Ready Player One (Steven Spielberg, 2018)

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domino harvey
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Re: Ready Player One (Steven Spielberg, 2018)

#201 Post by domino harvey » Sun Jan 13, 2019 12:02 am

Been thinking a lot about nostalgia lately (mostly bad) and morbid curiosity led me to this one. I figured at worst, it’s still Spielberg so it’ll at least be watchable, and it was, but just barely. This falls in the not as bad you’d fear, not as good as you’d hope category, especially considering some of the more vomitous source excerpts posted earlier in this thread. As others have noted, the references are not leaned on as heavily as they appear to have been in the novel, but that actually just makes them even more useless. There's something of soul death in the film's presentation of a world of people who don't even want to live in their own nostalgia but instead want to occupy the pre-ordained tastes of their idol-- a better film would highlight and criticize the absence of taste. But this would naturally draw conclusions alienating to the film's core audience of mindless pop culture Xerox machines, digesting without processing countless mainstream media touchstones and mistaking it for taste. No, instead we get MarioCart/T Rex mashups et al. Additionally, there are no real dramatic stakes in the film, the characters are as unknowably bland as their avatars, and the constant CGI means this film is really an animated movie with live action inserts, not the other way around. Also, good lord, can Olivia Cooke’s agent please steer her away from any more projects that give her a small, imperceptible physical “flaw” that’s supposed to let the audience pretend she’s not an improbably gorgeous dream girl?

The film has one good idea, which is that like in the Victorian era of Little Doritt, players who overextend their online bankroll are sent to debtors prisons to work off their chits in the virtual world while confined to telephone box holding tanks. More explorations into the economic realities of a society that could sustain this kind of distraction would be welcome, because as is I kept asking questions I’m not supposed to, like: how do characters like, oh, the protagonist and all his friends make money to survive on? Is it a fully Bitcoin-esque world where the game’s coins are now national currency? When cops show up late in the film, I was flabbergasted: there are people in this world who are able to pull themselves away long enough to put on a uniform? Could we, I don’t know, see that instead of Robocop cameo-ing on the intergalactic dance floor? The film has no intellectual curiosity about the world it presents us, and there’s zero sense of wonder capable of being found in what amounts to people watching video games. Indeed, one of the few visual images to even leave a mark in the movie are the moments when large sections of a room full of players die in the game and we see the LED lights around their play areas go out in unison— even watching someone else play and not seeing what they play is more interesting than a ‘Scope big budget Twitch stream!'

That said, I applaud Colin's commendable ability to like and defend this film (and novel) at great length without ever once unfairly engaging with/against the hostile responses to the work he clearly values. I know he's probably never uttered a negative word about anyone's comments in his history here and elsewhere on the forum (I bet all my coins on it), but still, he's a better man than me.

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colinr0380
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Re: Ready Player One (Steven Spielberg, 2018)

#202 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Jan 13, 2019 5:29 am

Thanks domino! (Though don't look look in the Contempt thread :oops: ). I think a lot of the changes made to the film were interesting, but at the same time it could be argued that they did smooth out some of the more spiky and ambivalent aspects of the book (the economic aspects in particular, as well as the mid-section of the novel where things go into quite dark territory equivalent to that on the run section of Minority Report. There's a great Brazil-like passage at that point of Wade having to work a menial day job as a rather brusque tech support worker, with him being rather annoyed and disgusted at the lack of basic knowledge of the 'normal non-gamer people' struggling with new technology who he has to help, and juggling that with his bigger plans, which contrasts with the even more literal economic slavery within IOI later on. And there are no cops as far as I recall in the book - you are at the mercy of corporations to hunt you down and either protect you or wipe you out as they see fit, and their private security forces arresting people for non-payment of fees) as well as the potentially dislikable aspects of the character that were previously worried about with the excerpts from the novel. That does make the film feel a little too streamlined at times, and Wade has rather been rather emptied out as a character to move a number of the challenges he faces across to flesh out Samantha/Art3mis's character, who is much more distant and ambivalent (and yes, projected upon) in the book.

