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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Ready Player One movie review: trivial pursuit*

Ready Player One red light

MaryAnn’s quick take…
A nightmare of nothingness, of empty, soulless wankery, that serves only to reassure male dorks that their pop-culture obsessions make them special, and will make cute girls like them.tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): mostly a big fan of Spielberg…
I’m “biast” (con): …but he’s faltering more often these days
I have read the source material (and I hate it)
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
women’s participation in this film
male director, male screenwriter, male protagonist
(learn more about this)

Oh, what a terrible dystopia. The year is 2045. Society is collapsing. Everybody is poor and desperate. Rule is seemingly by corporations, which distract the citizenry from their misery with digital circuses and drone-delivered pizza. The last hope for humanity: the benevolence of billionaires.

No, wait: that’s today. Bill Gates is trying to fix malaria, Mark Zuckerberg is trying to fix public education, and George Soros is trying to fix the refugee crisis. At least those are their whims at the moment. (Yes, the pizza thing is happening, too.) Isn’t that wonderful? Who needs robust taxation of the rich and democratic socialist governments to take care of their citizens when we all we have to do is hope — pretty please? — that those we all made insanely wealthy will give back in some way that might benefit the planet and its people? Maybe even counteract the damage fostered by all the other insanely wealthy people. (Hell, Zuckerberg is showing us that sometimes, one insanely wealthy man can be on both sides of that equation.)

Ads all over the Internet! What kind of monster would hatch such a fiendish notion?

Ads all over the Internet! What kind of monster would hatch such a fiendish notion?

And this is what we’re meant to root for in Ready Player One. In the year 2045, a virtual-reality kind of Internet called the OASIS, in which many people spend the vast majority of their lives, is up for grabs. Its creator, James Halliday (Mark Rylance: Dunkirk, The BFG) — who looks and acts like an ancient Garth Algar* — has died and left behind a secret easter egg hidden somewhere in the OASIS, which is its own enormous universe. Solve the riddles and challenges leading to it, and the winner will get not only Halliday’s fortune — half a trillion dollars — but total control of the OASIS. Which is, as noted by the greedy corporate villain who means to win, “the world’s most important economic resource.” This asshole, Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn: Darkest Hour, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) of megacorp IOI, means to plaster ads all over the OASIS. That’s how evil he is. (Pay no attention to the product placement in this movie.)

Parzival’s OASIS ride is the Back to the Future DeLorean. Because he is a sad, unimaginative pop-culture parasite with no taste or preferences of his own.

Parzival’s OASIS ride is the Back to the Future DeLorean. Because he is a sad, unimaginative pop-culture parasite with no taste or preferences of his own.

Never mind the horror of Halliday’s contest, which has absolutely no brakes on it to prevent the likes of Sorrento from winning. Never mind this unconscionable behavior on the part of an insanely wealthy man, deciding that the future of humanity — the movie makes it plain that this is the case — should rest upon the result of a game. Surely everything will be made right if only young Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan: X-Men: Apocalypse, Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse) can win? Surely he’d do right by the OASIS and all its users and certainly wouldn’t be corrupted by all that money, right?

The laziest sort of writing, fueled by the unthinkingest sort of white-male privilege, is what posits Wade, known as Parzival in the OASIS, as Our Hero. He’s an empty shell of a person about whom we know nothing except that he’s a sad orphan, a trait he shares with Bruce Wayne*, Frodo Baggins*, James Bond*, and Harry Potter*, so I guess he must be worthy? We have no idea what he thinks about or what he likes beyond 1) an obsession with 1980s pop culture, because that’s what Halliday was into and that’s what will provide clues in the easter egg hunt; 1a) an obsession with Halliday, because ditto; and 2) a deep and abiding love for Samantha, OASIS handle Art3mis (Olivia Cooke: The Limehouse Golem, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl), because she’s digital-hot (he knows her, as the film opens, only as her OASIS avatar) and also she shares his obsessions.

Tip for boys: You’ll know a girl really loves you when she willingly sacrifices herself to corporate dronehood for you.

Tip for boys: You’ll know a girl really loves you when she willingly sacrifices herself to corporate dronehood for you.

I mean, Ready Player One isn’t even willing to concede that perhaps Samantha might be worthy of winning. Worthy of supporting Wade in his quest, of course, because that’s what “the girl” — as she is referred to as by the villain multiple times — is for. (This is not the sort of 80s nostalgia we need.) Ready Player One the movie doubles down on the awfulness of the Art3mis/Samantha character in the book, in which Wade stalks her and creeps on her despite her protestations to leave her alone until she suddenly decides she loves him, too. Here, a (possible?) attempt to make her a more well-rounded character by implying that she is leading some sort of “rebellion” (against IOI?) — General Organa*, call your office — is immediately trashed when she is pretty instantly won over by the feckless Wade’s wildly inappropriate declaration of love for her, and also by her bizarre insistence that she suddenly “believes in” him. We have literally no idea what she is talking about. Not about the “rebellion,” nor about believing in Wade. But for some reason, she is all in for Wade, to a revoltingly self-sacrificing degree.

So very much has been altered in the transfer from book to screen. All the challenges and puzzles are completely different; what were small, personal tests — one person playing a retro videogame, for instance — are now overblown CGI action spectacles. (I actually wonder whether anyone who liked the book will like this movie.) The timeline is ridiculously compressed: what took years in the book now occurs over less than a couple of days, which makes it even less plausible when “gunters,” or easter-egg hunters, who had been Wade’s rivals instantly become his allies helping him win. (I’ll leave you to guess why the gunter team of Sho [Philip Zhao] and Daito [Win Morisaki] are not worthy of winning, only of helping Wade. Even Wade’s best-friend-in-the-OASIS, Aech, pronounced “H,” cannot be considered a potential winner, in the eyes of the story, when “he” turns out to be Helen [Lena Waithe], who is not only a woman but black.)

