The Morning After: Apr. 2, 2018

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

Ready Player One

If any director were a perfect fit for a film, it’s Steven Spielberg and Ready Player One, a film steeped in nostalgia of the period in which Spielberg was growing and expanding as a filmmaker. Forty-plus years into his career, Spielberg’s genre filmmaking days might have been thought to be behind him, but Ready Player One proves that he still has the spark and imagination to helm a dystopian film.

Set twenty years into the future, the virtual reality realm of the OASIS is on the brink of collapse when its creator dies. As the denizens of the OASIS race to find the three keys that will open the door to an Easter Egg that will give them full control over the VR paradise, an impressionable young man (Tye Sheridan) joins forces with an array of friends new and old to reach the end before the corporate president (Ben Mendelsohn) who wants to monetize the OASIS and bring an end to the free and open nature of the realm.

From the looks of the trailers, this was going to be a film flooded with 80s references and it is. Yet, there are plenty of nods to other decades including Minecraft and Overwatch from the present, Saturday Night Fever from the 70s, Pulp Fiction from the 90s, and an array of other references with the bulk of them being from the 1980s. Yet, the story itself only loosely connects to those elements, focusing on original characters whose pop cultural influences predate them by decades. As much as the myriad references are a tribute to the films and video games of the past that have influenced much of modern pop culture, the film is rooted in a deep antipathy towards corporate conglomerates who seek nothing more than to monetize and commodify the internet and eliminate what makes it an open and free place for the expression of oneself.

Spielberg isn’t subtle about his anti-capitalist message and that should resonate with the myriad Gen-X’ers and Millennials that can find joy and acceptance in the framework of this movie. Ready Player One may be hindered in ways by its reliance on the past, but that reliance only deepens its ability to connect with audiences of younger generations who can not only appreciate the bountiful number of visual cues and references to pop culture, but who use those references to bolster and open their minds to the possibilities for the future.

Further, Alan Silvestri’s score attempts to remind audiences of John Williams’ many scores, his attempts are in vain as his score is the most frustrating element of the film, the least fact of which is that there are no memorable themes, something Williams was adept at. And Williams’ absence seems all the more disappointing considering his place in pop culture history.

An interesting side note. While I might have missed a couple, I only remember ONE reference to a Spielberg-directed film: the T-Rex from Jurassic Park. As crucial as Spielberg’s filmography is to pop culture, he restrained himself from making this film about him and kept attention squarely focused elsewhere.

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