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The first 30 minutes of “Ready Player One”

Anna Banerjee, News Editor

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I have never walked out of a movie before. Even the idea of walking out of a movie bothers me. (Walking out? In this economy?) And yet, this weekend, I walked out of “Ready Player One” after sitting through a half hour of aimless auditory and visual barrages.

A panoply of muted but obnoxious color schemes, jarring and visually offensive references and “nerd”-dom, “Ready Player One” had lofty goals. Indomitable director Steven Spielberg had two clear aesthetic and thematic aims with the film: (1) to capture a sense of nostalgia through the power of visual homage to video games, books, and films and (2) to capitalize off of said nostalgia. He deftly accomplished the latter goal with nearly $120 million box office gross after three weeks. The first goal left much to be desired.

Before continuing, I will acknowledge that it is solely a mark of the first 30 to 40 minutes of the film, the quality of which was not only underwhelming but a dismaying critique on mass media and its attempts to “sell” a film. This is a review of the first parts of the film, as well as a piece analyzing the film’s context within mainstream media.

Starring Tye Sheridan (“X-Men: Apocalypse”) and Olivia Cooke (“Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”), “Ready Player One” is the cinematic adaptation of the novel by the same name. Like the novel, its main premise is centered around a virtual reality, OASIS, that allows users to enter a world of their own making wherein the only limits, as Sheridan’s character lays out for the viewers in a cheap expository narration, “are your own imagination.”

Yet, “Ready Player One” leaves very little to the audience’s imagination, instead choosing to fill each pixel with as many pop culture references as physically possible. Instead of allowing audiences to take part in any of the whimsy “Ready Player One” attempts to inspire, all the space for imagination is filled in by others’ creations. References to Batman, Tracer and Duran Duran become virtual minefields over which the audience trips in order to reach any sort of meaning.

Pop culture references — “easter eggs,” to use one of the terms the film obnoxiously throws around — have been a staple of media for decades. Traded around on forums and discussed ad nauseum in various articles, these cinematic allusions are a phenomenon in and of themselves. However, the manner in which “Ready Player One” approaches references is insulting to viewers on two main levels.

For one, it is visually exhausting: after being confronted with twenty “hidden” references within the first few minutes, it stops being a game and quickly becomes a chore. Inundating viewers with obnoxious references reduces the fun of searching for easter eggs, and instead turns “Ready Player One” into a consumerist warzone in which it’s difficult to escape without feeling like you spent two hours watching Youtube ads.

“Ready Player One” is insulting in terms of the sheer disrespect with which it treats its viewers. As the average person has seen dozens upon dozens of movies in their lifetime, there is an unspoken pact between filmmaker and viewer to respect a certain level of cinematic reading. For example, the filmmaker assumes that the viewer will be able to fill in blanks unstated directly by characters and to understand the varying meanings of different shots (even if this understanding is unconscious). However, “Ready Player One” flagrantly disregards this basic tenet of cinema.

“Ready Player One” actively demeans its audiences in the same way similar movies like “The Emoji Movie” did: it ignores any underlying understanding that the audience can interpret the film on their own. As a result, instead of allowing viewers to utilize their skills as active viewers, the film corrals viewers into a singular, passive path at any one time. Easter eggs no longer become an optional accessory to enjoying a film, but rather the sole focus of its creation. Anything that the filmmakers believe could not be instantly interpreted is handed to viewers in a voice-over that is, in fact, strongly reminiscent of the introduction of “The Emoji Movie.”

There is very little of “Ready Player One” that exists on its own; rather, it is simply a weaker iteration of others’ stories and creations. Outside of its weak story, which retools anything enjoyable from the novel into a prettier, more marketable package, and its atrocious product placement, there is not much left. The cinematography is chaotic and unfocused; the CGI and set design is an uglier redux of what had already been created (see “Blade Runner,” “Ghost in the Shell” (1995) and “Akira”); the art design is tacky and involves a poorly-designed color design.

While I only saw the first half an hour or so of “Ready Player One,” I can confidently say that what I did see was an insultingly mediocre film that displays a depressing part of the consumerism-driven film industry. Rather than embrace the culture it attempts to honor, Spielberg’s newest film seems more like an artistic Pac-Man, consuming everything in its path and leaving viewers with only a sense of hollow completion once everything is destroyed.

1 Comment

One Response to “The first 30 minutes of “Ready Player One””

  1. AnonymousPvSenior on April 26th, 2018 12:05 am

    An Ode to Avengers: Infinity War
    By: Anonymous PV Senior 4/25/18

    Let me begin by being candid. While this comment might appear “review-like,” I assure you it is not. There will be no pretentious critiques or observations in the succeeding paragraphs. If you are interested in reading about the cinematography, editing, story-structure, and acting in the most recent installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I encourage you to read the upcoming review by Anna Banerjee as she does a phenomenal job with her opinion pieces. Most likely to the dismay of you, my reader, I have not even seen Avengers: Infinity War yet. I am writing this on a Wednesday night- T minus 17 hours until the release of the highly anticipated amalgamation of 10 fantastic years of storytelling. I am sure by this point, you are wondering what this comment is if not a review. After much thought, I have decided that the following paragraphs can only be defined as a love letter.

    There are many different types of movies. Some movies aim to inspire. Others try to question society through a dystopian lense. Storytelling purposes like these might possess more artistic merit than the summer blockbusters that have become the hallmark of Marvel Entertainment, but there is something unadulteratedly cathartic about Marvel’s movies. The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) will certainly be remembered throughout time for its innovation in creating the first “shared universe,” but it’s the sense of community that each film creates that I most admire. It astounds me that in a time where tensions are high and no one can agree upon anything, the release of a fun Marvel movie can consistently unite millions of people worldwide.

    The days leading up to the release of Avengers: Infinity War, have been bittersweet for me. Of course, I am bubbling with excitement. The promise of seeing all my favorite heros on one screen together is undeniably great, however with this elation comes even greater expectation. I have forced myself to accept that Avengers: Infinity War will not meet these unattainable expectations. After all, it is just a comic book movie. Avengers: Infinity War will not supersede Citizen Kane to become the greatest movie of all time, nor will it win Best Picture at the Oscars next year. Rather, it will be a “fun” movie that is certain to bring happiness to millions of different people all around the world. I urge those of you who’ve (like myself) anxiously pre-purchased their tickets to Avengers: Infinity War to decrease your expectations of the film in order to alleviate some possible disappointment. When you walk into the theater don’t forget to cherish all the reasons you fell in love with the MCU and have a fun time. I know I will.

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The first 30 minutes of “Ready Player One”