It's hard to explain why the new posters for "Ready Player One" suck, but they suck. That much is clear.
In social media land, where toxic tribes form in milliseconds to debate the relative merits of Marvel trailers, video games and potato chip flavours, it seems most of us are in agreement for once: Marketing that cynically exploits our collective nostalgia in a clumsy, hamfisted way flat-out sucks.
For context, I'm talking about the "Ready Players One" posters released Tuesday by Warner Bros. Posters that mimic established classics like "Bullitt," "The Matrix" and "Rambo" and place them in the context of "Ready Player One", the upcoming movie based on the book published in 2011. The intent is obvious: "Hey fellow nerds, we like the same stuff, right? We think 'Die Hard' is a Christmas movie and eat cheerios for dinner.
Capturing precisely what's wrong with "Ready Player One's" posters is nebulous, it's complex. But there's a lot going on beneath the surface, and none of it feels particularly good.
At base level, the posters are clumsily executed. They look bad. Like, my-first-Photoshop bad. They miss the mark. "Hey, you like music? I love U2." There's the whiff of Dadbook about it: "Hi son, you like video games, dontcha? I picked up some Calla Doodies on the way home from the station."
If the goal of "Ready Player One" goal was to hit some sort of collective nerd zeitgeist it had to go niche, but it didn't. It had to be subtle, but it wasn't.
But even if "Ready Player One's" marketing did hit the target (made the right references to the right movies), the whole poster fiasco still has major issues. It's still a cynical attempt to drum up enthusiasm for a movie that celebrates nerd culture in the most surface level possible.
"Hey guys, remember "The Matrix"?"
There's something brazenly cynical about reducing complex, delicate movies like "Rambo" or "The Iron Giant" into something clumsy and one-dimensional and expecting fans to connect to that. If you're actually a fan of those movies, you'd rather they didn't bother.
Broader still: The sense that we're past this, that it's no longer cool to build your entire personal identity around the movies you like. The sense that dedicating yourself to extreme fandom is not only odd but, in fringe cases, a little bit dangerous.
We've lived through Gamergate. We've watched Leslie Jones be harassed by racist trolls over the "Ghostbusters" remake. We're watching culture wars occur in real time. We live in tumultuous times. "Ready Player One" is thoughtlessly celebrating fandom, but we're down here reevaluating that fandom and the baggage that comes with it.
We're adults now. Like old adults. I was 18 when I first saw "The Matrix". But it's 2018. I'm not in my 20s, my dorm walls are no longer adorned with "Scarface" posters. I'm a married 36-year-old man with two children. I live in a house with furniture. I'm rewatching these movies in the context of the world we currently live in and some of these movies suck. For a number of reasons. Maybe I don't want to high-five on this bizarre surface level because brand marketing wants me too.
It's all just a bit weird. Not quite right. Like your parents emailing you last year's memes over Hotmail. "Ready Player One" is at stage one on the expanding brain meme, but we're on step three.
Step three reads: If you're gonna exploit our nostalgia to sell your movie, do a better job of it.