Why 'Ready Player One' Was (Probably) Spielberg's Worst Movie
Right now, all the good critics are focused on dissecting the absolute best movies of the year. That leaves us with the un-flushed turds. Here's one! Ready Player One is the movie that answers the question of what The Matrix would look like if it took place inside a Hot Topic. Based on the popular, equally terrible novel, this is probably Steven Spielberg's worst movie. But hey, it's still a Spielberg film, right? That's like being the least attractive Hemsworth brother. So, why was Ready Player One the Luke Hemsworth of the Spielberg catalog? Let's find out ...
The World Makes No Goddamn Sense
Ready Player One takes place in the year 2045, and humanity is addicted to a shared virtual reality known as OASIS, which is chock-full of references to movies like Jurassic Park and video games like Minecraft. But bizarrely, there's nothing new. Really? There are no iconic pieces of entertainment made between now and 2045? That's 27 years! That's like living in a 2018 where no one references any pop culture from before 1991. To put things in perspective, our main character races around in a digital DeLorean from 1985's Back To The Future.That'd be like if today's gamers were modding their avatars to look like Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper.
Even more confusing than the culture of this world is the technology of this game. At one point our hero, Wade, upgrades to a full-body suit and then goes dancing at a virtual nightclub. So how is he doing this? He's not holding a controller, and the suit doesn't plug into your cerebral cortex. Wade is sitting in the back of a filthy van, but in the game, he's somehow able to go full Saturday Night Fever.
The suit also allows users to feel things, like a rumble pack for cyber-groping. But most insanely, shelling out the big bucks for one of these fancy rigs also means that if you get kicked in the balls in the game, the suit will simulate that agony in real life.
The Guy Everyone Loves Is Supposed To Be Awesome, But He Comes Off As A Total Creep
Early on, we learn that late OASIS creator James Halliday set up an elaborate Easter egg hunt inside the game. Whoever wins the hunt inherits the whole damn company (in legal circles, this is known as a standard Wonka clause). We're seemingly meant to admire Halliday, as everyone on Earth effectively worships him. The only problem is that he's a dick.
For one thing, despite the fact that he was a painfully shy introvert, Halliday's puzzles involve memorizing the minute details of his personal life, which you'd think would be an introvert's worst nightmare. Our heroes actually solve these puzzles by watching recreations of his memories stored in a virtual library, tended to by a robot curator. What says "fun treasure hunt" like poring over the banal day-to-day activities of a sad middle-aged nerd?
Unsettlingly, Wade and his friend discover that Halliday was obsessed with a woman after they went on a date once. It didn't work out and she ended up marrying his business partner, so quite reasonably he ... created a digital avatar of her and put it in a recreation of the Overlook Hotel, where she's forced to dance with zombies for all eternity.
The Villains Are Both Ridiculous And Dumb
The villains of Ready Player One are frustratingly inept. Like, the CEO of the world's most successful tech company leaves his login password on a sticky note on his VR throne? Seriously?
Even more bizarrely, we learn that Innovative Online Industries is running a virtual labor camp, where those indebted to the company are held captive in "loyalty centers," forced to toil away in the Oasis to ... build stuff? Wait, isn't this all a computer program? Is that really the easiest way to create digital files? It seems like they're needlessly imprisoning hundreds of people instead of hiring one programmer.
We guess the effortless dancing software from earlier doesn't work if you're swinging a hammer.
And despite the fact that this company is bigger than Apple and Google combined, they house their labor camp inside their corporate headquarters. Yeah, who needs a break room and a ping-pong table when you can lounge in a literal prison? We learn that the villainous CEO Sorrento's office is only two floors above the cells. Meaning that when one of our scrappy heroes, Art3mis, escapes, she merely has to pop upstairs to mess with his stuff.
And Then There's That Ending ...
In the mega-happy ending, Sorrento is arrested and Wade is given control of OASIS after he snags the Easter egg. He even gets to meet Halliday's former partner, played by Simon Pegg in full Future Biff makeup.
Bizarrely, Pegg then reveals that he was the robot curator from the Nerd Memory Library. So wait, this retired elderly millionaire is logging into the world's most sophisticated digital playground and knocking back hours in the service industry?
The movie wraps up with an obligatory romance between Wade and Art3mis. Initially, she doesn't want to meet Wade in the real world because she has a birthmark on her beautiful, movie-star-like face. But oh, Wade accepts her even with the birthmark -- though at no time does Wade ever express any concern that he might not live up to her expectations. Wade (and the movie itself) assumes that she'll automatically be super into him, even though he's a dork with no skills beyond knowing everything about the 1980s.
In the final moments, we see Wade hanging out in his new pimped-out loft, making out with his new pimped-out girlfriend (no really, she's completely changed her clothes and hair for him). Wade, however, hasn't changed a damn thing about his obviously immaculate appearance. Which seems like a not-great message.
If this was a piece of fanfiction from a 15-year-old GameStop employee, it would make total sense. Coming from one of the most acclaimed filmmakers of all time, it's simply ... uncomfortable.
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