Saturday, March 31, 2018

"Ready Player One," a review


In Monty Python's "the Holy Grail," there's a part where a transvestite young squire shoots a message out his window, encouraging any would-be courageous knight to rescue her. Lancelot discovers the note, goes through -- that is, kills -- countless guards and castle-guests on way to her tower, and meets the "princess" who was being held captive, forced to marry against desires. Clearly he was not expecting her but rather the more traditional sort of princess, and immediately starts backpedaling, cooperating with the lord of the manor's what-not conversations, to pretend whole immersion in them, so that surely THAT has been the only thing that has been on his mind since he entered the castle and so not possibly could he have been expected to notice that the lord in mid-conversation with him is also cutting a rope that his son is using to escape the tower, so to plummet to her death, and so to save them both any subsequent discomfort by his "malformed" nature and Lancelot's once-"expressed" devotion to her.

"Ready Player One" was primed to present something of the same scenario. For each player meets one-another only in guise of their chosen avatar, meaning that in order not to be somewhat shocked when you meet the people behind the avatars, you'd have to assume that most people choose those that bear strong physical likenesses to their own selves. They couldn't be, that is, any of the people on facebook who are constantly signing up to be shown which famous movie actor they resemble, for one'd assume that such people actually don't much look all that much like the stars they're being told they resemble but are open to considering that they might be. The movie doesn't want to show any of these kids confronting their friends with disappointment, of being confronted themselves with the fact that they bear any kind of prejudice, based on looks, that can't actually be abated through long-acquaintance with someone as friend, so the guy with the cute guy avatar is actually a cute guy, the girl with the cute girl avatar is a cute girl, the boy with the enormous but teddy-bear-loyal visage is actually a large tom-boy. It pretends it DIDN'T just offer up what you wanted -- for don't you see that the best friend you hoped was a guy... though maybe you didn't, only that he could he could serve as a loyal "guyish" friend, which up to a certain age, tom-boy girls do just as readily, IS ACTUALLY A GIRL!!!

The creator of the game is the one who created the "Shining" portion of it, where characters are basically encouraged to experience a first-person reliving of all the scariest parts of the film, only it it isn't him who withholds the fact from the audience that the reason Stephen King didn't like Kubrick's version is that he thought Kubrick was trying to hurt people with it, permanently scar them. Spielberg is the one who withholds that fact from the audience, so that if they haven't seen "the Shining" they in the midst of a film where every expectation gets met find themselves stung by the feeling of sudden betrayal... dispensed via Kubrick. HERE the beautiful woman who looks beautiful at first, metamorphosisizes into an aged ghoul when you're kissing her; she doesn't just grow an-actually-rather-pleasing-and-so-more-of-an-accent-than-a-deformity birthmark: that was Spielberg, everywhere else in this movie. Great. And considering it is after this that the kids meet in person, Spielberg didn't even make use of this other-director-given latitude to acquaint the kids with some appreciation that the people they hoped would look a certain way in person, maybe won't actually look that way at all -- they might even be ugly, or old, or "disgraced" by illness -- and that could be actually okay.

Unless he was thinking that in turning the movie into a ghoul-hunt game he was helping transition one's experience of the horror into a format you'd have previous experience knowing mastery, Spielberg helps make sure that much more of the world that wasn't hurt by "The Shining," simply now are, but hopes you consider it your good fortune, for now you savour watching other "newbies" innocently becoming acquainted with the same horrors: the film considers funny a whole horde of the enemy players in convulsions over being kissed and mauled by the old-woman corpse, as well as being later hacked at in her guise as a ginormous axe-wielder. This is a replay of situation where some people who were familiar with the "Game of Throne" books made sure to be in the company of their innocent friends as they experienced what they experienced in the Red Wedding Sequence, where countless characters you'd come to care about are suddenly, shockingly, murdered before your eyes. Do we really believe any good comes out of this? How does one become a high-horse corporate asshole in the first place, if not through learning to enjoy seeing others squirm in shock and powerlessness? THIS would have been the notable moment in the film of someone stepping in to save another, not the earlier moment when our main hero deterred his would-be girlfriend from defeat by a grasping King Kong, for rather than finding oneself dispensed into cash coins others would collect to their profit it'd have been from something really, really not so pleasant. And, since apparently Spielberg's mind was never truly sympathetic to the notion of sparing people, it of course didn't happen.

