is yet another straight white, male, power/wish fulfillment, fantasy, and I’m not in the mood for that at this time. Especially after the past few years in which Gamergate and the Alt-Right have shown their whole asses online, and in the real world.

    Another criticism is that this film is very, very white and male oriented anyway. All the movie, tv, gaming, cartoon, and music references, are all things specifically enjoyed by white boys in the 80s. The criticism there is that no references are made to any of the other cultural things happenings in music and movies and on tv, in the 80s, that were simply huge at the time. I know this because I lived through the eighties. I was a teen then and still a geek, and I know all the references, watched the movies, listened to the music, played the games. None of the cultural references that would have been important to PoC are referenced in this movie, or in the book. I get that. After all it was written by a white guy. But again, I’m not in the mood for that now.

    I may have been able to get some extra thrill from the movie if Prince, Michael Jackson, the second British Invasion, or any of the female oriented cartoons movies and shows like, My Little Pony and Strawberry Shortcake, or even John Hughes movies, had some airtime, but really this movie is just for white guys.

    I don’t have a problem with white male protagonists. I’m very used to them. my problem is everyone keeps talking about the cultural markers of this movie, but really it’s just a litany of things straight white boys liked in the 80s, and I can’t bring myself to care deeply for it.

    Another criticism was the character played by Lena Waithe, in the game she plays as a white male. I understand, and even agree with why she does so, but it also recalls Gamergate and their stance against women playing video games and how women get treated in that atmosphere. There’s no way she can play herself (a Black lesbian) in that game because to do otherwise would mean she would have to endure a constant stream of abuse, just like in this world.

    Liked by 1 person

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