I’ll start with the positives- it won’t take long. It’s fun and it’s pretty well done. That’s about it. If you have a fourteen year old gamer brother who is overly invested in cross-over fanfiction then you’re in luck, because that’s the entire target audience. Other than that, it’ll make a pretty good drinking game when it comes online, in ‘drink every time a very explicit pop culture reference is made, and then they point out that reference’. There’s always something nice about nostalgic referencing in films, but when it’s so heavy handed the appeal is lost completely.
The premise: in a dystopian future, everyone basically lives inside a VR game called ‘The Oasis’, except when eating and sleeping. The creator of the alternate reality died and the race is on to find hidden ‘keys’ to own the game. That’s it. A mediocre white boy, Wade Wilson (Tye Sheridan), named ‘because it sounds like a superhero alias’, who doesn’t mourn the deaths of his female family members – they’re just a footnote in his quest for power – becomes the most powerful in-game player, ending up gaining ultimate control over the world – which to his credit he does share with his four other teenage friends.
And, don’t worry, he does that classic nice guy move of tucking her hair behind her ear
Complete manic pixie dream girl ‘Art3mis’ (Olivia Cooke) appears as the female lead; Wade announces that he is ‘in love with’ at their third meeting. There’s a promising moment where she rejects this, because he’s only seeing an unreal version of her, only the parts she wants him to see, meaning he’d be disappointed if he actually met her. Which is true, and you breathe a sigh of relief: is this film going to create a three dimensional female characters with flaws?! Sadly, but unsurprisingly, not. Turns out this massive disappointment isn’t about her being an actual person; it’s because she has a birthmark on her face. Yep. That’s it. The skin around her eye is slightly discoloured – but don’t worry, it takes absolutely nothing away from how conventionally attractive she is. And, don’t worry, he does that classic nice guy move of tucking her hair behind her ear, revealing her birthmark, and saying ‘for the record, I’m not disappointed.’ I audibly laughed; apologies to the three other people seeing this film at the same time as me.
Not to mention the stereotyping of the two Asian characters, who I wish I could talk on more, but had such minimal lines that they can barely be considered characters. They were just sort of there whilst Wade was talking, and who (of course) play the game as ‘ninjas’, are super-academically advanced, and bow to important new people.
Worst of all, the peaceful Iron Giant is turned into what is basically a War General.
I don’t think liking this film would make you an inherently bad person
A The Shining scene is something to marvel at – you need to see it, but more through a Youtube upload than as a cinematic experience. I don’t know about you, but I definitely watched The Shining and thought: ‘hmm, you know what would make this better? These exact scenes unchanged, but with an animated orc-like creature pasted in.’ I’m not kidding. That’s in there. That’s the whole scene.
It could be worse. I don’t think liking this film would make you an inherently bad person. And I understand that some kids will watch it and enjoy it simply because ‘Minecraft World’ appears within the first ten minutes of screen time. There’s a direction with the other prominent female character that you think might lead to a friendzone rant, but really becomes a reflection on the male character regretting not taking his shot and putting in effort with her. It’s not great, but it’s a lot better than what could have been set up.
I didn’t actively hate it, I don’t think it’s particularly damaging, but I spent the majority laughing at and not with it, or rolling my eyes to the back of my head.
Maybe if you like The Big Bang Theory, you’ll get something out of it.