Ready Player One
Wade (Tye Sheridan), an orphan, lives in a ramshackle abode with his aunt (Susan Lynch) in the dystopian world of 2045. He's obsessed with playing a virtual reality game, OASIS, where he becomes an avatar named Parzival. James Halliday (Mark Rylance), the creator of OASIS, suddenly dies leaving his fortune as well as the ownership of OASIS to whomever will be the first to find three keys in the virtual reality game with the help of a series of riddles and puzzles that must be solved. The pernicious Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), head of Innovative Online Industries, and his army of players known as Sixers will stop at nothing to prevent others from winning so that he can seize control over OASIS. Wade joins players Daito (Win Morisaki), Aech (Lena Waithe), Sho (Philip Zhao), and Art3mis (Olivia Cooke), his love interest, to try to win the game and to prevent Nolan from achieving his goal.
A truly great film, regardless of its plot or genre, ought to generate some kind of feelings at its core when you look beyond its plot. Even Spielberg's Jaws was a fun, frightening, suspenseful and exhilarating rush of adrenaline. E.T. was warm, tender and poignant beneath its surface. Ready Player One, on the other hand, bombards you with CGI and stock characters, but has nothing to offer you at its core unless you count its pointless, obvious, tacked-on references to classics or cult classics ranging from The Shining to Child's Play, Beetlejuice, Back to the Future, and Jurassic Park, among many, many others. What's the purpose of referencing There's Something About Mary when someone comments on Parzival's "Mary"-like hair style? Will Parzival mistakenly put "hair gel" on his hair like Mary did? I must've somehow missed that scene.
There's no raison d'Ítre for any of the references or for anything that transpires throughout the film for that matter. It has nothing to say nor does it make you feel anything. That would've been forgivable if Ready Player One didn't take itself so seriously. Its attempts to ground itself in humanism via the "romance" between Parzival and Art3mis fall completely flat because there's not an ounce of chemistry between them. Its attempts at social commentary also fall flat. None of the characters come to life despite the talented actors. Each of them has given far better performances in other films that have actually managed to bring out their charisma and put their talents to much better use with 1/10 of Ready Player One's $175 million budget. Money can buy CGI, a standard effect, but it can't buy humanism, aa truly special effect.
If Ready Player One were campy and witty, at least it would've turned into a guilty pleasure instead of a boring, vapid and tedious video game that lacks a heart, mind, soul, personality or anything else that's part of the spectrum of humanism which is both a Truth and a Spectacle. Stunning visuals and sound design do provide Spectacle, but with diminishing returns especially when its style lacks substance or if there's no Truth lurking beneath the surface like in this particular case. At the 30-minute mark, Ready Player One already overstays its welcome which makes its 2 hour and 20 minute running time a chore to sit through. Why does Spielberg pander to the lowest common denominator and to uncritical minds when he's capable of making films with more depth, humanism and palpable thrills? Is this really the same Spielberg who directed Schindler's List, E.T. and Saving Private Ryan?
Ready Player One is ultimately yet another sausage from Hollywood's sausage factory that leaves you feeling both empty and exhausted. It's even more shallow than his overrated Jurassic Park or Hook. Like any of the Mad Max or Star Wars films, it's a reminder of how far we've come from the Golden Age of American Cinema back when characters, feelings and interesting stories reigned supreme. Surely, it will make a lot of money at the box office, but to what end? Given the fact that there's high demand for such "bread and circuses," it's no hyperbole to say that it speaks volumes about how shallow humankind has become and how close we truly are to the Romans.