14 March 2018 | CobertNeede
The book might be better, but the references work better on screen
Ernest Cline's fast-moving novel was a treasure trove for pop-culture junkies, but the endless references work better on the screen.
The year is 2045; the place is Columbus, Ohio. Our hero, Wade Watts, fills in the details while climbing past his grungy homes of his town, "the stacks," where trailer parks are piled on top of each other sky-high. Things are so miserable in Wade's world, everyone escapes to play in an immersive virtual reality game known as the Oasis. Its founder, James Halliday is worshipped like a god until his death some years before. However, before he left the mortal world, the creator left behind a series of games that would reward the winner with the prize of the keys to his virtual kingdom.
The book was a fast paced adventure that took its time to geek out on all of the 80's pop culture references but the film doesn't do that. . Spielberg doesn't have Wade (the titular character) talk audiences through it, and he doesn't spell out the references, he just quickly stamps down the Delorean in the middle of a action sequence and then continues onward. Fans can pause it frame by frame and analyse it thoroughly looking for the flux capacitor on the dashboard, checking the plates, and scanning for extra bonus material. Even to people who've never seen the Back to the Future movies and aren't vibing on the connection, the car doesn't need explaining. It's just a sleek piece of visual energy, one breathless element among dozens of others. That's why the movie works better than the books in terms of visual style and nostalgia.
The thin plot and the not so well done shallow characters make the film to be just a pop culture reference filled visual treat. Several plot holes( If movement is required to move an avatar in the game, how do people play in the Oasis while standing in their living rooms?) and a non-existent character arc makes it a fun, but a tangible watch. They're all already heroes, the big bad is evil from start to finish.
The story's breakneck speed, it's never ending references, make it a fun, exciting watch.