By: Felix Felicis (Four Beers) –
The only way I’m going to get through this review without writing entirely in all caps because STEVEN SPIELBERG DONE FUCKED IT UP AGAIN, Y’ALL (okay, there will be significant upper case usage) is by compartmentalizing like a cinematic serial killer into two minds: one that hasn’t read the adapted novel by Ernest Cline, and one who has and can’t FUCKING BELIEVE THE SHIT THAT WENT DOWN IN THIS DUMPSTER FIRE POP CULTURE FUCKFEST.
My first inkling of dread came upon viewing of the teaser, and all subsequent, trailers for Ready Player One. They were an incoherent, disorganized, and highly processed visual bukkake of pop culture. I went into this flick with moderately low expectations with both minds and Ready Player One slightly underwhelmed the mind that hadn’t read the book and FUCKING ENRAGED the mind that had. It was a tale of woe, poor Juliet and her two freaking hemispheres at war over either a slightly mediocre pop culture fest or massive Cleveland Steamer on the chest of book-to-cinema adcraptations (depending on if you’re asking left brain or right brain- not to be confused with Superbowl national treasures, Left Shark and Right Shark).
Ready Player One sets the scene in a dystopian future where life suuuucks and the world is basically circling the drain, leaving everyone to escape reality by virtually (pun intended) living in the Oasis – an online world created by a less sexually confident Steve Jobs-esque genius, James Halliday. Halliday dies, and sets off an Oasis easter egg hunt through his life and his passions (basically 80’s pop culture – though RPO includes pop culture of every era because I guess it’ll appeal to more people and is probably easier to get the rights to a variety of IP) to gain possession of controlling stock in his company and, ultimately, the Oasis.
Cue a villainous corporation who wants to monetize the Oasis (Halliday created a free-access platform) up against practically everyone else who wants to inherit the trillions of dollars and control of the Oasis for super altruistic reasons I’m sure. Then there’s Wade Watts and Co. (a collection -NOT A CLAN… ish- of egg hunters – “gunters”) who study in the hallowed halls of Halliday and apparently form a resistance to challenge the corporation’s headlong rush into a monopoly on the Oasis. Left Shark is pretty chill right now. Right Shark is beginning to freak the fuck out. Wade stumbles onto the first clue practically back asswards, and the race is on! WILL Wade Watts save the day and get the girl (because women are prizes and possessions)? WILL the evil corporation led by a petulant man-child get the stick up its own ass that it so richly deserves? WILL Right Shark stop beating Left Shark to death over what may be the most fucked up attempt to adapt a novel to screen I’ve seen since My Sister’s Keeper?
Left Shark would like to say that the scene-within-a-scene that took place in an immersive Shining experience was pretty fucking cool. Rivers of bloooood? AW YEAH. Right Shark is sulking in the corner and would like to note that you lost him at the zombie ballroom spastic dance scene. Left Shark also liked the postal van/Oasis showdown/key grabbing fiasco/finale chase bonanza. Right Shark is riding the struggle bus trying to find something that he genuinely enjoyed. Right Shark begrudgingly agrees that the Shining visuals and the bit with Chuckie got a solid nod. Right Shark also thought the pixelation when users left the Oasis was moderately neat (Right Shark REALLY did not like Ready Player One. Left Shark was meh about it).
A lot of what’s wrong with Ready Player One is in the adaptation from page to screen. But, judging on the subterranean level of expectations going into this after seeing the CGI blender of what passed for a trailer, even Left Shark (the part of my brain trying desperately to judge this film on its own merits) is grasping at straws to understand how Ernest Cline could be involved in writing the screenplay and signing off on what has to be the most bland YA-esque adaptation since Twilight. Yes. The original gangster of mediocrity itself is on par with the half-baked dystopian future narrative in which a team of plucky teens AND ONE ELEVEN-YEAR-OLD (he will bring this up almost as often as my mother does my perpetually single status at holiday gatherings) unite to save the world from an evil corporation that wants to charge money to basically not SPAM you while using the Oasis.
Oh, and there’s also an arc in there about a “resistance” fighting against the corporation David and Goliath-style, plus some REALLY awkward and slightly creepy romance tossed in for good measure. Because it’s sure normal to declare your love to love someone after cyber-stalking them, going out on half a virtual date, and having them slither around your avatar’s crotch for a hot minute for no apparent reason. They even hold hands you guys, in real life, TWICE; not to mention Wade shows how he’s such a good guy by telling an objectively pretty girl he doesn’t mind her SUPER MINOR port wine facial birthmark she has self-confidence issues about. Well, I hope she doesn’t mind making out with a weepy puffer fish because that’s what Art3mis has to look forward to if she- oh nope there they go making out at the end in a traditional manly dip-kiss. You won the game AND the girl, Wade! Congrats! Left Shark is moderately happy for you.
