Ready Player One ★★

Something I've been fixated on that I didn't touch on originally is how modally this film is so closely patterned on 80s archetypes, first pointed out to me by Jonathan Romney. But what makes Sorrento a corporate slug and Halliday a God? It is not as if The Oasis is anything more original than a no rules second life mmorpg whose primary pleasures are all derivative, so I don't buy him as a genius artist, though maybe a genius programmer, which is far less inspiring. What really separates the two is Halliday's simple enthusiasm for media that every boring person over the age of 30 also likes. Sorrento's evil corporateness is stock, plucked right from this same Reagan decade's media consciousness and fetishized of all real despair behind it. Thus the primary stakes of the film are Fake Geeks potentially taking over the media from Real Geeks. Heaven Forbid!

Halliday is also trillionaire, which is meant to be inspirational but is of course obscene, his ennui never really related back to his wealth so much as his conflicted weariness with media saturation. But of course, what is the "reality" that is weakly championed as little more than a nice break to help you appreciate sensory overload more in the film? This same Campbellian 80's fanfic with aloof pixie gamer girls just waiting for you to kiss them (not even ask them, although Art3mis asking could be read as unintentional, minute critique of the prevailing male perspective of the film) even as they're confidently horny enough for your dweeb ass in the digital? A world of 2045 where queerness is still an oddity and a joke (the twist of one character's identity after their transmisogyny a really unworkable and tokenizing attempt at critique of the original 80's mode)?

Even as Spielberg seems exhausted with his cultural influence, he takes us through this inherited narrative with routine virtuosity. So does content critique form or the reverse in the film, considering how closely the two are aligned throughout. The only things that prevents hedonistic indulgence of this regression (which may have actually been more fun and potentially critical at the same time in the Zack Snyder mold) are Kamiski's repulsive greyscale cinematography inside of The Oasis and out and Spielberg's identification with Halliday. The emotional resonance between textual and actual auteur has on the film's tone finds the young characters in Spielbergian Wonder of Spielberg's weaknesses, though I'm skeptical they are really his own. Meta tail eating stylistic self criticism describes some of my very favorite films, but I can hardly find any critique that matters outside of Spielberg's own personal reflections. The film finds him disconnected from the culture whose shared media language he defined. Ready Player One is ultimately just a confessional of disinterest, the textual passions for his own media passe to him rather than truly troubling, and thus it is more a disinteresting work than a conflicted one. Therein lies the point of Kamiski's approach, perhaps: an attempt to make you not care about this by making it ugly.

Basically, the film sucks on purpose.

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