Note to future UI designers: No one actually wants a clear screen. Opaque that shit.

Note to future UI designers: No one actually wants a clear screen. Opaque that shit.

The script, by Zak Penn (The Avengers, The Incredible Hulk) and RP1 novelist Ernest Cline, is a very truncated version of the book, but it still finds time for enormous plot holes — the security at IOI is impossibly lax; the realism of the OASIS graphics varies depending on the needs of the plot — and so many deus ex machina gadgets that characters would have to be godlike to anticipate a need for. Director Steven Spielberg (The Post, Bridge of Spies) crams way too much into every OASIS setting, so many random pop-culture references and allusions that you can’t digest them. There’s no irony in it, no real sense of humor, barely even any context beyond engaging in a masturbatory nostalgia. (Which is what a certain cadre of fans will be doing when they slobber over the eventual blu-ray release to screengrab and catalogue them all.) In the real-world settings, Spielberg cribs from himself: I got flashbacks to Minority Report, and they don’t come with even any of the same weary self-awareness that visual references to Jurassic Park and War of the Worlds do, like it was inevitable that he’d repeat himself here, since his work is stuff that is fueling the nostalgia. Almost two and a half hours of this nightmare of nothingness, of empty, soulless wankery, feels a helluva lot longer.

But we see now what Cline feels is the heart and soul of his book. What survives the transition to the big screen is the total, ultimate male dork fantasy: That a head full of useless trivia about movies and comics and videogames not only makes you special but will save the world. That wildly inappropriate declarations of love will always be reciprocated. That you should never, ever hesitate to kiss the girl (don’t worry: she’ll love it). That, basically, you are just super duper awesome, dude.

If the rest of us would simply put our trust in geeky, awkward white boys, we just won’t go wrong, will we?

*pop-culture reference! (+20 points)

Click here for my ranking of this and 2018’s other theatrical releases.

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Ready Player One (2018) | directed by Steven Spielberg
US/Can release: Mar 29 2018
UK/Ire release: Mar 28 2018

MPAA: rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action violence, bloody images, some suggestive material, partial nudity and language
BBFC: rated 12A (moderate violence, horror, infrequent strong language)

viewed in 3D
viewed at a public multiplex screening

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.

  • Bluejay

    We’d better brace for the Rotten Tomatoes horde.


  • David S Ferrara

    Did this film kill your dad?

  • Jeremy G Branch

    Wow… this kind of article makes me cringe.

    Just came to read your thoughts on the movie, now I realize what a garbage person I am for being born a straight white male.
    I know, I know- whoa is me; right?
    That’s not what I’m saying at all.

    Does progress really require villainizing “men/whites/nerds” (or anyone else for that matter)?

    I know; it’s cheeky because “the white man” has been oppressing people for 1000s of years.
    But not me.

    I’m not going to sit here and pretend that things are all right in the world or that we see equal representation of all groups in film, but at some point this kind of rhetoric becomes reductive.

    Film is a place that we watch an idealized version of ourselves be the hero, get the girl, and save the day. If the story were about a female protagonist (Wonder Woman) and someone said that Steve Trevor was objectified or sidelined to sacrifice himself at the end FOR A WOMAN; that would make them a jerk, right?

    It would also make me an idiot to assume that the film had an agenda outside of “to entertain”.

    We can all enjoy eachother’s stories together, as long as we all play nice together.

    Take it how you want, and process it how you will, I’m not here to tell you you are wrong, it’s just your opinion,
    And this is mine.

  • swag

    go stream ready-player-one enjoy : CYBERXCINEMA.BLOGSPOT.COM

  • Jacob Redmon

    Oh, man…I don’t usually comment on things like this, but this review is just too good to be true. It’s absolutely hilarious. I’m gonna read this over and over again.

    Your hypocrisy never ceases to astound me. You claim to be a geek, and to love geek culture, and yet you mercilessly tear down anything that celebrates it. (Because God forbid anyone actually ENJOY liking things, right?) Any time a film dares to suggest that culture fans should enjoy themselves and take pride in their community, you plunge into some unrelated rant about socialism (??) or some perceived desecration of your gender. (Pro tip: women like this movie/book too.)

    You talk about male characters in these sorts of stories as if they’re all rapist pigs who do nothing but stare at breasts all day, and you constantly refer to any kind of enthusiasm for nostalgia and geek culture as “masturbation.” And yet looking back, you’ve made it painfully, awkwardly obvious…more so than any male critic I’ve ever read…that you were masturbating while writing your reviews of Wonder Woman and Ghostbusters 2016. The latter was particularly painful to read. (We get it. You want to fuck Kate McKinnon. Keep it in your pants.)

    You claim to be a pop culture enthusiast and lover of geeky things, but you also proclaim that anyone who takes joy in those is a brainless idiot with no identity of their own. So, are you describing how you view yourself when you rage against nerds, like Chris Cooper talking about gay people in American Beauty, or do you just pretend to be a geek because you think it will get you internet cred?

    The sheer amount of seething hatred you feel for everything and everyone that tries to feel happiness and take solace in fantasy is kind of shocking and sad, and makes me wonder if you’ve ever really experienced any kind of joy in your life (that wasn’t dictated to you by whatever psycho lesbian cult you were raised in). The only emotions you seem to express, in any of your reviews, are whining crybaby anger or vapid, transparent horniness. Kind of like what you think men are like. Seriously, have you ever actually “liked” anything? What mad scientist reanimated PL Travers’ frigid corpse and had her suck your soul out through your ass?
    Your incoherent, rambling nonsense and your seething, pouty, feminist anger at the idea of geeks enjoying themselves is absolutely a joy to read. Thank you for giving me a good laugh.

