This one was a lot of fun. The 2018 pop culture reference filled cinematic experience directed by Steven Spielberg was a blast to watch. There was a lot too enjoy; the amazing spectacle of the Oasis, the intense real-stakes plot, and the characters that I couldn’t help but root for.
I just want to get this out of the way from the beginning. Yes, there was a book the movie is based off. Yes, I read this book. Yes, the movie changes almost everything about the details of the story and references. However this review isn’t about the book or the movie’s comparison. And if I’m being perfectly honest, I think the stuff they didn’t change was more important; the two main love birds, Parzial and Art3mis, played by Tye Sherdian and Olivia Cooke. This is a love story and a damn good one at that. They even mention in the movie how it is a little clique, but I was rooting for these two the whole time. The fact that it felt like an organic relationship developing, in the middle of this insane fantasy chaotic world, should be something more writers attempt for. Tye did a great job being a loner that just wanted to get away from his shitty life, and happened to not mess up a chance with the girl of his dream. And Olivia kicked ass at playing the cold as ice girl on a mission, who couldn’t help but get distracted by an innocent guy in a world full of evil people. As long as the writers, Zak Penn and Ernest Cline, kept that dynamic, then let them change all the references. I didn’t know half of them from the book anyways.
For a movie thats entire plot was to find one ‘Easter Egg’, there were ten million Easter Eggs. I could not tell you how many times I had a smile on my face because I saw Batman, Borderlands, or The Ninja Turtles. References and nostalgia make you feel good, it’s just science. There is a moment in the movie where Halladay is in a room with an avatar version of himself as a child, and he says “sometimes it’s good to keep him around.” Seeing something that you experienced in your past just reminds you of how happy you were when you were a kid. And I cannot see a single person not finding at least one thing in this movie that reminds you of something you remember fondly. There is however a specific moment in this movie where the main characters have to relive another real world movie. This is not a “feel good because I am reminded of happy times” movie like say Ferris Buller’s Day Off. No, this was, in my opinion, one of the scariest movies of all time. And it is arguably the best moment in the entire fucking movie! I’ve heard some people complain that there are too many references, and I guess there is a bit much when every panel of the movie has me distracted thinking “who is that from?” but I wouldn’t be able to find another movie where there is a race scene with the Delorean from Back to the Future and the bike from Akira running away from the Jurassic Park T-Rex and King Kong. Or a giant fight scene with Duke Nukem, Freedy Kuger, The Iron Giant, and Fucking Chucky!
The graphics were some of the greatest I have ever seen in a movie. Incredibly talented people worked on these scenes. I was almost tempted to list all of them, but that would have taken up most of the review. I just want to say I wish I would have seen this movie in theaters because watching these amazingly detailed battle scenes, or sweeping long shows on environments I will never see in real life, or the amount of detail in the faces of these Oasis characters is just breath taking. Now they were not photo realistic graphics like Star Wars or a superhero movie, but I believe that was the point. You needed to separate the Oasis visually from the real world. Only one of them is well… real, so only one of them should look it.
The message by the end of the movie was pretty simple: ‘get off the internet and go outside every once in a while you damn kids’. At least that is what Steven Spielberg, a 71 year old man, is telling you. This message actually kind of rubbed me the wrong way. The entire movie is all about how important the Oasis is, how beating the corporate overlords is the right thing to do because a second life simulation needs to stay pure and fair. The main character’s arc is actually a perfect argument against that point. He spends so much time in the game because he hates his life, having to put up with physical and emotional abuse. His only friends are ones he met in real life. Even the girl he gets in the end, seen making out with him as he announces how the real world is so much more important, was introduced through the internet. I feel like the point is valid, moderation is the key to all things, except pop culture references in movies, but I wish there was more of an overall transition through out the movie for the character to come to this realization. Perhaps show characters whose lives have become worse from spending all their time in the internet.
Ninety Nine percent of this cast is amazing. I already praised the two main characters, but in all honesty there were so many great performances. Ben Mendelsohn played a great bad guy. He is one of those actors that makes every movie he is in better. His right hand woman is the insanely stunning Hannah John-Kamen, who played a great soulless criminal that has no problem killing kids. It’s no wonder she got bumped up to main antagonist in Ant Man and The Wasp. The rest of the High Five friends of Wade, played by Lena Waithe, Win Morsaki, and Philip Zhao, each had their own shinning moments in the movie… Now I would have loved to have said “the entire cast is amazing”, and 99% of them are, however T.J. Miller is in this movie. His character is just the worst. He plays a mercenary player that is a bad guy I guess. However he doesn’t do anything or contribute anything to the plot. I think he was supposed to be comedic relief, but nothing he says is funny. Every second his character was on screen I would roll my eyes. A movie cannot reach Shawshank Redemption levels of good with choices like that.
I actually had a few issues with this movie. One was definitely the music. You have the entire 80’s catalog of music at your disposal and you select the Bee Gee’s and Twisted Sister? I’m listening to a Hall and Oates Pandora station right now in shock that none of these tracks were in the movie. I know I said I wasn’t going to bring up the book, however there is an entire section of the story that has to do with the band Rush, which actually had a song in the first commercial for this movie, yet not one song from them was in this film. Also… while I’m on the subject of the book, I just also want to mention the character Ogden Morrow, played very well by Simon Pegg, had a lot more to do in the novel version of the story. I would have very much liked to have seen that character more in the film.
Ultimately this was a very fun ride. There were amazing graphics. There were millions of references to the point were anyone could say “oh shit, did you see *insert thing they’re a very big nerd for* in that scene?” There was love and a thrilling story and good guys you want to win and bad guys you want to hate. Not only does this movie survive The Snappening, but I will be using the Time Stone to watch it again and again.
Movie watched and review written by: Troy Smith