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: :?

Tron Legacy

December 29, 2010 by  
Filed under Featured Content, Movies

In 1982 we were introduced to a different kind of science fiction action film: a computer action film. These days, that may sound either common or at least, somewhat exciting. But back in 1982, computers were fairly unknown and computer games were extremely rare. But Disney was willing to shell out for a film called “Tron”, which was about computers and computer hackers and computer games. It revolved around very basic colors and designs, but make them look very unique even if the story seemed lethargic and 4-bit. The film gathered some good reviews at the time, and eventually became somewhat of a cult classic.

Now, 28 years later, we have a sequel. It’s been a long time coming, I suppose. But whatever originality and creativity went into the first one…it was drained by the sequel. “Tron Legacy” not only has a slow moving plot but it also contains nothing but a series of hackneyed dialog scenes accompanied by action sequences that have been taken from every sci-fi action flick in the last 20 years.

The plot centers around Kevin Flynn’s (Jeff Bridges) son Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) who has broken into the ENCOM system like his dad did, and finds that his father has sent him a “page” to get back to the arcade and find him. What Sam finds, however, is that he’s been tricked by his father’s nemesis in the program, Clu. Flynn is sent to “Games”, in which he partakes in disc throwing fights until he is identified by Clu has Flynn’s son. From there, the story is extremely familiar and the cliches just keep on coming.

Everything from the mysterious “savior” in the Games realm for Sam turns out to be a beautiful female with all the moves (I think I last saw this device used in “Nine” but I guess “Avatar” could count as well) to the guy who is supposed to save them but turns out to be a double crosser…this film offers very little in the department of surprise or even wonder. Bridges returns in the dual role of Kevin Flynn and Clu. He is much more interesting as Flynn, sometimes invoking The Dude a few times. But the film is so formulaic that it doesn’t even seem worth it to follow the formula to the final resolution.

I guess what would keep anyone watching are the special effects. They are, at times, very impressive. At other times, however, they are just stealing from other sci-fi action films such as “The Matrix” or “Star Wars” or even “The Dark Knight”. The 3-D used is worthless. Nothing seems to come right out at you. You could experience 3-D and 2-D with this film and get the identical experience either way. But apart from its generic plot and plot devices, the colors are rather bland, too. The light blue is rather dull compared to the more embracing cyan that was used in the original. It comes off as very pale; and so does the movie. It’s either extremely dark, or extremely bright. The contrasts never seem to come together.

And neither does this film. There’s nothing to really get excited about or have fun with because the movie doesn’t seem have fun with itself, either. There are a few nods to the 80’s, but that hardly makes up for the utterly brooding look the film has. Even in the quieter, more conversational scenes, nothing is learned about the characters because they are all drawn so superficially that there’s nothing to actually learn about them whatsoever.

While the first film may have been formulaic and possibly devoid of character development as well, it at least had an interesting and unique look to it. This film just borrows from that and not only doesn’t make an improvement, but takes a few steps back. If you were a fan of the first one, you’ll see this and possibly be entertained. Maybe that’s another thing that frustrating: this film had a built-in fanbase that was already going to like it for what it was. I was looking for something more; and all I got was more of the same.

My rating: :?