On this week’s Fresh Films, the gang discusses the film that will more than likely lead to the singularity, Steven Spielberg's Ready Player One.
[“Jump” – Van Halen]
Elliot Kronsberg: I think I’m going to use this podcast to figure out what the fuck was going on…
Marcus Galeano: I thought you said you liked it.
Elliot: I did like it. I do like it. But there a just a few things – I’m very forgiving with movies, unless they’re just horrible. So I can like this a lot and still have problems with it.
Marco Cartolano: I really just thought that this film was just not accurate to the online experience. There was not a single furry convention. Is there a single teabagging?
Elliot: See, we were debating this last night. I feel like, maybe there was. I don’t know. I’d have to look in the background of all those giant setpieces.
Marcus: I think you saw it in between the Battletoads and Spawn and the lady from Overwatch.
Elliot: What is this?
Marcus: Gundam fought Mechagodzilla. Never forget that.
Marco: So welcome to Fresh Films. We’re a podcast devoted to reviewing new films that have come out in Evanston. I’m Marco Cartolano.
Marcus: I’m Marcus Galeano.
Elliot: I’m Elliot Kronsberg.
Marco: Today we’re going to be reviewing Ready Player One, the newest film directed by Steven Spielberg. I hope I don’t need to go into what films he’s made.
Elliot: He’s made 1941...
Elliot: Yeah Always. That was...
Marco: The Lost World.
Elliot: Even though it is a film directed by Steven Spielberg, it’s written by the author of the original book – Ernest Cline, who also wrote Fanboys, the 2009 comedy about guys trying to sneak into Skywalker ranch and watch The Phantom Menace before it comes out in theaters. So Ernest Cline co-wrote the screenplay with Zak Penn who’s done a million things Steven Spielberg-esque. I should probably look up what the fuck he’s done. But, trying to think if there any other important creative minds in this endeavor. Do you know of any, Marco?
Marco: Stanley Kubrick.
Elliot: It’s a spoiler but....
Marco: So the main character is played by Tye Sheridan. His love interest is played by Olivia Cooke. So he’s like this questmaster who is playing a video game in post-scarcity America in Cleveland and he’s become an expert in playing the game. He’s learned all the references that the creator, played by Mark Rylance has embedded in the game in order to solve all these challenges. His love interest is played by Olivia Cooke. She is another sort of expert, but she has real-world stakes in the game too. The moment when he starts to fall in love with her, it’s just like him saying “I love you,” “I think I’m made for you.” Like really cheesy dialogue.
Marcus: Yeah but then she calls him out for it. It’s like, “Yeah that’s bullshit you don’t really know who I am.” I found that aspect of the film conducive of the world that had been presented to me where there aren’t any real world social interactions to base how you’re supposed to behave on. It’s just more, everything is fake and you can put up a wall and just say how you really feel.
Elliot: So the question is, how does she know it’s bullshit? How is she able to call it out?
Marcus: ‘Cause she’s more intune with the real world having actually a dose of reality from all the stuff that happened to her in her past. Which I won’t spoil for those who have not read the book or seen the movie, I don’t know – that was just the sense I got from it. It made sense to me.
Marco: At the end, when he’s giving his big hero monologue – I don’t think that a lot of how he talks to her changes through the duration of the film. Also, she’s revealed to have something about herself that she’s really ashamed of. But it’s just not a big deal at all in real life and it looks really forced and tacked on for their to create some sort of insecurity for her to have.
Marcus: Three words. Gundam vs. Mechagodzilla. That was awesome, I don’t care. I know I got to be professional when I make this podcast, but that was awesome and I don’t care. They did an excellent job of fleshing the head of the evil corporation played by…
Elliot: I liked Ben Mendelsohn a lot.
Marcus He’s so good! He’s so fun!
Elliot: I thought a lot of the actors did good jobs.
Marcus: I thought Tye Sheridan was a little stiff…
Elliot: I didn’t like Tye Sheridan. He was the exception.Marcus: As you sort of get to know him a little bit better and sort of understand his nervousness and his little affectations, you kind of warm up to him a little bit. I found Art3mis and Aech and especially Sorrento much more interesting. But, I say he got the job done.
Elliot: I wanted Art3mis to end up with Aech. I wanted a little twist that maybe Art3mis isn’t interested in this motherfucker. Like, what’s he got going for him? That he noticed a reference in a tape from 30 years ago and he decided to go backwards. Like that’s his big…
Marcus: I still can’t get over that. No one figured how to go backwards in five years of everybody playing this game.
Elliot: I guess he’s like, the smartest player. Like that’s what we’re supposed to take away. Like he can figure that out. He can figure out how to get to The Shining. It’s very cool that they can go inside movies. If they made sequels I would just love for them to go inside movies. I don’t care about all these contests…
Marcus: I like the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory aspect of it. I found that it gave me something to hang onto. Two things I do want to discuss. Mark Rylance, I think is excellent in this film. He adds so much emotional and thematic weight to this film. His character is indispensable in my opinion. The character’s different and more identifiable and almost sympathetic, I guess? Sort of very introverted, maybe has some kind of disorder which provokes anti-social nature. I actually responded to that really well. Second thing I want to discuss. This film lives and dies by Spielberg. Without him, this film absolutely positively does not work. He understands how to make the visuals interesting. The action scenes are fantastic. And yeah the typical Spielberg Schmaltz is spread out thinly through the first two acts and it comes to a head at the end of the third act. And I found it actually very emotionally satisfying and was able to resonate a lot with it.
