Steven Spielberg’s hotly anticipated, “Ready Player One,” premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival this week, ahead of its official March 29th release date. I haven’t personally seen the movie yet, but the early reviews are … interesting. Every write-up mentions the movie’s egregious use of pop culture references, which critics either love or despise. Several note that the movie is pulling from a novel that is not exactly perfect, and fails to achieve a finale that eclipses its source material. Currently, the film holds a tentative but promising score of 76 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
Upon scanning these initial reviews, one thing that became apparent was that the movie was loved by male critics, and despised by female critics. It seems that the heavily nostalgic virtual reality fantasy film dazzled the boys, but didn’t bring anything for the girls.
Overall, the movie got the highest marks from its male viewers for its never-ending stream of references to a more simple life in the 80’s. Few critics credit the film for its daring story, or well-constructed narrative. I saw no mentions of acting performances. What is it then, that makes a nostalgic movie about video games so impressive to men, and so unimpressive to women?
Perhaps it is that boys are enchanted by that innocent time in their life when they played video games, and dreamed about being a super hero. Maybe it is more meaningful to men to spend two hours revisiting dreams of the past than it is for women. According to the Internet Movie Database, however, there may be more to it.
The Internet Movie Database (IMDB) actually tracks user ratings by several categories, including age and gender for every movie. Many movies have similar ratings between men and women. Prison classic, “The Shawshank Redemption,” for example, has a current rating of 9.3 from men, and 9.2 from woman. In fact, the top 10 films for both genders are almost identical. The major discrepancies appear closer to the bottom of the list, with many gross-out comedies ala “Freddie Got Fingered” appearing with the lowest scores in the women’s list, and the entire “Twilight” saga appearing on the men’s list.
Outside of the top 10, Men tend to like movies with a strong father-son story line, and especially movies that feature a hero that came from humble or tragic beginnings. They also tend toward nostalgia and science fiction. Women tend to like movies that have a romance, and unsurprisingly, movies that have a strong female lead. Women love comedy, but not as much if it is violent or disgusting. Men tend not to like romantic comedy as much, but like dramas that feature a complex male lead. We all look for relatability when we see movies, and men and women simply see themselves differently when they are reflected in the silver screen.
There will always be exceptions, of course. There are women that will love “Ready Player One,” and there are men that will not.
A new review aggregate website, ‘CherryPicks,’ is set to launch soon, and will feature only reviews from female film, TV, and music journalists. After the release and harsh reception of “A Wrinkle in Time,” this is a venture made by women in an attempt to single out the female voice in the male-dominated world of movie reviews. It will be interesting to see if they choose to include reviews written by women with a religious or conservative background. An “aggregate” website dedicated to sharing reviews written by women with very similar CV’s may not be a sample that will seem all that valuable to the potential users.