Monday, May 21, 2018

Ready Player One: Digital Man


 

He picks up scraps of information
He's adept at adaptation
'Cause for strangers and arrangers
Constant change is here to stay.
Rush, Digital Man, Signals

And the votes are in for the Ready Player One movie - I agree with Karli, it was fun.

Fun at a price, in terms of being faithful to the original.  As expected, most of the extreme geek gracenotes from the book are gone, disappointingly so to anyone who particularly enjoyed the nerdish 80s nostalgia that provided the basis for so much of the story.

However, I have to say that Zak Penn, who also worked on the scripts for The Avengers, The Incredible Hulk and X-Men: Last Stand, and Ernest Cline, author of the original book, do a noteworthy job of humanizing the story and tightening things up.  The referential background is updated and expanded, resulting in a stream of background visual cues that will undoubtedly result in a lot of frame by frame analysis when the film is released for the home viewing market.*

 

The IRL performances are uniformly well done. Tye Sheridan, who failed to impress me in X-Men: Apocalypse, redeemed himself as a completely believable Wade Watts, and Olivia Cooke and Lena Waithe both deliver solid performances.  Ben Mendelsohn plays Nolan Sorrento, the villain of the story, with the same air of grim menace that he displayed in Rogue One, and Mark Rylance does a surprising fragile turn as James Halliday, inventor of the OASIS.

And, speaking of the X-Men, it's obvious that the producers weren't able to make a deal with Marvel for any of its intellectual properties.  DC gets a few references, including the uninviting prospect of climbing Mount Everest with Batman, but there's   no sign of Captain America, no friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man, no invincible Iron Man, and so on - and when you think about it, there would undoubtedly be thousands of Wolverines in an unrestricted virtual reality.**

However, the computer gaming companies obviously felt no compunctions about having their creations appear in the film, along with lots of anime, science fiction and pop culture Easter Eggs.

 

All of the mechanics of the movie aside, as above, it's just fast paced fun, with good acting, lots of inside jokes, and an upbeat theme. Sadly, though, I couldn't help but think that Ready Player One was a movie out of its time, overwhelmed and overshadowed by the superhero franchises that dominate the box office right now.  Ironically, it might have been a blockbuster film if it had been released in the decade that provided the background for the book.

- Sid

* For example, the astute reader will look at the shot at the top of this page and see the Winnebago Chieftain from Spaceballs, what looks like the powerlifter from Aliens, and a Battlestar Galactica Viper Fighter suspended over ED-209 from Robocop, who is standing beside the Ferrari from Ferris Bueller's Day Off.  There's a glimpse of a Buck Rogers Thunderfighter, the maintenance pod from 2001, and the Swordfish II from Cowboy Bebop.

** You do have to wonder how that sort of thing is policed in the OASIS.  Does Wade's friend Aech have to pay anyone for the right to build a replica of the Iron Giant?

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