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Mormon Moviegoers: What Parents Need to Know About "Ready Player One" Before Seeing It with Their Family

by | Apr. 11, 2018

Fun

Mormon Moviegoers is a collective of LDS film reviewers helping you to make informed decisions about Hollywood films. It was founded by family counselor Jonathan Decker (of Ask a Mormon Therapist).

WHAT’S READY PLAYER ONE ABOUT?

The creator of the largest virtual reality world ever, called the OASIS, dies and leaves a challenge to anyone who can find three invisible keys that lead to a hidden Easter egg to win a fortune and ownership over the OASIS. Directed by Steven Spielberg, it is full of imagination, fun, action, romance, humor, and a moral lesson. Game on!

IS IT ANY GOOD? (GRADE: A-)

In a word, yes, but . . .

If you’re not into video games, this movie is probably not for you. I don’t really play video games, but I still really enjoyed it. I have four sons who played video games for many years growing up, so I was exposed enough to most of the characters that make an appearance in this movie that I got a kick out of it all. One of my sons is now living his dream as a 3D character artist for the hugely successful video game company Blizzard.

The movie itself is classic Spielberg with absolutely fantastic action sequences and imagination.  The special effects are really well done and blend easily from virtual reality environments into scenes with people in reality.  Older folks will probably claim the movie is on sensory overload (they’re right), but the younger crowd will feel like they’re right in the middle of playing a video game.

The movie is overflowing with references that span several decades of movies, music, and pop culture, focusing mostly on the 1980s. While the main character is looking for the grand prize, there are TONS of fun Easter eggs for the audience to look for and enjoy during the entire film.  At one point, there is a scene with a famous Anime motorcycle that Spielberg is notorious for having rejected 30 years ago, dismissing it as “unsellable” for film.  It’s fun to see how he now embraces and celebrates it on the big screen. 

There is some humor and heart in the film with most of the comic relief provided by a scary-looking, yet hilarious character named I-R0k, voiced by T. J. Miller. Tye Sheridan did a great job as the protagonist Wade/Parzival, although the character arc doesn’t stretch as much as some movie critics would like. Alvin Silvestri offered an energizing and fun musical score. Originally, Steven Spielberg’s favorite composer, John Williams, was going to tackle the project, but he had to step away to finish his work on another Spielberg film, The Post.

There are a LOT of exposition scenes that tell us what’s happening and the movie drags a little bit towards the third act. If you can, try to see the movie in 3D, but it’ll still be fun without the glasses and extra fee.  If you loved it and want more, check out the book that it’s based on, written by Ernest Cline.  The movie adds to and deletes from the source material, frustrating true fanboys, but they both have something to offer.  Cline actually mentioned Steven Spielberg in the original novel.

IS IT OKAY FOR YOUR FAMILY?

Ready Player One is rated PG-13 for tons of violence, bloody images, partial nudity, profanity, and some suggestive material. I was worried that the movie would glorify video games and encourage kids to plug into technology even more, but the message in the end is that we all need each other and real life. I thought the ending was actually very sweet.

Things to be aware of:

  • First of all, it’s a very long (2 hours 20 minutes) flick, so Grandpa or Junior may fall asleep.
  • It contains some profanity and other crude language, including f****.
  • In the movie, a character flips the bird.
  • It shows real people losing touch with reality as they play video games.
  • Several people have face and body tattoos.
  • The leading lady’s avatar has a super skimpy outfit during one scene.
  • You see the partial naked back side of a virtual reality woman.
  • Sit farther back in the theater; otherwise, you won’t be able to focus on everything going on.  There is a LOT happening on the screen.
  • There is an important reference to “Rosebud” in the 1941 movie “Citizen Kane” that very few kids or even adults will catch.

ANY WORTHWHILE MESSAGES?

  • “People need to spend more time in the real world.” – Wade/Parzival
  • “It’s not about winning, but playing.” – Wade/Parzival
  • “As painful and terrifying as the real world can be, it’s the only place you can get a decent meal…because reality is real.” – Halliday
  • “No man is alone who has a friend.” – I-R0k
  • Illusion vs. reality

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not oppose video games, but prophets and apostles have warned us about how we use our time and the messages of the media we use. There are many video games that are clean, challenging, and fun.  Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of Apostles explained: “One of the ways Satan weakens your spiritual strength is by encouraging you to spend large blocks of your time doing things that matter very little.” (“Be Strong in the Lord,” Ensign,July 2004, 13). Parents need to help kids learn how to moderate their time playing video games, as well as choose games that follow the guidance of the Thirteenth Article of Faith.

The dystopian real world where the protagonist lives in Ready Player One is ugly and dreary, which makes the lure of the colorful, exciting virtual world that much more appealing.  Satan is quite skillful at dangling objects and lives in front of us that make us doubt what we have and want something else (see “How Do I Resist Temptation?” New Era, Dec. 2013).  Parents will worry that their kids will want to play even more video games after watching this popcorn flick, but the final message will ease their minds.

For movie night recommendations and Gospel discussion guides, order 250 Great Movies for Latter-day Families, available in paperback and Kindle.


Trina Boice is an author of 23 books and teaches online for BYU-Idaho in the Pathway program.  She received the Young Mother of the Year honor in 2004, an award that completely amuses her 4 sons. She’s a popular international speaker in China and writes movie reviews at www.MovieReviewMom.com You can find her books in LDS bookstores, on Amazon, and at www.TrinasBooks.com


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