Film Review: Ready Player One: ‘Spielbergian’ Adventure

Steven Spielberg is back, more charming than he has been in a while. His latest movies is Ready Player One, the sort that reminded Christian Tesfaye of the Hollywood titan's vitality. He awards 8 out of 10 stars.

Few filmmakers around the world, have retained that childlike enthusiasm to filmmaking the way Steven Spielberg does. After so many blockbusters, accolades and awards, he remains fascinated by the idealistic infatuations of children.

The past couple of years or so have not been good to him when it comes to the sort of movies that he almost single-handily popularised. Instead, his dramas about adults, such as this past year’s The Post, have been better received. For a time there, he seemed like he had gotten old – settled for the safe biographies that have characterised his output this decade.

Ready Player One is that old Spielberg magic. It is a nostalgic look at that lost optimism and excitement. It is a movie where children, with nothing in their hands but imagination and determination, can challenge multi-billion dollar corporations. It is not a realistic movie like most of Spielberg’s movies have not been – it is one where we are happy that realism and cynicism do not intrude.

It is just like a cineaste to make a film about Easter eggs, for that is what the whole movie is about. It takes place in the future, where the real world has become grim. People do not wear makeup or care about how they dress. Streets are dirty, and residencies are claustrophobic.

This is because most have ceased paying attention to the real world. Instead, they are hooked on an artificial one. There exists a virtual reality called OASIS, where people can enter in their avatar selves to do anything except eating, drinking or releasing bodily fluids.

Like that of the real one, there is a currency in the virtual reality (VR). And when not just hanging out, users can choose to play for coins. The ultimate prize is to win control over the OASIS, and inherit half a trillion dollars of its late founder’s – James Holiday (Mark Rylance) – wealth.

One of these gamers is Tye, and he has been playing to find the three Easter eggs that Holiday has hidden in the OASIS. A great admirer of Holiday, he figures a way past the first level of the game after having his memory refreshed by a girl he meets in the VR.

Being the first one ever to find an Easter egg, he attracts the attention of the second biggest video game conglomerate, Innovative Online Industries (IOI), that also wants to gain control of OASIS. Enthusiast such as Tye loathes this for they wish the OASIS to remain independent of corporations such as IOI – giving way to a race over the control of a world.

The concept of the film is brilliant. It has been hinted at, in films such as Tron or even the Matrix films, but not quite in the form, it exists now. Its ingenuity lies in making us care about what is essentially a video game.

But we are shown why it matters, and how given a distorted change of circumstances, humankind could feel justified in losing a life over a video game. It is much the same sort of debate we are having over the role of the internet in our lives at the moment.

Who would have thought that the greatest treasure today would not be oil but data, which is more often than not the info about the meal we had for lunch?

Spielberg and the author of the book this film has been adapted from, Ernest Cline, are able to persuade us that in some not-so-distant future, a highly advanced video game is all we would ever fight over.

The special effects add to this effect. That most of it takes place in a VR, with avatars that do not look human, is a perpetual reminder that this world that we are witnessing is distorted.

The effects of the film and the cinematography is magical. Spielberg’s eye for set pieces, brilliant camera angles and bright colour compositions is intact. He directs like he just began directing. The film is feverish, bursting with a flurry of visual snacks it wants to offer us.

More than anything else, this film will be a delight for those that enjoy movies. Ready Player One is why cinema is great, because it is the only piece of art that is just as infatuated with itself as it is with the subject it wants to tell us about.

There are many references to movies. From the Iron Giant to Back to the Future, this film is a trip along movie nostalgia. It is worth watching if only for the extended The Shining scene. It is rare to find such love and respect for old movies these days, even from acclaimed films. In trying to create a revolution, we have forgotten to look back at the good-ole – which may never be surpassed.

I see in Spielberg a child that is still in love with the magic of movies. He has given us over four decades of fantastic cinema. He will be forever remembered for introducing the age of blockbusters, through his 1970s’ Jaws. But his sort of blockbuster was always warm and full of love. It is not him that ruined the movies but the slew of others that tried to emulate his style, never understanding it was the substance that always made his movies lovable.

By Christian Tesfaye
Exclusive to Fortune

Published on Apr 06,2018 [ Vol 18 ,No 936]



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