So this week, we (meaning mostly me) watched “Ready Player One”, Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of the book by the same name. As he has done in the past, Spielberg took a book that was kind of so-so and made a humdinger of a thriller out of it. And if it maybe peaks right at the beginning, during this epic race/chase through the streets of New York (one of the best I’ve seen in years), well, I can forgive him for setting a bar he can’t subsequently clear. Because any movie that includes a Holy Hand Grenade is a movie I have to love.
This race was even enough to hold my wife’s attention (she fell asleep almost immediately afterwards), although I’m not sure she was staying awake for the same reason I was. As she explained after the race ended:
Wife: “I have two thoughts.”
Me: “What are they?”
Wife: “First, this movie is an excuse to race around and blow up lots of stuff.”
Me: “Yeah, wasn’t that awesome?!”
Wife: (withering look)
Me: “What’s the other thing?”
Wife: “The other thing is that if this is what the future is going to be like, kids being overstimulated like that all the time, how are we going to be able to teach them? How would I as a teacher compete with a race through the city with guns and explosions and a giant Godzilla at the end?”
Me: “Oh that wasn’t Godzilla at the end, it was King Kong. The dinosaur partway through was just a generic giant T. Rex.”
But she did turn out to be prescient, because later on―long after she had fallen asleep―I had to nudge her awake for something:
Me: “Godzilla* is in it now!”
Wife: (cracks one eye open, grunts, goes back to sleep)
“Ready Player One” put my wife to sleep in about half an hour, which isn’t bad for a film that is more or less about people playing video games from inside the video game. It seems to have mostly been outrage at the probable future of education keeping her awake, but still. Awake is awake. Just ask “August Rush“. (Uhh, then again, maybe don’t.)
Incidentally, in a film that’s rife with shout-outs, one throwaway line in particular caught my attention. Towards the beginning of the film, Wade’s Aunt Alice banishes her thuggish boyfriend to his room for fighting with Wade, prompting him to whine. “Aw, come on, Alice!”
Which couldn’t help but remind me of this scene from my vampire novel, Long Before Dawn:
Roxanne wandered off. She had left her cell phone in the glove compartment of her car, so she headed for a pay phone she had noticed in the lobby. When she got there, however, it was occupied by a greasy-looking young man who stood facing the wall, slouching forward, propping himself up with one arm. His face was downcast and he was muttering “Aw, c’mon, Alice,” as if it were a mantra. She stood there for a few minutes watching him feed quarters into the slot like a disheartened gambler, then moved over to the front desk. The officer working there looked at her expectantly.
“Do you have a phone I could use?” she asked.
Was that bit of dialogue from Alice’s greasy-looking boyfriend a shout-out to the greasy-looking police station denizen in my book? Well, no, of course not. But I’m more than happy to pretend it was …
*Okay, so it’s Mechagodzilla, not actual Godzilla. But it still stomps around and breaths fire and roars, so close enough.