Imagine a future where, with a near infinite number of realities are available for anyone to experience with the donning of a headset and gloves. A future where you can put the squalor of your real life behind you for hours at a time and race King Kong in Marty McFly’s time traveling DeLorean, dance in zero gravity, or even “climb Mount Everest…with Batman.” Now imagine that all that ultimate control of all that wonder and capability—for the entire world—is up for grabs if you are smart and dedicated enough to solve some really, really hard riddles. Eve and I joined millions of others as we took in Ready Player One and entered the OASIS.
Ready Player One is an adaptation by the 2017 Ernest Cline novel of the same name. Staring Tye Sheridan as Parzival and Olivia Cooke as Art3mis, the movie follows the pair as they meet and team up with three others to solve the decade-old set of riddles left by the creator of a the globe spanning virtual reality, the OASIS. The winners of this contest will be granted complete control of the OASIS—including the ability to either monetize it or destroy it completely. The five heroes face off against the cooperate giant, Innovative Online Industries (IOI) which envisions a future where they control the OASIS and use it to fuel their own nefarious greedy ends.
What does Ready Player One say about our own society’s descent into realities that are not our own, though? What sticks with the audience as the lights come up and we leave behind the nostalgia of our childhood and trudge back out to the parking lot to get into our cars and return to our lives?
The Ready Player One score is by Alan Silvestri and does a masterful job of evoking the feeling of 80’s blockbusters. He captures the spirit and heart of a pop-culture blockbuster—on par with some of the greats, such as ET and Star Wars. If he wasn’t an already well-established blockbuster composer in his own right, you’d think he was copying some of the best-known movie scores, but I think it’s a homage that plays off the pop-culture theme of the movie. (See the Take On Me music video by a-ha.)
Ready Player One is directed by Steven Spielberg and bears the blockbuster hallmarks that you would expect from his efforts.
One of the main elements of Ready Player One hearkens back to the movie Surrogates, which Eve and Daniel did an initial reaction on waaaaaay back in episode 3. A major portion of the movie focuses on escaping reality to experience a very different life. Both Ready Player One and Surrogates stress the point that the avatar/android could be significantly different from the person behind the avatar/andriod. In Surrogates, the difference can be one of gender or aesthetics, but in Ready Player One the only limits are those of the imagination.
Being based on a book, viewers can’t reasonably expect the movie to stay completely true to the source material. Unlike A Wrinkle in Time, however, the detours from Ready Player One‘s source material stayed generally true to the spirit of the book, even if individual choices may have been arguable. Some of the changes are clearly to make the overall story and its characters more palatable to the movie going audience, including glossing over and lightening up the evil machinations of the primary antagonist, Sorrento which was welled played by Ben Mendelsohn.
The movie’s portrayal of IOI’s greed is reminiscent of 1999’s Pirates of Silicon Valley, and echos the commentary of that greed.
Mark Rylance portrays both James Halliday and Halliday’s avatar, Anorak. He does an excellent job giving both their own presence while still maintaining a common sense of personality behind them. The portrayal of James Halliday in particular was a well done example of social awkwardness taken to extremes.
Ready Player One contains numerous examples of pop-culture fanaticism taken to an extreme. The main premise of the movie relies on the OASIS creator’s cultural obsessions. This central theme brings up the question: Is it a sin for Christians to obsess with pop-culture? Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question because it really is a matter of priorities.
Be different from the world
The Bible encourages us to be sanctified and different from the world, so Christians should not obsess over worldly things.
I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. (John 17:14-19)
Put God first
In addition, God wants to be the priority in our lives, so anything that displaces him from foremost in our attention represents a sin.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)
“You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Exodus 20:3-6)
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
Don’t cause other Christians to stumble
Finally, the Bible encourages Christians to do nothing that causes a weaker brother to stumble, so even if our liberty in Christ allows us to partake in worldly pleasures without displacing God in our priorities, we should be cautious not to cause weaker brothers to fall astray in their walks because of our liberty. See 1 Corinthians 8:4-13. But remember, it isn’t what we take in that corrupts us, it is what comes out of us. See Matthew 15:17-20.
“Reality Is Real”
In a theme very similar to Surrogates, the real people in Ready Player One escape the woes of the real world by living as avatars in a false reality called the OASIS. They give themselves false faces and false skills, where their imagination is the only limit. It’s where they meet people and build relationships, but how can any of that be real?
Escapism is an exterior manifestation of a spiritual lack of purpose and mission. Jesus gave his followers a mission, and we should live with purpose. Does this make escapism a sin for Christians?
The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. (Ecclesiastes 12:13)
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly[a] with your God. (Micah 6:8)
See also Ephesians 1:3-14.
Friends are the family you choose
In Ready Player One, the main protagonists build a close-knit friendship and refer to themselves as a “clan” at the end of the movie. Even though they were different ages, different ethnicities, and even different genders, a common purpose draws them together into a family. This is how Christianity should look: people united by Christ into the family of God. This sense of community of purpose should be the glue that holds together not only the local bodies of believers (churches), but also the global Church of Christ.
And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first. (Matthew 19:29-30)
And just as the characters in Ready Player One were striving to inherit the OASIS, so we gain a rich inheritance in the family of God.
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