Fantastic. This is the word that comes in mind to define Steven Spielberg’s new film, Player # 1. Based on the eponymous book of writer Ernest Cline, 2011, Player # 1 tells the story of Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), a teenager who lives in the suburbs of Ohio in the year 2045 – not far from our own reality.
The film finally brings out the best of the genre of escapism (that kind of movie that has as its main objective to entertain the spectator and to make diving into a new reality without the problems of the real world) to the cinema. And that was the main feature of Spielberg’s productions in the 1980s.
However, after years of working on this subject, Spielberg increasingly began to focus on historical films and more critical to reality. But it was not only Spielberg who changed, but escapism itself, which began to get rarer in the movies in its most innocent form. Perhaps a new reality brought about this change.
The 80’s community seemed more hopeful, with a strong middle class and dreamed of a better world, even if through the magic of cinema and its creativity. With a growing population, and the automation of most industries, this middle class is getting smaller and smaller. It is difficult then to escape to other worlds when financial problems become more apparent.
And that’s exactly what gives Player No. 1 its unique feature. In 2045, there is nowhere else to escape – with the exception of Oasis, a virtual reality where everyone can be and do what they want. With references to various works of popular culture from the 80s, this place, which was created by nerd James Halliday (brilliant performance by Mark Rylance), is now in the hands of powerful entrepreneurs who want to control the game in order to profit from it, risking destroying the last space where people can dream.
However, to avoid this, Halliday, before dying, programmed a way to give control of Oasis to the player who can find three mysterious keys. So, Wade, through his avatar, called Parzival (which looks like a Japanese anime character), embarks on a grand adventure against everyone, especially against entrepreneurs who hire a large number of players to get an easy victory.
In a storyline that is very reminiscent of Roald Dahl’s The Fantastic Chocolate Factory, only those who are pure-hearted and believe in Oasis and Halliday can unlock the secrets of the game. In other words, only those who believe in popular art and its power to give more fun to life, are the ones who can win.
After many films give preference to “multidimensional” characters, that is, complex and difficult to define in relation to good and evil, the simpler and pure characters of Player No. 1 take us to the style of the movies of the 80s, with guaranteed fun.
With brilliant action scenes that blend reality and virtual reality, and with references that feature the most beloved works of popular culture, Spielberg recreates escapism for the new century, pointing to the importance of a healthy reality that allows this fun.
(This article original language is portuguese. This translation was made with Google Translate)