As virtual reality takes over, Ready Player One embraces 80’s nostalgia
Central Bureau Chief
Video games are, without a doubt, one of the most successful pop culture media in recent times. Not only have they inspired a multi-million dollar entertainment industry, they have also created a whole subculture: the gaming culture.
This subculture is slowly coming out from the underground and getting more acceptance in the mainstream media, the popularity of the electronic sports–unthinkable less than a decade ago–being an example of it.
Ready Player One, the newest film by acclaimed director Steven Spielberg, is easily seen as an attempt to appeal to that sector. To give gamers their particular “Black Panther.”
The question is, does he accomplish it or, quite to the contrary, does he fail at it?
The movie is set in a dystopian 2044 where the population of city centers have basically become slum settlements because of a combination of problems, including global warming and a great energy crisis. In order to escape the depressing landscape, the people turn to a massive online video game called OASIS.
OASIS is a virtual reality society where there are infinite possibilities of spending their time: Racing, fighting, exploring, or just relaxing.
When James Halliday, the father of OASIS, dies he leaves a will announcing an “Easter egg” he left hidden in his video game. According to that will, whoever player finds the egg will get total control over OASIS.
This tempting offer prompts IOI, a powerful corporation, to spend tons of money on creating an “army of players” to get the egg. But so far, no one is able to clear the first challenge…until our main hero, Wade Watts from Columbus, Ohio, is introduced.
At first, one of the things that catches the attention from Ready Player One is the visuals. OASIS is beautiful, charming, a true vivid place, a game that most of us would be willing to play.
It truly gives us the sensation of being in a virtual world. It’s interesting to see the contrast between the colorful OASIS and the dull mostly-gray real world of the slums.
However, once one is able to digest the amazing visuals, one finds that the film carries many flaws.
One of them is the lack of character depth and development. Granted, we know that Wade is an orphan, that he lives with his aunt in the slums, that he gets abused by his aunt’s boyfriend and that he escapes reality in the OASIS. But that’s as deep in character development the movie is willing to go.
One example would be the relationship between Wade and Art3mis, a girl he meets on OASIS and becomes part of the main group. Their relationship is too rushed and one can’t stop seeing it as artificial and forced.
Don’t even get me started on Zhou and Toshiro, two members of the main group who are just put along with them with not a significant backstory that could make the audience feel connected to them.
The narrative, on the other hand, is actually good. It’s neither too fast-paced nor too dull.
It’s just rightly paced. When the movie starts the first challenge has been discovered, although no one has been able to complete it. The only problem that I have with it is that sometimes it gives us the feeling that only Wade would be able to solve the challenges and find the egg, a message that he is the archetypical “chosen one”.
And that is where another thing about Ready Player One comes to my mind.
Wade is able to figure out the challenges because he is basically a huge fan of James Halliday who knows pretty much every detail about his life. Across the film, one can’t help but notice the rhetoric of true gamers vs false gamers is being portrayed.
Regardless of their many flaws, Ready Player One is still a pretty enjoyable movie that everyone should give a try.
The amazing visuals, references to pop culture and the numerous cameos of famous franchises like Minecraft, Overwatch, Atari or Battletoads make Ready Player One a beautiful spectacle, especially for people who see video games as more than just something to get entertained.