Fuck, this adaptation was painful for anyone who read the book.
Okay, Right Shark, TIME TO SHINE. Let me start by saying taking liberties with characters is generally accepted (if not always enthusiastically received) but FUCKING WITH FULCRUM EVENTS UPON WHICH THE CORE NARRATIVE TURNS IS FUCKING INSANE LIKE IF SOMEONE LIVES OR DIES IN THE BOOK, THEY NEED TO LIVE OR DIE IN THE MOVIE. Book-Wade’s Aunt is a truly garbage human being (softened by the film into a moderately garbage, but mostly benignly neglectful human being) who’s death in both book and movie via IOI serves early on to cast Wade adrift to live or die and make his journey through the Oasis, alone, a true odyssey. That stays mostly the same. But RPO further fucks with the source material by having the High Five (the top five gunters not on the Sixers payroll) loosely collaborate and know-ish each other before and during the quest. This future society is isolated and lives in a virtual world, so the beauty of the book illustrates that this quest is so important, these fiercely independent characters are driven by love of the Oasis and the urge to protect it that they’re willing to help each other (on a limited basis) to ensure someone who would guard the ideals of the Oasis wins its ultimate prize.
Here’s where Right Shark just fucking loses it. Daito and Sho (the eleven year old) are kind of assumed to be related in the movie, but in the novel, they aren’t. They’re the Japanese version of Aech and Parzival (best friends). Also Sho is (at least) in his teens or older and OH YEAH IS FUCKING KILLED- IN REAL LIFE- BY THE SIXERS IN A BID TO ELIMINATE THE HIGH FIVE AND CLOSEST QUEST COMPETITION. This isn’t just a game, this is a life or death race to determine the fate of an entire “world” and your character reset to level zero isn’t the worst thing that can happen. Sho’s death brings the remaining High Four together to avenge their fallen friend and make his death mean something. The ultimate, and last, test of Halliday’s (novelized) quest requires three keys unlocked by three people to enter the final gate. The reason the Sixers don’t win is they would never think to work together, but Wade and Company DO. Making Sho eleven-years-old in the adaptation basically guarantees there’s no way he’s gonna die, no way the final fight is anything other than a declawed swipe at a Boss Battle “for all the marbles” with no real stakes and no real world consequences. If I wanted to watch a movie without any emotional resonance, I’d fire up a dealer’s choice Fifty Shades flick and call it a day.
What even IS breakfast, Becky? You’d know, if you watched my Top Ten list of movies I loved last year (which I’m assuming everyone reading this did, obviously) you would recognize that quote. It’s from Happy Death Day, a GENIUS, insane, and insanely fun take on the horror genre that doesn’t re-invent the wheel, doesn’t take itself too seriously, and frame for frame packs entertainment into every second- all the while staying in its well established lane. Everything that Happy Death Day IS, Ready Player One ISN’T (different genres aside). This is Left Shark speaking. You don’t have to be the most original horse in the race, but you DO have to actually run it instead of assuming it’s going to run itself. RPO assumes that wedging the adapted material into a YA mold automatically ensures a built in YA audience will pay to see this shit purely for the Iron Giant (pop culture) and Spielberg (name recognition) of it all. No further assembly or effort required.
Because this shit was lazy AF. The dialogue was bargain basement word salad, the character arcs just about as flat as any given Kristen Stewart facial expression, and RPO was almost entirely reliant on CGI imagery and visuals to prop up a poorly written, awkwardly paced, and lackluster cinematic Hindenburg. Ready Player One cut so many corners to propel this narcoleptic adcraptation across the finish line it barely stops to boop you on the nose (pretty hard) with the feel good message that “reality is real” and we should should all put down the digital to go outside and experience sunshine, or fresh air or whatever. This flick was also a CRIMINAL misuse of Simon Pegg and T.J. Miller for vastly different reasons. Ready Player One took a dystopian-80’s-centric/homage-treasure-hunt-tiger and neutered it with a watered-down message so generic my doctor called and told Right Shark to switch prescriptions because this one’s three times cheaper.
Left Shark says prepare to be whelmed by yet another YA-esque adaptation. You’ve seen this movie before. You’ll see this movie again.
Right Shark would like to KILL IT WITH FIRE and recommends you read the book instead and run away from anyone who tries to trick you into seeing this at a dead sprint. It’s super cardio. You’ll be so buff when the zombie apocalypse goes down.
Ready Player One (2018) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for every voice-over and/or crowd-usage Oasis shot.
Take a Sip: whenever someone uses a High Five Handle (Aech, Parzival, Art3mis, etc).
Take a Drink: for every entry and exit from the Oasis.
Do a Shot: for the first of each key found.
Shotgun Your Beer: when that quarter comes in handy.