Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Ready Player One (2018)

Nostalgia: a wistful desire to return in thought or in fact to a former time in one's life, to one's home or homeland, or to one's family and friends; a sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place or time.

The word is used pejoratively quite a bit in response to Ernest Cline's novel and the film based on it. I can't speak to the novel as I haven't read it. But the film, challenges the idea that nostalgia is a weakness and makes it very much a strength. The idea that searching for missed happiness is somehow a less than noble pursuit is nonsensical. Ready Player One, the film, is a love letter to the idea of finding a misplaced contentment, a place of joy, and the things that speak joy to us. 

In the story of Ready Player One we are spoken to in a language of images, or ideas. If one just sees a series of "easter eggs" one is missing the point. The film uses these references as a means of communicating feelings, communicating tones, emotions. Because for fanfolks these touchstones of our lives are more than just trinkets. They are hallmarks of who we are, how we want to be, what we wish for. Ready Player One, the film, gets this. It tells a story in a way that is different from how most films tell stories, by evoking the pathos that these references can impart. 

But it isn't just the "easter eggs" littered throughout the film. It is the very nature of how Ready Player One is structured, how it was filmed, the way the characters come together. The film is made to convey a film making of a different time, a specific style of communication.  As I watched Ready Player One it became clear to me that no director could have made this film but Steven Spielberg. Sure another film maker could have made a Ready Player One movie. But only Spielberg could have made this movie. 

Spielberg has made some of my favorite films. He has made plenty of films which mean very little to me as well. But he also helped create a very specific language of film making, a language which was such a part of the films which turned me into a cinemaphile. Ready Player One is his return to that form. He has made some films recently which I respect (eg. Bridge of Spies) and others I could take or leave (ie. Lincoln) but there is a style of film he perfected which was a big part of why I love movies. Watching Ready Player One brought that into full focus for me. I was 10 again watching E.T. I was 12 and my dad was taking me to see Temple of Doom. I was a freshman in college going to a midnight show of Jurassic Park on opening night. I was having my mind blown, losing myself in the magic of movies. 

Ready Player One isn't just about remembering the past or evoking those feelings of our youth although I'll defend that as reason enough to enjoy this magical film. It is also about the future. Ready Player One is an indictment of the monitization of the public space, about resisting corporate power, about where and how we can connect. It is about how our identities shift and our control of who we are. It speaks directly to the issues we're struggling with today. 

Ready Player One is crafted of a specific aesthetic and the use of that is purposeful, it is deliberate. It is taking the past to get us to look at our future. And while doing all that it tells a great story, a fun adventure. Just like the films it is referencing. I truly enjoyed every moment of Ready Player One. And do I want to watch The Shining again? The Iron Giant? Back to the Future? Fuck yeah I do.

Ready Player One
Starring: Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Lena Waithe, Ben Mendelsohn, Mark Rylanch, Simon Pegg
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writers: Zac Penn, Ernest Cline

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