Though it is interesting that people have not commented on the most potentially awkward moment at the end of the film:
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in which Samantha is kind of draped around Wade in his comfy (gaming?) chair as if she's the flesh and blood equivalent of a game controller! With the implication that Wade has swapped one for the other but they may both be equivalent distractions from issues in the wider world? Though that really might be reading too much into it on my part! That (like the ending of The Post) in playing out more 'safely' as a triumphant climax to a love story loses any potential for ambiguity of response, both on the part of the character and for the viewer watching them. Samantha just responds to Wade's attentions with reciprocal love, as she has throughout the film, rather than seeming like a figure who might not even think of him in romantic terms leaving Wade (whose main trait in the book is that of being much more of a reckless gambler, albeit one whose gambles usually pay off) to make a proposal in hope, about to play the greatest game of all, in the book.
It is rather strange though that the most vibrant feeling and fully fleshed out characters in the film are those of the baddies!

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DarkImbecile
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Re: Ready Player One (Steven Spielberg, 2018)

#203 Post by DarkImbecile » Sun Jan 13, 2019 10:27 am

colinr0380 wrote:
Sun Jan 13, 2019 5:29 am
(Though don't look look in the Contempt thread :oops: )
I sometimes lament that I wasn’t aware of and participating in this forum earlier than I actually was, but then I read certain threads and think of my personality and level of self-restraint in the mid- to late-2000s and realize I would have been booted out of here long before the beginning of this decade.

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Mr Sausage
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Ready Player One (Steven Spielberg, 2018)

#204 Post by Mr Sausage » Sun Jan 13, 2019 12:18 pm

DarkImbecile wrote:
colinr0380 wrote:
Sun Jan 13, 2019 5:29 am
(Though don't look look in the Contempt thread :oops: )
I sometimes lament that I wasn’t aware of and participating in this forum earlier than I actually was, but then I read certain threads and think of my personality and level of self-restraint in the mid- to late-2000s and realize I would have been booted out of here long before the beginning of this decade.
Back in the day, we treated banning members like the Oscars treated Scorsese. When it came, it was years late and not really for what you should’ve earned it. I doubt you’d have gone anywhere. I was the only active member of the mod team for much of that time, and I wasn’t even banning major enemies of mine who’d repeatedly crossed all sorts of lines. Speaking of which...

I still remember the moment colin’s talking about. He cheekily made an unfair but true-for-him comment (most of us have been ruder on here by accident), and a guy well-know for his sunny, even-keel disposition nearly ran colin off the forum for it. It was a bizarre time to be a member here, honestly.

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colinr0380
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Re: Ready Player One (Steven Spielberg, 2018)

#205 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Jan 13, 2019 12:24 pm

That grumpy post in the Contempt thread was my closest brush with a melt down so far (fingers crossed it is the only one on that scale!) and in some ways I have been quite glad for it, because it let me know how easy it is to react badly to something someone else posts that might not be intended in that way, or have even been intended to reply to me at all, just someone posting their own feelings towards a film. That experience influenced me a lot when seeing other things that happened on the forum afterwards from Barmy and Nothing on to comments from more recent members that end up in the Infighting threads. While they are caused by different factors I can in some way understand what happens and feel lucky that my own blow up was not worse. I remember feeling at the time more upset at myself more than anything for saying something silly in the heat of the moment, and I remember my comment came about through quickly responding without having read Herr Schreck's comment properly first.

I think that I was more being annoyed at the tone of the thread being dismissive of a film I was particularly fond of (which taught me the lesson for the future that everyone is entitled to their own opinion even if you disagree and even if almost personally hurts a bit to feel something that you have a connection to get dismissed. No wonder sometimes directors, actors and so on get upset when even I as just a viewer sometimes feel that urge to leap to defend something that I liked even when it really has nothing to do with me! And while I am not a Star Wars fan I presume that this same feeling is behind the way some fans can react strongly, positively or negatively, to developments within that series. Investment in something by its very nature can cause strong reactions), which when combined with not having read the comment properly and jumping to conclusions, as well as the general circumstances of my life at the time all bundled together in that moment of being overly snippy at Schreck. In 2006 I had been dismissed from my job with no guarantee of anything on the horizon and some of the desperation that lent, as well as the feeling that at least I could contribute a bit to a forum with some posts if nothing else only to get involved in an argument here as well, probably pushed me to making that post without thinking it through quicker than it otherwise would have done if things were more stable for me at that time. I don't want to speak for people who have spectacularly burnt out on the forum over the years but it can be understandable that sometimes the worst, most out of nowhere posts might arise from a general frustration getting suddenly vented in an inappropriate place. It is of course right to call things out, move things into the infighting forum (for the good of the person posting to get comments out of public view, as much as to keep the general threads tidy) and warn people about their behaviour but sometimes it is understandable that the pressure that people put on themselves (to post and to have something to say, even if it feels like there is nothing to say, just to remain present) can come out in explosions of frustration. In some ways that is why I even felt for swimminghorses when they were posting so many terrible fake Criterion covers one after the other, because that poster was trying so hard (perhaps too hard) to be noticed.