Marco: I don’t mind the Spielberg Schmaltz in this film, because I’m not someone who is dying for gritty realism in blockbuster movies. And I do think a lot of what Spielberg contributes helps take this movie above what it could have been. His knowledge of film, particularly with The Shining scene, is very useful. I still think that there could have been either more ambition to the world they could create, or that they should have done more with the characters. And maybe it’s just me, but Olivia Cooke having the least ugly birthmark imaginable should not be this big dramatic point.
Marcus: You didn’t find the Prince Zuko birthmark repulsive?
Marco: One: it’s on Olivia Cooke. Two…
Marcus: What else has she been in?
Elliot: Thoroughbreds. She was amazing in Thoroughbreds. She was in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. She was “the Dying Girl.” So I think Olivia Cooke is great and she deserves better than Tye Sheridan. She deserves like, I don’t know, Lena Waithe. I’m not done shipping these two in the film. Not in real life. I don’t know what Olivia Cooke’s dating preferences are. Lena Waithe is engaged, going to be married, so like not in real life. But back to Olivia Cooke’s birthmark. I think that the gamers in this film are some of the nicest gamers I’ve ever heard of.
Marcus: That’s very – there’s no ten-year-old kid saying “I’ll do your mom.”
Elliot: No one ever talks about sexually assaulting anyone else.
Marco: I do appreciate the fact that the referencing comes across a lot better in this film then it probably could have been.
Elliot: So, to circle all the way back, what is that horrible piece of dialogue?
Marco: When Tye Sheridan is confronting Ben Mendelsohn, he says “You killed my mom’s sister.”
Elliot: Aunt, the word is aunt. That was the line I was referring to. Isn’t it so weird that Simon Pegg’s character has spent at least five years being a librarian, basically?
Marcus: Eh, it didn’t phase me.
Eliot: Like that’s what he’s done with his life. His wife died, his best friend died. And first thing he’s like, “I’m going to help kids solve the puzzle.”
Marcus: Didn’t bother me.
[“Back to the Future Part II Theme” – Alan Silvestri]
Marco: So, let’s move on now to final thoughts. Elliot, you want to go first?
Elliot: I mean it’s a Steven Spielberg film. And it’s really interesting because of that fact. If anybody else had made it, we probably wouldn’t be talking about it like we are. It would be just another blockbuster adaptation of a young adult novel. But it’s a Steven Spielberg movie, and that’s why we care. I liked a lot of the performances and I thought how they handled the referencing, like Marco said, how they were able to add all this IP into the visuals without directly addressing most of it. I’d say a good chunk of what they see, they don’t talk about. You get whatever Warner Brothers could get their hands on at that point. So of course you don’t see Star Wars, you don’t see Marvel, Steven Spielberg purposefully limits the amount of Spielberg memorabilia present in the film. Which in hindsight is a little weird. These kids have grown up knowing all this stuff except Steven Spielberg movies. He was one of the biggest filmmakers of the last 50 years. And all we get is Jurassic Park T. Rex and the DeLorean from Back to the Future which he produced; he didn’t direct it. But it was all around a solid film visually. Acting-wise, most of the acting’s good with some highlights. Mark Rylance was great, Tye Sheridan was not so great. So it all evens out. I would recommend it. What about you, Marco?
Marco: So, I do think that this is pretty solid blockbuster film. Steven Spielberg's ability to make a functioning film on autopilot now really helped this film. There were a lot of really great scenes. I really thought the Shining scene was interesting from a film history perspective as well as visually. There were some great performances in Mark Rylance. I thought Olivia Cooke was really good. I thought that Lena Waithe was very good in a supporting role. I thought that the main character really didn’t transcend his dweebiness at the end. In general, I would have liked more fleshed-out characters. Maybe some more time spent talking about the main five, but I still think it’s a solid action film and a solid blockbuster. Marcus, what did you think?
Marcus: I thought it was actually quite delightful. The whole “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory but VR video game on a global scale” really helps you hang the story on. And it manages to guide you with the story progression. It really makes you feel like a passenger on this train and I actually find it quite enthralling. It’s visually stunning. I’d say it’s one of maybe like five or ten movies that actually look good with 3D. I saw it in 3D cause I had no other choice, cause I usually don’t like that – but in this film it works quite well. I thought I was invested with most of the characters, especially Mark Rylance and Ben Mendelsohn and Olivia Cooke. As I said before, Tye Sheridan is a little shaky sometimes, but he gets the job done. I’m sure with a more complex and meaty role he could be good in other things, but he did the job fine for me. Music’s great. It doesn’t over-reference, there’s a lot of easter eggs and I’m not usually a guy who goes in for that sort of thing, but here it worked. It’s funny. It’s great action. Good music. I enjoyed it thoroughly.
Elliot: Alright, this has been Fresh Films from NBN Audio. You can catch us online in the audio section at NorthbyNorthwestern.com. Or on Apple Podcasts. This has been Elliot Kronsberg.
Marcus: Marcus Galeano.
Marco: Marco Cartolano.
Elliot: See you.
[“Ending Credits” from Buckaroo Banzai – Michael Boddicker]