Since I can remember, I’ve always been fascinated with art and pop culture. The first video game I ever played was Super Mario World, the first film that enthralled me was Back to the Future, and the first TV show that I absolutely loved was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Growing up I tended to branch off into many different avenues of toys, comics, and films but those three properties have always stuck with me. The transition into my teenage years made me question my attachment to what kinds of things I should and should not enjoy. Through that time I focused on grittier, more adult properties because, in my mind, that was the smart thing to do. However, as of late, my fondness for such things has reverted back to a nostalgia-filled fascination of my childhood. Coincidentally, director Stephen Spielberg has channeled that same nostalgia into his newest film entitled Ready Player One – an adaptation of author Ernest Cline’s 2011 novel of the same name.
It’s 2044 and teenager Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) lives in an overpopulated, highly polluted version of Oklahoma City. His only escape in life is in the OASIS – an extremely popular virtual reality world where you can socialize, play games, and become whoever you want to be. Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn) is the head of IOI (Innovative Online Industries), a giant video game/ virtual reality conglomerate whose sole purpose is complete world domination in the virtual reality realm. When the creator of the OASIS dies, a challenge is announced to find three hidden keys within the virtual world. Those keys will unlock the creator’s Easter Egg which will give the winner full control of the OASIS. Wade and his online friends accept the challenge and attempt to find the keys before Sorrento has the opportunity to take full control of their virtual world.
This was not a film that I was initially primed to like. Even though it contains many franchises that I absolutely adore, I was hesitant if it was merely going to pander to its geek audience and not tell a cohesive, engaging story. Luckily Steven Spielberg is a fantastic director and he was able to shape the film into an incredibly fun and charming thrill-ride. Right from the start, he sets up the world and its rules in order to completely immerse the viewer in the events that unfold next. From insane, over-the-top car races to massive battles that include Halo Spartans and The Iron Giant; the universe of the OASIS is completely tangible and enthralling to look at. In addition, the way in which CGI was used was never distracting but instead, it showed off a unique style that distinctly separated the OASIS from the real world.
While the basic story of the film has definitely been used many times over in other mediums; this version luckily creates its own path without being trope-filled garbage. Specifically, there’s a marvelous sequence within the middle of the film that completely caught me off guard in all the right ways. It plays with genre conventions and puts a completely new and hilarious spin on them. Also, the film feels like a great throwback to the 90’s era with its evil, maniacal villain who will stop at nothing for complete control of the digital world. However, his basis is primarily in corporate greed rather than egotistical self-aggrandizing goals.
Although there is so much to like within the film, several things hold it back from being truly excellent. One is the sporadic goofiness of certain characters and situations. I’m completely fine with everything that takes place within the OASIS, yet in the real world, there are several moments which should be comedic that instead completely fall flat and feel incredibly asinine. In addition, all of the characters are entirely static throughout the majority of the film. No one learns a lesson, and no one really changes beyond our first encounter with them. These may sound like minor gripes but the lack of character development truly hindered my overall enjoyment. Luckily, however, the bulk of the film is a surprisingly enjoyable experience that completely outweighs its faults. It’s for those reasons that I would highly recommend checking out Ready Player One.
About Ready Player One
Synopsis: When the creator of a virtual reality world called the OASIS dies, he releases a video in which he challenges all OASIS users to find his Easter Egg, which will give the finder his fortune.
Directors: Steven Spielberg
Writers: Zak Penn, Ernest Cline
Stars: Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Mark Rylance
Runtime: 2 Hours, 20 Minutes