    (PS I also love how you scream about how much you hate this book and rant about ads in this review, and yet there’s ads for this book and movie on your site. Laughing all the way to the bank, are we?)

  • Jacob Redmon

    Nah, she would have given it glowing praise if it killed her dad. He’s a filthy “man” after all.

  • Tim

    Holy polemic, Batman. I had a fun time and thought it actually improved upon the toxic “nerdier-than-thou” qualities of the book. *shrug*

  • Andrew

    I simply like this review.
    Very honest and slick.
    Enjoyed reading it.
    And I agree, this movie is made for a very niche crowd.
    And dorks tend to never grow up.
    I find dorks hard to deal with. They like their Easter Eggs.

  • Danielm80

    They showed up less than fifteen minutes after you posted that video, and none of them know how to use quotation marks. The video turns out to be a huge understatement.

  • Vid

    I realize this is a movie review, but you obviously didn’t read the book. Both the male and female protagonists were awkward introverted social outcasts and neither were good-looking or fit. And as a good-looking nerd; I can tell you there are plenty of women that love fantasy, sci-fi, programming, and games.

  • Billy

    It’s mostly Guys who live in fantasy worlds .
    Woman are more realistic .
    And they change .
    And progress .
    While still keeping their cool jobs .billu

  • I very much appreciated this review, as I do all your reviews. I’m sorry about whatever redpilled group put a sign on your back and targeted all this vitriol your way.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    “failed to comprehend it”? Are you fucking kidding me? It’s not that deep a book. I liked it more than MAJ did, but I still only rate it at “competent first novel”. It’s cliche ridden, leans too heavily on nostalgia (even given its premise), the characterizations are superficial, but the plot holds together reasonably well, and the prose style is seldom cringe inducing. In short, it was entertaining, but ripe for criticism. In fact, and gain despite enjoying it myself, the criticisms I’ve read are far more compelling than the defences.

  • Is this film your dad?

  • The fact that you seem unable to tell the difference between real people and very badly written fictional characters kinda underscores the thesis of my review.

  • now I realize what a garbage person I am for being born a straight white male

    As I just said to another commenter, the fact that you seem unable to tell the difference between real people and very badly written fictional characters kinda underscores the thesis of my review.

    But not me.

    Did you just “Not All Men” me?

    Film is a place that we watch an idealized version of ourselves be the hero, get the girl, and save the day.

    I do not see an idealized version of myself in this movie. I do not want to “get the girl.”

    Wait. You think Wade is “idealized”? Wow.

    Do you not already have more than enough movies that fit this definition of what you want?

    It would also make me an idiot to assume that the film had an agenda outside of “to entertain”.

    It didn’t entertain me. I am not entertained by seeing women treated as prizes for loser dorks who have no personality.

    Re Steve Trevor: the men sidekicks in the EXTREMELY RARE movies with female protagonists are invariably much more robust and well-rounded characters than the female sidekicks in movies about men.

  • In what way did the movie improve the toxicity?

  • you obviously didn’t read the book (or failed to comprehend it).

    As noted right at the top of the review, I *have* read the book. It’s hardly difficult to comprehend. In fact, I’ve read the book twice: I live-tweeted by reread a couple of weeks ago:


    Both the male and female protagonists

    I don’t know what you think a protagonist is, but there is no female protagonist in RPO, not in the book and not in the movie.

    I can tell you there are plenty of women that love fantasy, sci-fi, programming, and games.

    As a female geek, I don’t need you to tell me that. So why doesn’t the book or movie seem to realize this?

    there was definite chemistry between the characters

    No, there was only Wade’s fantasy. Unless you’re agreeing with the book and movie that when a woman says “No, stop, I’m not interested,” she’s lying.

    despite her real appearance was far less attractive than her avatar’s

    Holy shit, are you for real? Samantha is adorable, both in the book and the movie. But she’s constructed as an attractive woman who thinks she isn’t attractive, so that she will be charmed and delighted when Wade insists that he is able to see past her lack of physical perfection. The book and movie actively neg Samantha, making Wade into some sort of paragon for finding her attractive. “Well, *I* think you’re beautiful” is NOT a compliment… except to man saying it: he’s congratulating himself for being better than all those other men. It’s also a subtle warning: “Better stay with me, cuz no one else will want you.”

    All the protagonists won the game with teamwork, not just the male geek.

    No, they were all helping him win. That he decides to share his money and power with them comes after HE has won. So we’re back to the benevolence of billionaires I discussed.

    the take away should be beware of government corporate oligopoly of social media

    And all that money and power is better in the hands of a single individual, or even a few?

  • Seth

    What is with you against people who love pop-culture? Did you “actually” watch the movie or read the book or are you just playing this by ear? Trying reviewing the acutally movie and not offending the people who enjoy it.
    The oasis is where people can be free and do anything and clearly you don’t understand that understand how that understanding works. The creator of the Oasis had all those references so all those keys could be found to get to the egg. I simply think your overthinking it.

  • deering24

    What surprised me most about RPO was how lackluster much of the casting was. Except for Rylance and Waithe (who got little to really do), there wasn’t anyone here who didn’t look like escapees from a fifth-rate YA-movie franchise. Usually, one of the pleasures of Spielberg’s movies are how vivid and entertaining even the throwaway characters are. Not so here.

  • deering24

    “Film is a place that we watch an idealized version of ourselves be the hero, get the girl, and save the day.”

