(Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt was for a poem inspired by the myth of Narcissus, who loved his reflection so much that he turned into a flower. Ah, those crazy Greeks…. This is an example of what I love about NaPoWriMo, because an ordinary poem of mine for this movie would have been quite different.)
I am the mirror that captured Narcissus,
A pool that reduced him to frailty and pride.
I am the mirror that heard the queen’s hisses
When told that Snow White was the more glorified.
I am the mirror no longer a mirror,
Tranformed over time to expand my appeal.
The more I’m admired by people, the dearer
I am to their lives, making all else unreal.
A whole generation and those in their wake
I’ve snared in a world they create to comply,
A mirror to show the world them for their sake,
Allured and immured by the power of “i”.
I’m praised for convenience, for freedom, for fun,
A magnet for eyes lest their view be too wide.
It’s up to the viewer what evil I’ve done;
I’m merely the mirror for frailty and pride.
MPAA rating: PG-13
There have been four movies I’ve seen so far in 2018 that I’ve genuinely loved, which, since it’s only April, is one a month (not bad). And it thrills me to no end that one of them is the film I declared my #1 movie that I hoped would be good. Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Ready Player One didn’t blow my expectations away, like Train to Busan or The Greatest Showman, but I went in wanting to love it and found plenty of reasons to do just that.
As someone who enjoyed Ernest Cline’s novel immensely, I can confirm that the film diverges quite a bit from its source material. Yet, unlike other decent but disappointing adaptations (Eragon, Inkheart), Ready Player One the film still adheres to the spirit of its source, and the fact that Cline himself cowrote the screenplay assuages my concerns about the many plot aberrations. Even so, the core story is intact: a massive multiplayer scavenger hunt through the virtual world known as the OASIS, a world and hunt created by dead eccentric James Halliday (Mark Rylance, who plays his social anxiety a bit too wooden). The entire world is in search of Halliday’s hidden Easter egg, which grants ownership of the OASIS to the winner, but no progress is made until Halliday fan Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) earns the first of three keys, making him a target for the evil, power-hungry IOI corporation (led by an accent-less Ben Mendelsohn).
All that is straight out of the book, but in the leap from page to screen, changes are inevitable. If you’ve read the book, your enjoyment of the movie just might depend on how much such changes bother you. My VC, for example, enjoyed the film but harbored reservations about the rampant alterations of its second half. (She said, if she hadn’t read it first, she’d outright love the movie.) Yet, I think many of the changes work in the film’s favor. True, the book is better, but there are many parts of it that wouldn’t transfer well to the screen, such as the months that go by between breakthroughs or the important plot advances that consist of beating literal arcade games. Turning one of these challenges into a demolition derby race, for example, makes it far more exciting cinematically, while changing Halliday’s much-studied journals into a gallery of virtual records makes Wade’s research more visual. Also, the replacement of certain pop culture references with others is likely the result of copyright compromises and the filmmakers’ desire to play with particular “toys.”
And boy, do they lay on the pop culture references, 90% of which swirl by far too quickly to fully appreciate. Yet the recognition that comes in those moments is an unparalleled thrill for nerds like me. Where else are you going to see the time-traveling DeLorean race the bike from Akira or Overwatch’s Tracer charging into battle with the Iron Giant? The cameos also vary depending on the viewer’s personal tastes; a friend of mine recognized a Lancer weapon from Gears of War, I geeked out at the site of the roulette wheel space station from Cowboy Bebop, while my VC chuckled at an incantation from Excalibur, all references that one of us “got” and the others didn’t. Thanks to the CGI mastery on display, there were several (likely entirely animated) sequences where I just sat there with a goofy grin on my face in a little place called geek heaven.
Except for the idea of not liking any changes in general, I can understand many of the complaints I’ve heard about what is essentially an alternate version of the Ready Player One story readers knew. Some of the rules of the OASIS are glossed over, potentially leaving questions for unfamiliar viewers. The characters aren’t nearly as developed as their counterparts on paper, lacking defined character arcs, and there’s little attention paid to the problems of this dystopian world outside its virtual refuge. The romance might be too rushed and convenient, the avatar of Wade’s friend Aech looks nothing like I imagined from the book, the very long runtime is felt by the end, and they should have included WarGames, dang it! It’s true; Ready Player One is not a perfect film, but I’ve rarely been better entertained in true Spielberg blockbuster fashion.
It’s really quite simple: I am Ready Player One’s target audience. I’m the nerd who revels in shared geekery, while appreciating half-realized lessons about the value of a life outside of technological obsession. I think that, drawing its inspiration from a great book, this Ready Player One is a great movie, boasting a visual awesomeness that puts most movie spectacles to shame.
Best line: (Halliday, echoing Groucho Marx) “I created the OASIS because I never felt at home in the real world. I just didn’t know how to connect with people there. I was afraid for all my life, right up until the day I knew my life was ending. And that was when I realized that as terrifying and painful as reality can be, it’s also… the only place that you can get a decent meal. Because, reality… is real.”
© 2018 S.G. Liput
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