Ready Player One is a fun movie, but not much more than that. It’s a decent film set in an interesting world—a world which many people believe we are heading towards. Still, this films lands right between terrible and great. With a relevant fear, intriguing world, and relatable hero Ready Player One could have easily been one of the greats. So why don’t people love it?
A brief PSA: Before you take the family, parents should know that the female lead—a character named Artemis/Samantha get’s a little flirty with her hands, and there’s small clip with a naked zombie chick…
Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, let’s dig into the meat of this film!
In preschool we learn to critique with “praise, then the polish.” So, first the praise: the main challenge is brilliant! A genius programmer dies and creates a virtual egg-hunt for three keys. The player who finds all three gets complete control of the virtual world, the Oasis. The “bad guy,” Nolan Sorrento, is the CEO of a technology-monopoly, IOI. He wants control of the Oasis so his company can sell 80% of the user’s visible screen as ad-space. As a result, an all-out virtual war erupts!
Now, the polish: IOI generates amazing revenue already, but they risk it all for ad-space in the Oasis…
C’mon screenwriters. Give the villain a deeper, darker ulterior motive please! I want a bad guy who doesn’t think he’s a bad guy. Someone seeking justice in all the wrong ways. Maybe a guy who lost everything because of the Oasis and wants to destroy everything in VR—or even just one player he hates with such passion that he is willing to end the virtual world. Sure, I suppose towards the end of the film Nolan hates Wade and Wade’s friends, but that comes later. Much later. Almost-too-late later.
For now, let’s accept that the bad guy’s sole motivation is monetary value. The movie is still riddled with head-scratchers:
- The first clue is handed to the “good guy,” Wade Watts aka Parzival aka “Z”, when the Curator continues to play the clip that holds the first clue AFTER Wade asks him to stop.
- If the Oasis is a global community why do all of Wade’s VR friends live in the same town?
- The only reason Wade survives is because of the Curator.
- How did IOI know which castle to protect?
- If the only purpose of the Loyalty Centers was to make bombs and traps in VR they failed epically.
- THOSE KIDS ARE GONNA GET HIT BY A CAR!
If you haven’t seen the film, this list probably doesn’t make sense. So keep these points in mind and go check it out!
Head scratches and loop holes might be annoying, but they don’t make a great films less great—just look at Inception and the Marvel universe. Marvel has killed off Professor X three times yet he still shows up in new films! The secret is Disney and its sub-companies do something that Warner Bros and others rush over: they let the viewer hang out with the character.
In Disney/Marvel films, we usually spend a couple days just following the character around. We learn their priorities and get a sense of their humor. Yet every scene fills a purpose, helps the viewer know the character, or shows an exchange of power. In Ready Player One there are so many secondary characters that we don’t have enough time to make us care. There is one character that, despite having less than 2 minutes of screen time became my favorite character: Shoto. (Can you guess my favorite Shoto quote?)
Back to the diagnosis…above all, the number one reason Ready Player One fails to reach the quality of films from the Marvel universe is simple: the viewer is just a viewer. Ready Player One relies heavily on knowledge that only the characters can know. There’s nothing that we learn and no experience that we bring with us that adds to the film. However, in Marvel films we learn with the characters. We experience their pain and triumphs. In Ready Player One we only learn something after the character figures it out and tells us what it is. While watching the film I felt like a child being dragged by the hand through an entertainment park.
Despite my complaints, Ready Player One really is a fun film, and leaves viewers with a message that both gamers and anti-gamers can appreciate: Virtual worlds give us a place to escape, but nothing can replace reality.
Are you ready?
I challenge you to see the film and let me know what you think. Was it better than I said? Was it worse? Let me know below.
Report Card: Ready Player One
Overall Score: B-