To take this all back to Ready Player One, the book actually gets at that exact feeling of needing to do more but also wondering if you still can at the mid-point, especially when after the acrimonious break with Aech and lack of interest from Art3mis, and the death of his Aunt and escape to the City Wade is left alone and anonymous before finding out that both Aech and Art3mis have had a breakthrough without him at the next trial only by seeing their names overtake his on the leaderboard. Suddenly Wade is left playing catch up after having spent a bit of time resting on his laurels as a celebrity for just having passed that first trial, and that fear of once again being 'forgotten' or getting left behind in a world where he has even less than he started with feels like it is what inspires him in his daring/reckless plan to falsify his debts to get arrested and become an indentured slave of the IOI corporation. Either he succeeds in his plan (which of course he does) or he has bluntly literalised his return to anonymity as nothing more than a number as a criminal debtor condemned to forever paying off his online debts. That moment of being arrested and Wade looking up to say goodbye to his boxy anonymous apartment (but which was the last trace of him in the real world, imagining it having already been leased out to someone else before he has even been driven away from the building) and then looking at the other people around him who have also been arrested for non-payment of their subscription fees was the hardest hitting moment of the entire book for me. That lowest ebb, most dystopian aspect of the book at that mid-point is the one that is tellingly entirely leapt over in the film when it goes immediately from the drone attack on the aunt's trailer to Wade being kidnapped by Samantha's resistance group. The book contains a lot of focus on the fear of having no future, your existence being interchangeable with anyone else's, and the problematic, ephemeral nature of celebrity. Celebrity is an imperfect substitute for friends and family (even abusive family) who actually recognise you as an individual and your personal qualities, but it is also the only way out. Yet celebrity is an extremely short term fix at the same time (like a sinking stepping stone in Frogger that is both your salvation but you have to jump off of to some more stable platform before it disappears and leaves you high and dry!), which is something that the film does not really get into at all, mostly because it much more takes for a given (in a way that I find quite touching!) that everyone has good friends to support them through the tough times, even to go off to jail with them!

This risks jumping too much to conclusions but I was re-watching the Face To Face interview with Spielberg around the time of Schindler's List a day ago (the Face To Face interview with Derek Jarman being included on the upcoming BFI set sent me watching through other episodes of the series) and there is a very interesting comment that he makes in response to the question about his greatest fear that it is to be alone. In a way despite it being made decades later from that interview the adaptation of Ready Player One fits in squarely within that trend, as it exchanges the sense of isolation and despair of potential anonymity (before everyone comes together again for the cathartic final battle) of the book for one of community and friendship always being there even at the darkest times.

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knives
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Re: Ready Player One (Steven Spielberg, 2018)

#206 Post by knives » Tue Feb 05, 2019 2:47 pm

Saw this thanks (?) to the oscars and I find my response somewhere between Domino's and Brian's. While I would have loved the Haneke-esque vision that explores all of the implications of this world that Dom seems to describe, I do feel there is enough here to at least pet that desire even as the film is too friendly to develop the real world (I imagine in response to the cop thing that most of the people of this world are like the business exec in that they merely tolerate the game's existence with different people having different levels of obsession). What little acid there is to the film is plainly showcased in the Shining scene which openly connects it to the video game references in a way that calls it just as stupid. That many of the most critical voices pointed it out as the film's highlight shows how pathetic and enslaved to the god head of the canon critics are.

Speaking of that god head it is amazing how unsubtle the critique of him is and the critique of the world that follows him. He's a self isolating, ASD, Steve Jobs type weirdo who regrets all of the decisions in his life and built this hunt seemingly to show that his game and interests are stupid. The hero is considered successful when he breaks from this god by kissing the girl. That the appropriate way to enjoy nostalgia is through this guy is in itself quite the pointed critique.

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Re: Ready Player One (Steven Spielberg, 2018)

#207 Post by dda1996a » Tue Feb 05, 2019 5:03 pm

I'm confused as regarding to what you wrote about The Shining part.