    Who’s “we,” Jeremy? It sure isn’t women geeks like me who are past tired of this white knight garbage dictating every other movie out there. The girl-as-prize thing was tired back in the 80’s—and should have gotten a stake through the heart then. For Spielberg to present it with no irony, satire, or awareness makes no sense in an era where just the female cast of BLACK PANTHER shows how weak this characterization cliche is.

  • Jeremy Miller

    I wasn’t going to watch this movie till I read your white man hating snobby opinion. Going to take the whole family too it this weekend. Including my loving wife. Thank you.

  • Danielm80

    I’m surprised by the number of people who watch movies because they think it will make someone else unhappy. Quick, MaryAnn, it’s time to post a comment about how much you hate In a World… and the Ghostbusters reboot and any upcoming feminist movies that need help at the box office.

  • So does artemis actually have the real birthmark? I pictured it as being on half of her face. Somehow I doubt that is what they did in the movie.
    Everything you describe is straight out of the crappy book. I’m not sure what Spielberg could have done besides totally change the story and make better characters.
    Sounds like the movie is bunk because the book was bunk.
    Mecha Godzilla better be in it.

  • Jeremy Miller

    Since there is a feminist “war” on white makes..don’t be surprised that we take it personally.

  • bronxbee

    there’s been a “masculine” war on women for thousands of years… get over yourself butterfly.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Sure, snowflake. We totally believe you were gonna give this a pass, until the mean lady on the internet bullied you into it, Truly, you are the hero we deserve.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Also, be sure to tell that “loving wife” that the only reason you’re dragging her to a movie you don’t even want to see is to make it clear that there’s no way you’re gonna let some [woman] tell you what to do. That’ll do wonders for your marriage.

  • Stacy Livitsanis

    Contemplates going to see Ready Player One.
    Sees that The Last Jedi is released on blu-ray the same week as RPO opens.
    Watches Last Jedi again at home and feels really good about it.

    Momentarily overlooking the story, is there anything interesting about this movie as far as film grammar? Your review didn’t cover much of that. Even in Speilberg’s lesser movies he manages to at least include some interesting shots, but the trailers for Ready Player One make it all look absolutely hideous, with an ugly, muted digital palette, even in the Oasis scenes. Kind of like The Matrix if the matrix itself looked as grim and boring as the real world scenes.

  • Lola Montez

    I disliked the novel too, but I had forgotten WHY. Thanks for reminding me.

  • Jeremy Miller

    Fight on then. Being a male nurse with female bosses and co-workers doesn’t bother me. But this butterfly will stick up for himself. Good luck in your fight. You will need it.

  • Jeremy Miller

    Quite happy in my marriage thanks. The opinion in the article did sway me to see it. So I guess she did talk me into it. Thanks for your concern for my well being🤣

  • Jacob Redmon

    “As a female geek.” Seriously, it’s hilarious to me that you keep referring to yourself that way. You clearly hate geeks. You hate geek culture. Almost everything you write is a screed against anyone who actually enjoys scifi and fantasy and escapism, unless it preaches/conforms to a very specific worldview.

  • Jacob Redmon

    And the fact that you delete anyone who points out how hypocritical and hate-filled you are kinda underscores the thesis of my comment. So here we are.

  • I did not delete your comment.

  • You hate geek culture.

    I certainly hate the toxic swamp that some parts of geek culture has become. Such as the very gatekeeping you are engaging in. You don’t get to decide who is a geek and who isn’t.

  • Explain to me how anything about this movie is about a love of pop culture. Tell me why Wade loves *Back to the Future.* Tell me how there is any indication at all if Wade even understands BTTF, or the movies of John Hughes.

    I’ll wait.

  • You’re welcome.

  • So does artemis actually have the real birthmark?

    She does. It does not detract from her cuteness one tiny bit.

    I’m not sure what Spielberg could have done besides totally change the story and make better characters.

    Well, Cline’s own script changes the story dramatically and makes the characters worse.

    Mecha Godzilla better be in it.

    It is. But not in any fun way.

  • It’s just hideous. You’d never even know Spielberg directed it.

  • Colin Heintze

    There’s plenty of examples of internet SJWs trashing something because it offends their delicate sensibilities, but this isn’t one of them. The book is trash. The movie sounds like trash for the same reasons. The female characters are horribly underwritten and the main love interest is a trophy. References and nostalgia are used to fill out a thin story. Besides a few throwaway lines about engaging more with the real world, the story seeks to empower obsessive, snobby, socially-isolated geeks. MaryAnne’s review was great.

  • Jim Mann

    So you think someone who wrote a book on The Princess Bride, who clearly loves Star Wars and a number of other SF franchises, and who writes intelligently about SF and fantasy hates geeks? Or do you just believe that anyone who doesn’t like all of SF pop culture hates geeks? (If so, I guess I do too because I really dislike the Transformer films.)

  • Jim Mann

    I’m sorry to hear that this is how it turned out. I wasn’t drawn in by the trailers, but since it was Spielberg I was hoping for something good. I may go anyway at some point, but I’m not in a rush to do so.

  • Jacob Redmon

    No no, not the snarky one about your dad (which was, admittedly, uncalled for – but if you’re going to spend your entire writing career treating people like shit, you should expect to be treated like shit in return). I’m talking about the comment I posted yesterday.

  • Jacob Redmon

    Um, my calling you out on your childish nonsense is not the same as telling you “you’re not allowed to be a geek.” You don’t like geeky things, and the thought of geeks being happy makes you angry. Therefore, you’re not a geek. That’s not gatekeeping, it’s just an observation. If a person came up to me and told me “You’re not a football fan because you hate football,” that’s not them being condescending. They’re stating a fact. You can’t logically be part of a group that you actively spend time tearing down.

