Illustration by Sophie Yang

 

You’re a 1500-pound robot with wheels for feet and saws for hands. You’re a dark green crocodile with sharp teeth and gleaming scales. You’re a 15 cm tall human, because why not? You’re in a stadium the size of a city with fans circling your showdown with Godzilla or King Kong or Mario. You’re in a shark pit using kung fu to fight 5 Great Whites. But actually, you’re on a weird 4D treadmill in your mom’s basement wearing a clunky helmet and old jeans. Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One was certainly an interesting movie, offering viewers a glimpse into a future world where everybody is obsessed with virtual reality (VR). Even those who don’t really care for video games can find themselves immersed in this extraordinary world where the main character, Wade, can do anything.

I have a lot of respect for Spielberg, who has directed numerous captivating and evocative movies such as Jaws, E.T., Schindler’s List, Jurassic Park, and War Horse. But with Ready Player One, he does the directing equivalent of marinating a filet mignon with ketchup, hot sauce, and peanut butter which, if not immediately clear, spells disaster.

The movie starts out with a cheesy voiceover and a far too in-depth explanation of what VR is. In summary, this guy created VR, became rich, and died, but left his fortune to someone who could “win” his VR video game. Seems interesting, but a lazy Spielberg continues to develop the plot using the thousand-year-old—and excruciatingly boring—hero’s journey. Young boy is likeable and wants something—trillions of dollars and control of the world’s largest company in this case. Spielberg also checks off the classic love interest box with Samantha, who is insecure and awkward (typical), but it works because Wade is also insecure and awkward (typical). And bad guy is bad because he kills people and is greedy…even though the main character also lusts after lots of money (this fact is very played down).

Throughout the film, Wade does a lot of hero’s journey type of things: he has to find all the keys in order to obtain the fortune—in retrospect it is quite reminiscent of a treasure hunt with a much higher production cost. Yet, in the end Wade wins the treasure by studying the rich dead guy’s life like he is studying for an AP exam.

The CGI was good, but some stories are better (much better) left untold.