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knives
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Re: Ready Player One (Steven Spielberg, 2018)

#208 Post by knives » Tue Feb 05, 2019 5:11 pm

Before they enter the movie there's a discussion, I can't remember the exact dialogue, that posits it as just another artifact which they don't care to think about beyond its connection to the god head. In the moment it struck me as thumbing its nose at those who would dislike the movie for its video game referencing yet excite over a reference to Kubrick.

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Re: Ready Player One (Steven Spielberg, 2018)

#209 Post by dda1996a » Wed Feb 06, 2019 2:16 am

I fail to see that, as there are many other film references before and after that. I feel like you are way too cynical and calculated as regarding it's use in the film. Was there anyone who complained about too many video games references but was fine with film ones?
In any case, I felt this film did a much better use of these poo culture quotes than something like Wreck-It Ralph. Don't know about the book (and what parts that were shown here seem like the book is pretty awful), but I was expecting BFG type failure from Spielberg or even worst, but found this smart and thrilling for the most part (except the end of course, like all his films)

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colinr0380
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Re: Ready Player One (Steven Spielberg, 2018)

#210 Post by colinr0380 » Wed Feb 06, 2019 4:29 am

The Shining is basically treated as the first date movie that Halliday took his future wife to, and rather than entering into a favourite film as an exciting way of re-experiencing something that you love from a 'first person player' perspective (as WarGames was in the equivalent trial in the book) it actually felt a bit more like a critique of the 'wrong' kind of film to take someone on a first date too. Maybe the fan equivalent of taking someone not quite on the same wavelength on an awkward first date similar to the blue movie in Taxi Driver. Especially since The Shining is all about an obsessive creator's inability to create anymore resulting in them attempting to murder their family!
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Also if we see all of the trials as more created by Morrow about Halliday rather than by Halliday himself, then Morrow appears to be at his most scathing in that trial about Halliday having 'stolen' the girl he loved away from him, turning the first date movie into a horror film that you have to save the heroine from. (Strangely, after all of the talk of the book as projecting onto the female character, the film actually creates an entirely new one to exist only as a trophy!)

But its a perfect choice to let Spielberg riff on Kubrick in a different way than he did in A.I.

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Re: Ready Player One (Steven Spielberg, 2018)

#211 Post by dda1996a » Wed Feb 06, 2019 5:15 am

You're making me realize I need to see this again, but I think he also does get a concrete place in the digital world. That was my main issue, also voiced by Kaminski, that the digital world (in all movies, not just this) are so weightless. The Overlook did create a genuine place with it's real geography (wonder how long they spent on recreating the maze that the Overlook is). I at first thought it would be awful to place the scene in there when I first read it, but Spielberg did get it right.

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colinr0380
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Re: Ready Player One (Steven Spielberg, 2018)

#212 Post by colinr0380 » Wed Feb 06, 2019 8:14 am

That is an interesting point in itself, which perhaps highlights another philosophical difference between the book and the film. The book's trials are much more internal ones based on in-depth superfan-like knowledge of how to play a game or being able to recite all of the dialogue from a film from memory (things that other people, like the Sixers, can actually be concretely guided through or be trained in by those fans), whilst the trials in the film are much more about performing physical acts such as races or jumping from stepping stone to stepping stone, but are also ones that eventually involve consciously breaking the pre-defined or assumed rules of the game to finally win the prize. Even when something like the Overlook Hotel turns up, it is perhaps telling that it is the one character who has never seen the film who explores the area to the fullest extent, and that in depth knowledge of the structure of the Kubrick film might prepare for some elements but does not exactly help in encounters where events play out very differently, and in solving whatever puzzle there is, that have been layered on top of the film to twist it into something different.

The trials in the book feel about being given the opportunity to prove your skills through your knowledge and skill to show just how much you deserve to run the Oasis, especially against soulless corporate interests who have no sense of the joy that culture can provide and no specific interests other than how much specific intellectual properties can be exploited monetarily; whilst the film feels that it is much more about constantly breaking the fourth wall of the game, and often abandoning any competitive sense of 'winning' at all in order to instead uncover the hand of the creator behind a game. Perhaps also of seeing beyond the 'surface narrative' to explore what the transformed elements of reality and artificial personas may represent and whether they express sublimated parts of a creator (or someone else working under the cover of the figurehead creator figure) that they would be unable to directly communicate with others.

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