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Movie Review

Ready Player One


Starring: Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, T.J. Miller, Simon Pegg and Mark Rylance
Director: Steven Spielberg
Warner Bros. Pictures
Certificate: 12A
Running time: 140 mins
Opens 28 March 2018

Steven Speilberg is an excellent filmmaker, Ernest Cline is an execrable writer. I had hoped the greatness of one would soften the weakness of the other and make Ready Player One [RP1] an enjoyable watch. Sadly not even genius can make a silk purse out of a fedora.

Review imageIf you like the book you'll probably like the movie. If you think fandom is about how much you know and how many facts you can recite you'll probably dig it. If you think it's totally fine for a guy to say "I'm in love with you" ten minutes into a not-really-a-date-first-date and for the girl to fall for him instead of taking out a restraining order then this is the film for you.

The premise of RP1 is that a genius called Halliday (Mark Rylance) a nerd (check) who has trouble dealing with the real world  (check) especially women (check) and who wears vintage geek t-shirts (check) and who likes ALL THE COOL STUFF (check) creates the OASIS; a world that's a fully immersive, free to use utopia where you can be who or whatever you want to be... so long as it fits within the parameters of what is deemed acceptable by Rotten Tomatoes.

Review imageThe waffer-thin plot exists only as a delivery system for an overload of references. Nods, riffs, easter eggs and in-jokes are basically the official language of nerd culture and as a rule I'm a big fan but, as with everything else, it's embarrassingly poorly done in RP1. We're not talking Ian Malcom's book showing up in Jurassic World, hell it's not even "Darth Balls" in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. It's pointing at a bike and going "that's the bike from Akira". Literally. For 140 minutes.

Halliday isn't played by Simon Pegg but his best mate is. I assume Rylance got the call because Kevin Smith was busy.

RP1 is an overlong episode of Spaced but not funny, with zero plot and an even smaller pool of references. (And Spaced is nearly twenty years old).

Review imageThis film is set in 2045 but culture apparently stopped fifty years earlier.

One scene sums this up perfectly - in a club scene (picture literally any "alternative nitespot" from any film made in the '80s or '90s) the pulsing "edgy" beat is 'Blue Monday' but our hero Parzival decides to change the track and strut his stuff to 'Stayin' Alive'... "Old school!" purrs Art3mis upon hearing a song released a whole six years before the one they were initially dancing to... both of which would be over sixty years old in 2045. Apropos of nothing she then gives him a lap dance.

Because that's what chicks in this world do right? Or they would if there was more than one of them. They are all SUPER SEXY but they, like, OWN it right, in an alternative way yeah because they have like some hair dye in and wear leather jackets and big boots and like computer games. There will of course be a chance where they can wear a slinky dress and the hero can go "oh wow you look amazing" as well. Obviously.

Review imageThe depressing thing is I imagine Cline thinks that in Samantha / Ar3mis he's actually created a "strong female character" instead of a sub-par Heavy Metal cover minx from 1994. 

"This isn't the real me, I don't look like this in Real Life," pouts our punkette heroine (who's almost as good at Doing The Things as our hero but not quite and will always take a step back and let him Do The Thing instead). "You'd be disappointed if you met me in real life" she demurs.

When Wade meets Art3mis (Olivia Cook) in the real world she is, of course, absolutely, inarguably, drop dead basic-becky gorgeous. She has a fairly faint port wine birthmark on one side of her face. That's it. And yet still there is the inevitable moment of "No, I'm not disappointed" as he brushes the hair from her face and the soundtrack swells. We are supposed to think: "OMG WHAT A GUY!" Fuck you Ernest Cline, seriously. And Speilberg, I expected better from you, I really did.

Review imageWomen in RP1 exist only as plot devices or exposition-delivery-systems. Prime example being how the genius Halliday is so in love/obsessed with a woman with whom he had ONE DATE that she becomes the McGuffin for one of the movie's three challenges. This is accepted as totes normal by everyone involved. These are people who undoubtedly think The Friendzone is a real place.

Although this apparent deep and real love is later dismissed, in a sentence, at the end - when Wade tells Pegg's character that the whole story was really about you, his bestest fwend, all along. But that's only one of a million inconsistencies in a plot simultaneously so thin and so full of holes it could be a fishnet stocking.

Review imageNon-caucasian characters are treated the same way, although to be fair there isn't a single picosecond of character development for anyone in the entire film.  It felt like the straightest, whitest and most mundane thing I have seen in a long time; like going backwards at a point where nerd culture is at its most dynamic, diverse and progressive.

A film by, and for, the kind of grown men who froth at the mouth about the inevitable march of time, gatekeepers who are bewildered that new people are squeezing their sacred cows and producing green milk instead of blue. It's toe-curlingly embarrassing.

I could go on about how much I hated this movie for longer than it lasted but I won't, I know a lot of people will love it. People I like, so I have to hope they forgive me for giving it...


Lizzie Biscuits

Screen shot

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