  • Jurgan

    Whom* does this review treat like shit?

    *Only applies to real people, not fictional characters.

  • Jurgan

    Whaddaya mean “we,” kemosabe? As a white male, I am very happy that demographic groups besides my own are gaining power. I do not feel “war” is being waged on me.

  • Jurgan

    So the birthmark follows the “Phantom of the Opera” rule?

  • Jurgan

    The only thing that looked good to me (from the previews, not interested in seeing the movie) was the trailer park Wade lived in, because it reminded me of Megaton in Fallout 3.

  • Bluejay

    Hey genius, I’ve been following MaryAnn’s writing for over a decade and she’s absolutely a geek, whether you think she is or not. Your opinion of her is uninformed and irrelevant.

    1. Liking geeky things doesn’t mean liking ALL geeky things. I mean, do YOU? “Geeky things” is a huge universe, and I’ll bet a million bucks there are things in it you don’t care for, and can’t stand. (Or do they stop being “geeky things” if you don’t like them?)

    2. An opinion on geeky things is separate from an opinion on the behavior of SOME geeks around those things. I’m an Avatar: the Last Airbender fan, and I HATE the toxicity of a very vocal part of the fandom. Love the show, hate the assholes who think they’re defending the show by bullying those who critique it.

    3. You can like geeky things but hate a story that just references as many of those things as possible without an understanding of WHY those things are worth loving, and also has crap characters and tired tropes. MaryAnn isn’t tearing down Star Wars or Back to the Future or The Iron Giant etc, she’s tearing down a SHIT STORY that just namechecks all those things.

    4. Of COURSE you can criticize a community you’re part of. What, if you’re an American criticizing what the US government does, or what your fellow Americans think, you’re no longer American? We criticize things because we want them to be BETTER.

  • Dr. Rocketscience
  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Aristotle wept, dudeboi

  • Jacob Redmon

    Well, let’s see.
    – Wealthy people who try to make the world a better place with their money instead of being forced into socialism by their government.
    – Capitalists in general. (Also, she does this while ignoring the fact that ads for this movie and book are on her own damn site, because self-awareness is hard.)
    – Geeks in general, especially male ones.
    – Men, especially white ones.
    – Males who have dreams.
    – People who love pop culture.
    – The intelligence of the people who might like this movie’s premise or celebrate the pop culture geek movement.
    – Anyone who takes pride in the things that they like.

    And on and on and on. If I had a catalogue of every obnoxious, bigoted, spiteful thing MaryAnn Johanson has said throughout her long and illustrious career, the stack of paper would fill a two-story house.

  • Jacob Redmon

    1. I never said that it did. Of course not. The problem is that she seems actively disdainful of geeks as a concept. Her attacks in this review, and many others she’s written, are against fans and nerds themselves, not just the movie.

    2. Again, I’m fully aware of that. MaryAnn seems to make no distinction, however. Every time she reviews anything created by nerds for nerds, she manages to rip it to pieces and find some way to critique white men for some loosely-defined reason.

    3. Yes, she’s tearing down this story, but she’s also tearing down the people who like those things. That’s the problem. If she were just critiquing this film’s narrative without embarking on a shrieking, pants-pissing screed against the kind of people who like this sort of thing, that would be fine. Words do not exist in a vacuum/only apply to one subject at a time. MaryAnn’s attitude is persistent throughout her back catalogue, and that’s very apparent from reading only a few of her reviews. I acknowledge that you’ve been a more comprehensive reader for longer than I have, but I fail to understand how I’m somehow misunderstanding her entirely one-dimensional worldview.

    4. (exasperated sigh) There’s a difference between “criticizing something in the hope of improvement” and “actively trying to destroy it.” Also, that’s a terrible comparison, especially since most Americans are born into citizenship and have no say in the matter.

  • Jurgan

    Basically, you’re saying that you’re mad someone criticized stuff you like. Suck it up, snowflake. “MAJ hates men” is a stupid statement. If it were true, I wouldn’t have been reading this site for th last fifteen years. “MAJ hates geeks” is even dumber. You’re basically saying “I’m a geek, you don’t like the things I do, therefore you’re not a real geek.” It’s not your place to decide.

    Also, there are no ads on this site. I guess situational awareness is hard.

  • Jurgan

    1. No, she doesn’t. You’re assigning this to her and stating it as a fact without any support.

    2. No she doesn’t. Look at, for example, MAJ’s reviews of most of the Marvel movies- they are generally quite positive.

    3. Occasionally, perhaps. Generally, though, it’s using the movie as a vehicle for social critique. “I don’t like this movie and I also don’t like the way a lot of its fans act” is a perfectly valid statement, not a “shrieking, pants-pissing screed.”

    4. Who are you to say that you know someone’s motives better than they do? “Criticism is okay, but not like that.” The problem is this statement can’t be falsified. Anytime someone criticizes something you like, you can dismiss it as “you’re just trying to tear it down!” There’s no way to refute that. Ironically, it makes it seem like you don’t want Maryann to change her behavior, just to tear her down. Of course, I can’t prove that either, but you’ve hardly shown much engagement with her actual points. You’ve just spent your time acting aggrieved over someone not liking movies that you like and trying to kick her out of your clubhouse over it.

    Anyway, keep this up and you’ll probably be banned, after which you can tell everyone about how the mean woman hates you because you’re a geek.


  • I’m treating wealthy people like shit?

    Bwhahahahahaha! I’m so super sorry I’m not being more deferential to my betters.

    *dies laughing*

  • You say “bitterness” like it’s a bad thing.

    And what you’re calling “hypocrisy” is just critique.

    Be as happy as you want with your geekiness. But YOU DO NOT GET TO TELL ME, or anyone else, that I must also be happy with the stuff that makes you happy.

