Review: Ready Player One (2018)


Review by Benjamin Allen Dickson

Ready Player One?

More like…

Ready for Nerds to Cum?

A better title for this film would be Reference: The Movie. Do you like references? Then you’re in luck, because there's now a whole movie about them. Void of all that stupid bullshit like an engaging plot, original characters, and unique storytelling, Reference: The Movie cuts right to the chase, by cashing in on all of your favorite franchises. Remember the 80’s? No? Well you can still be nostalgic of it! That's the beauty of soulless corporate marketing, we just want your money!

This film is a mess, a terrible awful mess. Directed by the archetype of 80s nostalgia himself, Steven Spielberg, this film is a hardly even a movie. It is a string of references that would make Seth Macfarlane blush.  It was an unbearable experience for me, especially the second time. That's right, I even gave this film a second chance since I have a well respected friend that enjoys this movie greatly. So I attended a 70mm screening of Reference: The Movie in Los Angeles, and that viewing just reassured my opinion/cynicism with the film. Reference: The Movie wasn’t even shot on film for its 10 minutes of live action scenes. It was completely shot in digital, which made it look just ridiculous that they slapped on shitty film grain over a CGI-fest of a movie. Pure nostalgia exploitation, to try to make your audience feel like they are watching an 80s film by hiring Spielberg and by adding film grain to your ADD fest of franchise references. Unbelievable.

“But hey, the 70mm film grain screening idea was stupid, but the movie is still good!”

Or is it? Is it just that you think the franchises shown are good? My biggest problem with the movie is that the “filmmakers” shove an obscene amount of references to be a crowd pleasing movie. The original characters, plot or artistic direction are not why people like this movie, because there is none of that in Reference: The Movie. This film was like a YouTube video for me. “Wow wouldn't it be cool to see a Gundam fight Mecha-Godzilla?” Sure it would be for a solid 60 seconds. But not for a whole film. This film is never shlockey enough to be “so bad it's good”, but it's also not good either. It just sits in an plane of mediocrity.

There are two sequences I enjoy in the film though. The first being the race sequence, the first challenge to get the key. It's not good, but it's an enjoyable Saturday Morning Cartoon-esque sequence. It's bright, colorful and explosive. King Kong shows up, who didn't have to be King Kong except so they could say “oh look it's King Kong”, they mention the bike from Akira, you get the idea. Despite these mind numbing references, the scene is fine and not inherently broken. For a slight second I thought maybe the movie would just be ridiculous fun, I have never been more wrong in my entire life.

The second sequence is sort of enjoyed was the sequence where the CGI characters are in the world of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. It simultaneously entertained me and also gave me a headache. I believe the only reason I enjoyed the scene was because I love The Shining so much, I wanted the CGI characters to move out of the way so I could just be watching The Shining. Seeing glimpses of such a great film on the big screen made me so happy, since I have never gotten to experience Kubrick’s classic in theaters. But this just adds to my argument, that people don't like Ready Player One - oops I mean - Reference: The Movie, they only like the properties that are within it and mistaken it for the movie.

Also isn’t it ironic that the villain of this film is an evil businessman trying to exploit people's favorite characters, acting like he appreciates pop culture?

I've pretty much said all I want to say.

I fear for the day that children start seeing this movie as a classic film, or an era of cinema where we look back fondly at a film that is directly exploiting the audience looking back fondly at their childhood.

God help us.