Saturday, May 5, 2018

Book-To-Movie: 'Ready Player One'

Computer grid image of a landscape with a planet halfway above the horizon.

The problem with many sci fi movies today, as they have been in most of movie history, is that they are either made to amuse or they’re made to provoke thought about important issues in life. Ready Player One, however, does both.

Ready Player One is based on Earnest Cline’s ‘80s novel of the same name. It’s about a teenager, Wade Watts (played by Tye Sheridan) in a near-future Earth who competes in a VR game set in a world called the Oasis. He comes across the scheme of an evil corporate CEO by the name of Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn) who is trying to take control of the Oasis in order to rule the real world. The Oasis is a kind of open source fictional world where anyone can play any character they want and anything can happen.

I have not read the novel and so won’t try to compare it to the movie. But regardless of how faithful it is to the book, Ready Player One was made really good. Even though a certain segment of the film gets a little too fairy tale-idealistic, most of the other elements out-weigh that flaw. The characters along with the actors portraying them are convincing and so is the setting of the Oasis. The characters are sympathetic although Sorrento comes across as a bit too typical of a corporate villain as much as you love to hate him. The Oasis is convincing as the setting of a VR game in that many characters within it are pre-created and so come from existing franchises while others are created by the players and game developers. For example, while we are caught by surprise when we see characters in the background such as Tim Burton’s black-costumed Batman, the characters of Ready Player One create their own avatars such as Wade’s Parzival.

The movie’s themes are conveyed good without preaching them into the audience’s faces. Some of these themes are reality versus fantasy (more specifically reality versus virtual reality), pop cultural nostalgia and humanitarianism versus profit. The producers of the movie capitalise on today’s ‘80s nostalgia through Wade’s character who is into the era yet the nostalgia in the Oasis is ecumenical: other eras are also represented such as a ‘70s disco dance scene between Wade (as Parzival) and his fellow gamer Art3mis (pronounced ‘Artemis’, played by Olivia Cooke), and the ‘60s campy Batman television show’s Batmobile is seen charging by in an auto race segment.

The theme of humanitarianism versus profit is played out in the rebellious characters’ fight to protect the open software-produced Oasis from corporate conquest. This conflict suggests social commentary on today’s net neutrality debate. The theme of reality versus fantasy is seen in the characters trying to determine how much of virtual reality is part of the real world, an attempt that includes the question of how much of a person’s true personality is conveyed by their game avatar.

As with any blockbuster movie, Ready Player’s special effects and cinematography are super! However, what distinguishes this movie from most sci fi flicks is that it both gives audiences a fun time with loads of action scenes and otherworldly settings while showing the social impacts of technology and what can happen if it is abused. And so this movie does what all cyberpunk and any other kind of -punk should do—warn and speak against future technological abuse.

Ready Player One is directed by Steven Spielberg and screenwritten by Zak Pen.

Until next time . . .

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