We're not supposed to like any of the players of the opposing team, the people-drones who work for the corporation that more or less seems to own the world and that is trying to solve the game's puzzle so to claim legal ownership over the big piece missing -- the game -- as well... until it comes time that we do. Somewhere near the end of the film we suddenly find that some of the youth that are directly assisting the corporate head in solving the most difficult problems, are granted some personality... or rather, suddenly, without any apparent prompt, activate, claim ownership of their own choices, and begin to act in ways that here-to only our heroes have been permitted to: they start thinking independently; they resist group-think; and aren't okay-smart but (dramatized at least as) original-minded (Spielberg isn't actually interested in the originality gamers routinely display, for if so he'd of shown respect for actions that more often distinguish innovative players... like for example what equipment to select of the multitudinous available, and why they chose this item over that, what moves to make in combat or in navigating a course, and why they end up being tellingly different from what others do, etc.) The result of this is that by the end of the film we don't rejoice that all the countless kids working for the corporation have been humiliated, but instead experience a we're-all-in-this-together kind of feeling. This is true outside only a few jerks -- jerks, we note, we've taken every opportunity to show up and humiliate, show how careless and stupid they actually are, how wholly lacking in imagination they are, even in their own playgrounds: the movie does not ascent that we imagine that in finances at least, our villain is something of a creative.

Spielberg's understanding of the Holocaust must have been that it was Hitler only -- the Germans were just waiting to be rescued of him, but since help never arrived were requited to being "good Germans" -- and is in a rush to make sure we don't go off this narrative, maybe so that a sense can be further maintained that if we throw off our currently emerged tyrants all might be comfortable in the way Spielberg had long-acclimatized himself to, our now-passing "paradise on earth," that was paradise for him as he acclimatized himself as a comfortable partisan of '80s ethics, patriarch over an empire -- Earth itself? -- he chooses to view as equally bequeathed and happy. He doesn't want to imagine some kind of permanent fracture in the populace that can't be mended by overthrowing a manipulative and bullying monarch, because it would mean that the Spielberg magic was something of a cruel cloak thrown over people that stopped them from make a plausible case that we weren't united in our innocence and goodness, through the 1980s and on, but had become two packs of people who were failing to see anything truly admirable in the other.

Might be time to at least suggest that the matter might have been more complex, might have been other, unless we're caught with all our eggs in one basket and Trump himself does end up being taken away by the police owing to Russia, or prostitutes... actually killing people, but still -- Trumpism. Spielberg may want to insist on a certain way of seeing things for it's the base onto which he set his own fortified castle without his feeling guilty. But if in fact the world's becoming transparently a swamp, a swamp which might even eventually willy-nilly sink his own castle... but even if not, make films that show something awry in our expectations of people, something that undoes the Spielberg-spell

...like for example "hero-kids" who don't so much show through their preferences that they'd be naturally averse to dictatorships, but who'd maybe find them compelling, especially if for example they promised them a new glorified life that dissipated their previous memories of debilitation and lack of empowerment, a New Order, an "oasis," of hope and restitution. So as the dangerous offer, not an evidently evil villain offering our hero an evidently corrupt paradise so long as he sells his friends out, but an escape out of poverty into the Oasis itself, in its ostensible original and purified form, headed by an ostensibly benign miracle-worker.

When this vision comes, it's never about distinguishing and saluting people as individuals, originals, creatives, but in banding them together as a worthy pack. People who once thought "selfishly" become "common cause." The book behind this film was made for a counter-current interpretation, à la Kubrick, not someone due to borrow upon its huge popularity to leverage the possibility that nothing has changed since he helped fashion the narrative in the 1980s that nothing averse was going on as behind the scenes one group went on to success and another become unrooted, as we were all quintessentially the same Americans, bound, mutually, for our limitless futures.



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