Where’s My Controller?

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Title: Ready Player One

Rating: 3 Stars

I had at best moderate hopes for this film. Being directed by Steven Spielberg implied that it was probably going to be a well executed film. Being basically about a video game played in a virtual reality would probably mean that it wouldn’t exactly sing to me.

And that’s pretty much exactly how it played out.

The year is 2045. Cities have descended into a dystopian mass slum. To escape that reality, people log into a virtual reality world.

The founder of the game has recently died. Since he was slightly odd loner that never married, he has no heir to his massive empire. He made an announcement that the first person that finds three hidden keys in his virtual universe will inherit his wealth and the management of his virtual world.

Of course, there is the plucky group of misfits that is trying to gain the keys for the love of the virtual reality world. Of course, there is the faceless mass of corporate drones slaving away to get the keys so that the head of the corporation can take over the world, monetize it, and make himself even richer.

Gee, I wonder who’s going to win?

The plot is fairly mindless. It literally is the plot of a video game. Seek out treasure! Fight bosses! Fight the Big Boss! Win the game! The characters barely rise above the level of caricature. I’m sure that I would feel much warmer about it if I was a gamer myself.

I did see flashes where it might have been a contender. I would have liked to have spent more time in the real world. Sure, the plucky gang got to take over the virtual world, but that still doesn’t change the fact that the real world sucks. Are they going to do anything to solve the problems that are actually occurring in the real world? Isn’t that possibly the more pressing problem here?

I kind of think back to the film The Surrogate, where the people of some not that far off future never leave their homes but live through their surrogates. Is that effectively the future here? Will it reach the point where people plug in and never plug out? Is this the permanent escape? No clue.

There is an interesting philosophical question regarding the deceased inventor, James Halliday. He appears in the virtual world, but he is clearly not an avatar. What is he? It’s left unexplained. This touches upon the character, Dixie, in Neuromancer. Dix is a legendary hacker who has died but still lives on in ROM. By the end, tired of this existence, he asks to be deleted.  Is Halliday in the same predicament where he exists in some level of artificial consciousness? And like Dix, will there reach a point where he will tire of it, that a fake existence lacks some necessary spark that makes it not worth living? No clue.

As has been noted everywhere, the film is chock full of cultural references. Many of them flew over my head. Our hero drives a Delorean. The Iron Giant, Chucky the Doll, Freddie Krueger, King Kong, and so many others make appearances. It has already turned into a geek parlor game to try to find them all.

The one cultural reference that I legitimately found entertaining was The Shining. It was so much more than the quick glance of the other references. It played off many key scenes and actually integrated itself quite well with The Shining plot.

It was hilarious and was the part of the film that kicked it up from two stars to three.

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