  • Because I do not base my self-worth on my performance in a game.

  • Bluejay

    MaryAnn’s attitude is persistent throughout her back catalogue, and that’s very apparent from reading only a few of her reviews. I acknowledge that you’ve been a more comprehensive reader for longer than I have, but I fail to understand how I’m somehow misunderstanding her entirely one-dimensional worldview.

    Translation: “Sure, you have a deeper and more longstanding familiarity with her work, but MY more limited exposure ‘reading only a few of her reviews’ gives me absolute confidence that I correctly understand her attitude on all things geeky.” Give me a fucking break.

    The worldview that Western pop culture has historically and disproportionately catered to white men — and that it’s way past time for pop culture to center and valorize the stories of women and minorities and to embrace a much wider range of diverse perspectives — is NOT one-dimensional. I submit that those who REJECT this worldview are the ones being one-dimensional and narrow-minded.

    There’s a difference between “criticizing something in the hope of improvement” and “actively trying to destroy it.”

    Of course she’s criticizing aspects of geek culture because she wants to improve it! What she’s “actively trying to destroy” is the pride of place that geek culture gives masturbatory storytelling that strokes the white male ego at the expense of everyone else. If you think criticizing this attitude is destroying geek culture itself, then you have a very narrow view of what geek culture is or can be.

    Also, that’s a terrible comparison, especially since most Americans are born into citizenship and have no say in the matter.

    But there are plenty of Americans who’ll say that if you criticize the country, you’re not a REAL American, or you’re UN-American, or (if you’re an American with the wrong skin color) you should go back home to your country. Or if you’re an immigrant or naturalized citizen, they’ll ask why the hell you came here if you’re going to criticize. Same stupid principle: You criticize, you’re out of the club. Don’t be one of those people.

  • LaSargenta

    I get 140 here…

  • LaSargenta

    Tug that forelock a little harder!

  • Jacob Redmon

    Bwhahahahahaha! I’m so super sorry I’m not being more deferential to my betters.

    Well, that’s not what I said OR implied, and you’re missing a key component of what I did say, but sure. If totally lacking basic English reading comprehension skills is what lets you keep up your delusion of self-importance, who am I to stop you?


    Really? Then I guess it just magically vanished by itself. Look, if you’re going to censor people, at least have the decency to be honest about it.

  • Jacob Redmon

    Hey Jurgan, I haven’t watched this movie yet. You idiot. No that’s not what I’m saying at all.

    Oh, you mean those text links directly below her review that take me to places where I can buy “Ready Player One” in both book and audiobook form, as well as buy tickets to the film?

    You’re right. Those aren’t ads. Those are just bright colorful images that are designed to get readers to spend their money on goods and/or services. Silly me.

  • Jacob Redmon

    So, your intellectual shortcomings and blatant self-contradiction are all just “critique” then? Brilliance.

    Ironic that you would say that, considering that is all you do day in and day out. You spent this entire review shaming anyone who likes this movie, or likes the concept of this movie. If anyone’s gatekeeping here, it’s you sweety, not me.
    Once again, you brilliantly failed to get the point. I don’t give a shit if you like this movie or not. I haven’t even seen it yet. What I care about is how you treat the people who do.

    So here’s a new rule for YOU:


  • Jacob Redmon

    Aw, it’s kind of adorable how you think that’s clever. Or accurate. If you haven’t gathered anything from the tone of my writing, I’m not upset. I’m laughing at you.
    (After all, I’m not the one who threw a shrieking temper tantrum at the very thought of…gasp…people of the opposite gender LIKING things!!! Oh the horror!!)

  • Jurgan

    No, those links are services for people who want to buy the movie. They don’t count as ads unless she’s getting paid by the producers to promote it.

  • Jurgan

    Maybe you started typing a comment and then deleted it yourself and forgot? Maybe your browser prevented it from posting? Maybe you’re just a liar?

    Maryann, has he earned a ban yet?

  • Jacob Redmon

    Well, then tell me, is she one of those self-loathing people who loves geeky things but feels awful about it, so she projects her hatred onto others, a la closeted gay men?

    I’m sorry, when did I say that I wanted less things for non-white people? I’m pretty sure I never said that. There’s a difference, too, between “wanting diversity” and “tearing something apart because it doesn’t cater to my worldview.”

    I think it’s ironic that criticizes a “masturbatory attitude” when that’s all she herself seems to be capable of displaying.

    She’s the one trying to make people feel shame for their likes, not me. Her elitist nonsense is closer to “those people” than I am.

  • Jacob Redmon

    Why would she have links on her site for something that she despises if she’s not getting paid for it?

  • Jurgan

    So that people who do like it can find it if they so choose. “Why would anyone do something nice if they’re not making money off of it?” That questions says a lot about you.

  • Jacob Redmon

    Doing so goes against her entire manifesto and makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, but sure.

  • Jurgan

    She does it for literally every movie she reviews. You really think they’re all giving her kickbacks? That’s not how marketing works.

  • Jacob Redmon

    Hm, interesting.
    Of course that’s not how marketing works. But I fail to see her motivation for wailing incessantly about how she thinks this movie is evil, and then immediately providing links for people to donate their money to it. It doesn’t align with her personality at all.

  • Jacob Redmon

    1. Have you read anything else by her? She’s fairly intent on criticizing people who don’t think exactly like her.

    2. To be honest, I’m fairly certain that she gives them positive reviews because they fill a diversity quota or because they satisfy her political viewpoint, not because they’re actually good. Obviously I’m not an expert and can’t say this for certain, but in reading some of her past reviews, that’s the impression I got.

