Anghus Houvouras on Ready Player One…
Every movie doesn’t need to be a movement. These are some wise words spoken by one of cinema’s most prolific and revered voices: Myself. This deep kernel of wisdom was uttered sometime around the turn of the century when everyone was freaking out about the tragedy of Star Wars: A Phantom Menace and praising The Matrix as the future of cinema. Film fans are a hyperbolic lot. They’re constantly looking at movies to be something more than two hours of entertainment and weigh the film’s significance in the pop culture landscape. We’ve seen this happen with movies like Wonder Woman and Black Panther. People want to gloss over a movie’s entertainment value and speak to what the success of the film means to society.
I’m often amused by people who try to call out a movie as a significant social marker. Wonder Woman can’t just be an entertaining movie; it has to be a monolith to inclusivity. This would be fine except for the people with unrealistic expectations. There were grown, adult people who were upset that Wonder Woman wasn’t nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. Take a moment. Let that sink in. Actual indignation and outrage because a by-the-numbers superhero blockbuster movie wasn’t considered a crowning achievement in filmmaking. I expect the same thing to happen this year with Black Panther, a fine movie but in no way deserving of major award consideration. For some people, the fact that it was good and made a boatload of money won’t prevent disappointment when Chadwick Boseman isn’t nominated for best actor.
The thing is, 99% of the movies you see are simply two hours of entertainment engineered as a bit of escapism. Our culture has devolved into a sad cult of fandom. A place where the movies we love are seen as part of our identity.
As the movie went on, I found myself mildly irked at the amount of middle-aged male geek references but majorly frustrated with how bad the movie was. Ready Player One contains some of the most cringe-inducing cinematic moments I can remember. terribly written lines read passionately by mediocre actors and directed without an ounce of imagination. I was shocked how terrible this movie was. I realize a lot of people give Spielberg a pass for his earlier contributions to the art form, but I’ve got to be honest: the guy is way off his game and anyone who says otherwise can only be labeled an apologist.
There are so many laughably terrible things in the movie. Sins that we would use to crucify a less iconic filmmaker. For example.
1. The hot girl feeling unattractive trope. Instead of glasses and a ponytail, she’s got a birthmark.
2. Mark Rylance going ‘full retard’. I was in a perpetual state of cringe any time he spoke.
3. Ben Mendelsohn in the flashback scene where he’s playing cinema’s second oldest intern. The first being Robert De Niro in The Intern.
4. TJ Miller as the world’s most obvious choice to voice the asshole geek.
5. The lady from Master of None in every scene she appears in, but most notably her badly modulated ‘I’m a dude’ voice any time they’re in the Oasis.
Maybe you feel bad for The Beard, or maybe you like the concept of Ready Player One better than the execution. But I was going full Zoidberg in the theater as the credits rolled as I shouted “This movie is bad, and you should feel bad”. Ready Player One makes Hook look like Raiders of the Lost Ark. It would be easy for me to try to make this movie into a movement. To talk about how it represents the kind of lazy, uncreative, unoriginal endeavor that is killing the theatrical experience. And I suppose there could be an argument to make there, but it’s not why I hated Ready Player One. I hated the movie because it was poorly put together. I hated the terrible, one-dimensional acting. I hated the paper-thin, super-derivative pop culture reverential script. And i hated the direction which went back and forth between ‘baffling’ and ‘incomprehensible’. I was kind of stunned how a movie about a world where anything can happen felt so limited & grounded. The Oasis didn’t look like someplace fun. It looked like the weird, constricted dream of someone who spent too much time watching movies and not enough time living their life. Strangely, they try to make that point of the movie in an act of irony so blunt it could be used to club the concept to death.
Ready Player One isn’t a movie that deserves all these think-pieces about how unoriginal blockbusters have become (though they have). It’s just a bad piece of filmmaking that doesn’t deserve a single ounce of praise.