Ready Player One

April 12, 2018 by  
Filed under Movies

Dystopian futures are a steady fixture of sci-fi films–particularly “thinking” films. “Ready Player One” is no “1984” though–unless it was an arcade game. But thinking isn’t really the point of “Ready Player One”, the new Steven Spielberg film that really tries to push the video game zeitgeist of this millennium into the forefront, with the idea that in the future we can change the world–virtually.

Based upon the novel by Ernest Cline, the film stars Tye Sheridan as Wade Watts, who lives in a run-down neighborhood called “The Stacks” in Columbus, OH. Not much backstory is given on this, and very little is known about Wade–except that his parents are dead and he’s living with his aunt–before we’re thrust into the OASIS, a virtual world of gaming and Second Life-like sandbox gameplay. Watts is known as Parzival in that world, and can change his “avatar” into anything he wants. Basically, OASIS is the world we all wish we could live in, while The Stacks is the reality that everyone wants to escape from.

Is there a statement about escaping reality for idealism? Not as such. But, Wade finds friendships in the OASIS that are unmatched in the real world, where it seems he has none. His gaggle of chums includes a big fix-it guy, Aech (Lena Waithe), Sho (Philip Zhou), and Daito (Win Morisaki). He also meets a famous female player, Art3mis (Olivia Cooke), whom he befriends and eventually becomes his love interest. These players aren’t just mulling around the OASIS, though–even though you can–there is a challenge that is posed to all players in the world for an ultimate goal: own the OASIS yourself.

James Halliday (Mark Rylance), co-creator of the program, has died, and left Easter Eggs behind as a way to win a game to become sole proprietor of the OASIS. Basically, just like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, you could be Charlie Bucket. The Easter Eggs are hidden within 3 individual challenges, each with their own puzzle to solve. One of them involves Halliday’s origins to creating OASIS and having a crush on a woman that he never chases in real life. This becomes a focal point of the story, in which Wade can relate to Halliday’s unrequited love. That woman becomes Halliday’s best friend’s wife, and the two of them fall out of friendship. The both of them created OASIS together. His name is Ogden Morrow (Simon Pegg, finally mastering an American accent), and Morrow continues to operate the OASIS after Halliday’s departure, and death.

We learn that Halliday was a very meek guy, but with big ideas. He wanted to pursue a life of love and adventure, but decided ultimately that gaming was his passion. Wade has a bit of self discovery while pursuing this story, and decides he won’t be like Halliday, and instead take a chance on things rather than squander them.

The villain in all of this is Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), a corporate mogul who owns Innovative Online Industries (IOI), that serves as a third party hardware support for OASIS. Also, Sorrento wants his own hand in the cookie jar, and own OASIS in totality. He dispatches a litany of indentured servants, known as Sixers (not the basketball team), who are supposed to help him complete the challenges and win the game. He finds that Wade and his gang are becoming a nuisance for him, so he tries to destroy them–even in real life.

Reality vs. virtuality is explored somewhat in this mess of a plot, that is far too deep for this 2 hour-and-some-change film. Certainly, I’m sure the book digs deeper at the dystopian reality vs. ideal virtual world. The movie tries to turn this into a blockbuster action flick, and all of those elements work fine–we are talking about Spielberg here. The romance between Wade and Art3mis is also cute and the friendship angle works great. But there always seems to be something missing–the film presents its own Easter Egg.

But it’s never found, and ultimately the final product is a sleek, somewhat entertaining film. It probably was better suited as a mini-series or short series to explore all of these other facets that are hinted at but never developed. Once the game is over, you still feel like something needs to be achieved.

My rating: :?

License to Drive – 20 Years Later

July 28, 2008 by  
Filed under Blog

Dean teaches Les about the finer things.

Dean teaches Les about the finer things.

I still remember the hot summer day back in July of 1988, my twin sister and I were 9 years old, and our mom took us to see a movie called “Mac and Me”, a cheap rip-off of the ever successful “E.T.”, that I don’t recall either my sister and I ever asking to be taken to. At the time, of course, we had already seen “The Lost Boys” on VHS, and my sister was heavily instituted into the Corey Haim Crush. I just thought “The Lost Boys” was a cool movie. I wasn’t too young to appreciate the great chemistry between the two Coreys, and because that formula worked so well, here they were again, a year later, in another summer blockbuster film. This time, it would involve something neither my sister nor I could really relate to yet, and that was of course, driving.

But we wanted to see the movie regardless. And so, my sister being the more clever sibling, decided to “go to the bathroom” during one of the many painfully long and boring scenes in “Mac and Me” (a movie in which I can remember little about). She actually went to the bathroom a few times, and finally disappeared until the end bit of the movie, when she returned. Of course, Mom and I didn’t realize what she was doing. But she was sneaking in to watch “License to Drive”. She told me all about the scenes she did see–Corey failing his written test (on a computer! how radical!), but passing his driving test, Corey sneaking out and getting into mischief. That was enough for me to be convinced I had to see this movie. 9 year olds clearly have pretty high standards for film viewing. I maintained that year that “Willow” was an instant classic. How right I was!

Of course, later that year, when it came out on home video, thanks to a neighborhood friend that recorded everything he rented onto home VHS’s, I saw “License to Drive” in all its glory. It was instantly one of my favorite movies of the 80’s, along with “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, “Gremlins”, “The Gooniest”, “The Monster Squad”, and “The Princess Bride”. The funny thing is, I loved most of the teen comedies that came out in the 80’s (most of them starring Molly Ringwald or John Cusack), but I wasn’t a teenager and didn’t understand their situations pretty much at all. I didn’t really think of girls “that way” yet, they mostly just bugged the hell out of me and were tattle tellers. But these movies were fantastic!

And “License to Drive” was one of the best ones ever! I even went on a mashed potatoes and ketchup binge once or twice, until I realized how disgusting it was. I wanted to change my name to Les (not realizing how horrendous the full name of that abbreviation is). I wanted to take a driving test on one of those computers! And for some reason, I wanted to go on a date with Mercedes. I wanted to “get out of her dreams and into her car”, as it were.

But those days are long gone now. It’s twenty years later, Corey Haim is now the victim of excess and Hollywood binging, Core Feldman is just a jerk, and “License to Drive” is now an “old” movie. I recently caught it on one of the many movie channels there are on Comcast cable (remember when it was just HB0?), and once again, recaptured my youth for an hour and a half. The interesting thing was, I not only was appreciating it on the level of nostalgia, and laughing at how 80’s the movie was–but I was catching things I had missed when I saw it when I was too young to “get” most of what was going on, especially with being a teenager. See, unfortunately, by the time I became the age of Les Anderson, it was the mid-90’s, and the 80’s were not old enough to be vintage. If you were watching “License to Drive”, you had some problems, or you were “stuck” in the past.

Now, of course, since it’s been so long, the 80’s are the new 70’s. There is so much nostalgia and enough time has passed that the 80’s era can be appreciated. Trust me, if you were wearing a Nintendo shirt in 1996, you were castrated. I speak from experience. Because of this new found nostalgia, we can look back at movies like “License to Drive”, and find ourselves again. In some cases we can find a few versions of ourself. The too-young-to-appreciate innocence, and the one in which we know how funny drunk driving can be–if it’s an old man, and not you.

So I suggest a viewing of “License to Drive” now if you’re between the ages of 27-37, because all of you know what I’m talking about, and some of you were old enough to appreciate what was going on between Les and Dean, and probably went to a few “Archie’s” yourselves. Treat yourself to some nostalgia, and laugh again at how awesomely cool this movie was.