    3. You’re right. That IS a valid statement. But that’s not the kind of statement she made at all.

    4. Again, I don’t even have an opinion on this movie as I have not seen it. I am only reacting to her writing and her spitefulness, nothing more. It’s very silly of you to insinuate that the only reason I could have a problem with her is because she disagrees with me, when that’s the very thing I’m criticizing her for. Also…I haven’t shown any engagement with HER actual points? Every time I bring something up, she posts a gif or ignores most of it. You and I are pretty much the only ones actually having a discussion here.

  • Jurgan

    I’ve been reading her reviews regularly for fifteen years. You, by your own admission, have read “a few” of her reviews. Based on that, I think it’s fair to say that I know better than you on this subject, and you’re full of shit.

    Why are you here, anyway? What do you get out of this conversation?

  • Bluejay

    You know what? I was midway through typing up a long response to you, but it’s not really worth it. Mainly because in your direct responses to MaryAnn you’ve shown you’re not actually interested in discussing the film (which you admit you haven’t seen) but in being a complete raging asshole.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    I’m laughing at you

    Do you look like this? I think you do

    I’m not the one who threw a shrieking temper tantrum

    Oh, son, is that what you think? Bless…

  • You are treading on my last straw.

    Yes, that comment magically vanished. Maybe it was a Disqus glitch. Who knows. I have absolutely no qualms about telling the commenter and the whole damn world whenI delete comments and when I ban someone, which you are getting very close to. I did not delete any comments by you. Knock it off and grow the fuck up.

  • This site and my work has to be paid for somehow. And yet there are NO ads on this site. There ARE affiliate links, which I post on EVERY REVIEW when appropriate (ie, if there’s a soundtrack or a book, when the DVD and VOD is available). I receive no money for the placement of those links; I receive only a commission if someone clicks through those links and buy something.

    How affiliate links work is no secret. You’re either a newbie to the web or you’re being deliberately obtuse.

    You’ve got a fuckton of nerve complaining about this when almost every goddamn movie-related site on the Web is positively festooned with ads and popups and autoplay video, sometimes to the point where you can’t even find the content. No one gets subject to that shit here.

    You don’t like my site and my work? You can fuck off to one of the hundred thousand other movie sites.

  • I don’t give a shit if you like this movie or not

    Clearly, you do.

    Just today I had lunch with about 3 or 4 of them who expressed great interest in this movie.


  • Dude, I’m laughing at you, too.

  • So close…

  • Literally how do you not understand the difference between “this is a poor representation of cool things” and “the things represented that some people think are cool actually suck”?

  • snakeman

    Hey… I’ve been looking for a review that says this all around the internet but all I seem to find is praise for this piece of shit film. This is literally neckbeard fantasy. This is a neckbeard fantasy: every socially awkward person who talks to no one and spends their time obsessing over video games, movies, trivia, and their creators. Someone who “falls in love” immediately because someone else also knows the same useless trivia as them and hence “they get him”. I mean… even the whole thing with halladay going on a SINGLE date with this woman who rejected him and him obsessing forever on that single event and actually “falling in love” with her (whatever that means for him), is pathetic. It’s what the introverts dream of, that all this useless knowledge makes them better, knowledgeable, likable, rich, heroes when really it will never amount to anything. The oasis represents the ultimate fantasy world, because they live in a fantasy their whole lives because they just can’t deal with the reality, or the real world.

  • Stacy Livitsanis

    “A fanboy knows a hater”, says lead blonk.

    A friend shouted me a free ticket so I saw it after all. And…your review was too kind MaryAnn. I violently detest this movie. This is the exact opposite of imaginative. This wretched putrid nothing represents a complete failure of imagination. Easily Spielberg’s worst movie. The pop-culture reference going through my mind while watching Ready Player One was Patrick Swayze’s line in Ghost: “WHAT-A-CROCK-OF-SHIT!”

    Spielberg said on Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo’s BBC Radio 5 show that the 80’s were the least political decade. There’s something that only a very very rich straight old white man who hasn’t lived in the real world for many decades could even think of saying. Please compare Spielberg’s attitude and ambition here with fellow septuagenarian George Miller’s rekindling of an 80’s pop culture staple, Mad Max Fury Road. A clear-cut case of Right Way/Wrong Way. Throw a “Zemeckis bomb” (ugh!) and send time back to before this was made.

    [According to the counter right as I press send’, this’ll be the 88th comment here, as in 88 miles per hour, the speed the DeLorean needs to reach to travel in time. Do I win personality points for that reference?]

  • Dent

    Dilution maybe?

  • Dent

    “I bet you have opinions about what you watch/read.”

  • Dent

    This film needed more tech cultists, everything is better with tech cultists.

  • Hey, lay off introverts. We’re not all neckbeards. :-)

  • what is that rule?

  • Jurgan

    In the original novel and the Lon Chaney movie, the Phantom was horrifically deformed. Andrew Lloyd Webber and most subsequent adaptations portray him as a sexy bad boy, so his facial scarring is played down to keep him from being too ugly. He needs to be tormented, though, so he still talks as though he’s horrifically deformed.

  • I’d say it’s more like the “Hollywood ugly” rule: like how women such as Janeane Garofalo and Amy Schumer are supposed to be somehow “plain.”

  • darkmoone

    Black Panther: Arrogant billionaire who never share his money or technology to the billions of dying people in his country because he felt they were to stupid to handle it, is helped by his friends, and gets the girl at the end. GLOWING REVIEW.

    RP1: Trillionaire who shares his technology with everyone and ultimately gives it away, kid decides to share his winnings with his friends who helped him and gets the girl at the end. DOGSHIT MOVIE.

    Would you like some milk with your White Guilt cereal.

