Is ‘Ready Player One’ asking the right people to play?

There’s no doubt that Steven Spielberg knows how to do big movies. His record speaks for itself: Jaws, E-T, the Indiana Jones series, Jurassic Park, Minority Report and Saving Private Ryan to name a few.

And Ready Player One fits right into this big movie category. It doesn’t take long to be thrown into both the crushing ‘real world’ setting of 2045 and it’s transcendent ‘virtual world’ counterpart -The Oasis. Both brought to life with a big CGI budget. It’s very easy to be visually amazed by all that is going on in both of these futuristic settings. Despite this, Ready Player One failed to hit the mark.

This was my most anticipated movie release thus far of 2018. Ernest Cline’s novel, on which the movie is based, captivated my imagination, and I devoured it over a couple of days. Now before you say, “This is just one of those the movie wasn’t as good as the book reviews,” take a second to hear me out.

It’s not about the movie not being as good as the book. The movie is spectacular and holds up well as an adaptation of the book. What the book did for me as a child of the 80’s, was take me on a wild ride through the media that influenced my history. But the movie did not.

I grew up in the era that permeates every page of the book. I saw video games go from the arcade and the fish and chip shop, to the living room and eventually to the bedroom. I watched the cartoons, TV shows and movies that the ‘gunters’ – those trying to find the hidden easter egg in The Oasis – had to know back to front. The pop culture they needed to saturate themselves in to win, was the same pop culture that saturated my childhood and youth. As I read it, I was a gunter. These were my people. Not because they had grown up when I had but because everything Halliday (the designer of The Oasis) required of them to find the Easter egg and win control of The Oasis meant they had to love this period as much as I did.

Ready Player One, as a book, transported me back through my history and drew me into a whirlwind adventure in which I was playing along. Sadly, this 80’s pop culture element only gets a surface treatment in the movie. And for this Player One, I was left hoping they’d release the Ready Player One game to play soon because that would beat watching all the fun from the outside.

In the end, Ready Player One is sure to thrill a more youthful audience. Those desperately hanging out on the precipice of virtual reality and how it will transform gaming and entertainment. But for those of us that watched this whole world come into existence and reach its influence deep into our cultural psyche, it’s a decent two hours of fun, with some great 80’s cultural touch points. In other words, I know my kids will love this movie more than I did.

 

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