Monday, April 9, 2018
READY PLAYER ONE: BALANCING ACT
Directed by Steven Spielberg. Based on the novel by Ernest Cline.
After spending almost two and a half hours watching Steven Spielberg’s READY PLAYER ONE, I am left with the final speech, addressed to us viewers: “SPEND MORE TIME IN REALITY! THE ONLY REALITY IS THE REAL!”
Dutifully, I tore off the 3-D glasses and hurried out of the theater, hungering, even lusting, after “The Real.”
Why, I wondered, as I guided my car into the homecoming traffic, did I spend two-and-a-half hours with this movie’s virtual realities—if its ultimate message demands that I deny them?
But then, as I headed homeward on I-435 at 4:00 in the afternoon, I had cause to revise my thoughts: The traffic was in gridlock. Turning onto the off-ramp into my suburban neighborhood, the fast-food signs accumulated rapidly, shouting their own realities of burgers and fries. I repeated the question in growing exasperation: So THIS is the “Real???” . . . And then at home, as I sat down to the keyboard ready to write about READY PLAYER ONE - I was immediately assaulted by the latest rants from Donald Trump: SO THIS IS THE “REAL”???
Neither the REAL nor its VIRTUAL substitute has any validity unless both are balanced; or, to put it another way, citing St. Augustine, fact and fancy, like our perception of the Godhead, are both ONLY A MATTER OF DEGREE, MORE OR LESS.
What READY PLAYER ONE did for me, in the meantime, was provide a lovely extended sequence when we plunged into a virtual reboot of that 1980 classic, THE SHINING. Now we could prowl the interiors of the Overlook Hotel once again, although now we are participants in the action. And I wondered if I could reboot my own version of READY PLAYER ONE to explore other sites of experience and nostalgia, plunging into the cinematic realities of my own childhood. How I would want to immerse myself into my seven-year old experience with Disney’s PETER PAN; only now I would be in it, soaring over the rooftops and towers of London, and alighting, light as a feather on the clock hands of Big Ben.
READY PLAYER ONE also encourages each of us to reboot our own realities, our own nostalgias. Author Ernest Cline had his nostalgic revisit to the 1980s. I suspect, given his druthers, Spielberg might have preferred his own movie reboot, say, to blast off with the crew of ROCKETSHIP X-M, from his childhood, in 1951, on its way to Mars. My grandfather would have looked further back and to revisit THE GLENN MILLER STORY and sit in on the legendary gig at the Glen Island Casino in 1939. And his father would ride with Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., as he and the Musketeers rushed to the aid of the French Queen.
And so forth. . .
Maybe, in a way, our own imaginative illusions are necessary to help cushion the shock of the REAL outside the theater— when, albeit reluctantly, we have no choice but to SPEND MORE TIME IN REALITY!