  • CB

    Well you’re never going to find the McGuffin and save the world with that attitude!

  • Danielm80

    A number of critics felt that Titanic and Pearl Harbor had story elements in common, and yet quite a few of them liked one better than the other. You can think about why that is, or you can keep on making straw man arguments. It’s up to you.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    That… doesn’t actually describe the plot to Black Panther particularly well.

    Or the plot of RP1 for that matter.

  • Dent

    The premise isn’t the film.

  • Bluejay

    “Arrogant” – no. “Billionaire” – no; it’s not his personal private wealth and tech, it’s his nation’s wealth and tech. “Billions of dying people in his country” – which “country” is that? Africa? You really made THAT mistake? “Because he felt they were too stupid” – No, that’s not the reason. “Gets the girl” – no, more like comes to an equal partnership with a strong woman with her own agenda and motives, who isn’t just written as a reward. And even if we accept the most basic idea, “not sharing wealth or tech,” his ENTIRE CHARACTER ARC is that he CHANGES HIS MIND.

    It’s almost like you didn’t watch the movie at all, or just wanted to rip on a glowing review of an African American movie to retaliate for the RP1 review.

    Would you like some fries with your racist strawman cheeseburger?

  • You’re cute.

  • Peter Pilot

    This site is always one of my main destinations when looking for reviews. I don’t always agree with MaryAnn’s conclusions, but I always find the reviews interesting and helpful. This one is no exception. This is one movie I won’t be seeing – not because of this review, but because of the trailer. I don’t think that I have ever seen a more off-putting, soulless and thoroughly dislikable introduction to a movie. Given that the trailer usually puts the best spin on things, I have no interest whatsoever in seeing the movie itself. I read MaryAnn’s review after viewing the trailer, and everything she says agrees 100% with my impressions.

  • Danielm80

    I finally got around to seeing this, at least in part because I wanted to read MaryAnn’s Twitter stream. I enjoyed the movie a bit more than she did, mostly because, for years and years, I’ve been wanting to see The Shining in 3D.

  • Not A Fan

    If you’ve seen the trailer, you aren’t missing anything. It’s as if a semi-conscious alien tripping on Reese’s pieces dreamt of a drunken Babel fish whispering random fragments of a collection of poorly researched fan fiction about human pop culture and several weeks later fed its hazy recollections into the ship’s malfunctioning replicator to produce a script. The combined character development for the entire cast could fit comfortably inside the world’s smallest fortune cookie.

    Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Sucker Punch, The Last Starfighter, and Pixels are elegant, nuanced explorations of the true depths of the human condition in comparison to this 139 minute unskippable cutscene. Tone-deaf dialogue aside, even the action scenes demonstrate a misunderstanding of geeks, gaming, science-fiction, science, emotion, and pop culture in general so profoundly out of touch, oversimplified, and/or out of date that I felt vicariously embarrassed for Spielberg and am genuinely concerned about his mental health. I didn’t really care too much for this movie.

  • Danimality

    Just wanted to say that I loved the review and I agree on many points. I too was someone who hated the novel, not so much because of the plot but because Cline has major problems writing dialogue. He does inner monologue and narrative fine, even if the book isn’t anywhere near as original as everyone made it out to be when it was published. *cough*NealStephenson*cough* Cline’s characters all sounded exactly the same when they spoke to each other, so not only did it make it tedious to read, but the fact that his dialogue lacked any kind of emotion and that his “future slang” was so forced as to be unbelievable… well if it wasn’t insulting it, at the very best, came off exactly as what it was – a thirty year old guy trying to pretend to be a cool teenager.

    I thought that this problem would be impossible to replicate in the movie, and it is, but really it’s the same problem just delivered in a different way. So much emphasis is on the “nostalgia” that at times even the main characters seem like they don’t care about who they are, what they’re doing, or, haha, that they “found love”…

  • Johnny S.

    It sounds like the book had the same amount of soulless wankery, I found the plot holes and tropes where redeemed by the fact it’s the best Speiberg can do with a YA novel

  • roybatty666

    While I disagree with much of what Ms. Johanson had to say about the film (I found it harmless fun), I thought the review was incisive and rather well written. Hell, even the pic captions were snarky fun. I’ll def be reading more.

  • RogerBW

    I assume the film fails to mention that “you need to know references to pop culture” has been translated into “you need to know references to pop culture owned by one specific company”. Which is a shame, because it’s kind of an important point, and one that I think Cline misses completely: when you build your legendry and mythology entirely on top of stuff that is owned by other people, how does that change what you can build?

  • “you need to know references to pop culture owned by one specific company”

    What do you mean?

  • RogerBW

    Well, presumably all the references in the film are to properties now owned by Warner Bros rather than to anything for which they’d have had to pay royalties?

  • No, that’s not the case.

  • Michiel Deinema

    Finally gotten around to seeing this.

    Such overkill with all the references. We get it, pop culture is cool.

    I’ve already forgotten most of it.

    I grade it meh/10

  • Bluejay
  • I’ll add it to my list…

  • I finally saw this:

    Spielberg finally bungles one.
    Although, he was stuck with a mediocre book as source material. Thing
    is, they took the mediocre book, and made it WORSE. This is NOT good. At
    It changes a lot from the book, which I found kind of odd,
    especially considering the author of the book worked on the movie
    It kind of felt like watching an overly long CG cut scene from a video game.
    The main character is dull as hell.

    Art3mis remains an MPDG, and is a much weaker character here than in
    the book. And she was already weak in the book. Personally, I’d rather
    hear her full story than boring Wade Watts.
    I didn’t even like Simon Pegg’s minor character! Just weird.
    It was just so generic, cliche, and mediocre. Just like the book, I guess.

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