Ready Player One: Film Review

I wish I was born in the 1980s. Whether it’s with film or mu­sic, I do ap­pre­ci­ate what that decade has to of­fer. But can an en­tire movie, helmed by a ge­nius film­maker, han­dle all that great­ness? I think it can. The highly an­tic­i­pated fan­tasy ad­ven­ture “Ready Player One” is the type of movie that’s made for the movie nerd in­side all of us.

Set in Colum­bus, Ohio in the year 2045, Wade Watts (Tye Sheri­dan) is an or­phan liv­ing in “The Stacks.” Wish­ing des­per­ately to es­cape from that dump, Wade has nowhere to go ex­pect the OA­SIS. Co-cre­ated by James Hal­l­i­day (Mark Ry­lance), The OA­SIS is a vir­tual re­al­ity uni­verse with end­less pos­si­bil­i­ties, where any­body can es­cape from real life and be who­ever they want.  Wade dis­cov­ers clues to find three keys hid­den within the pro­gram to a hid­den dig­i­tal Easter egg that promises the win­ner full own­er­ship of the OA­SIS if found.

Tye Sheridan in Ready Player One (2018)

Ernest Cline’s 2011 best-sell­ing book has been de­scribed as “Willy Wonka and the Choco­late Fac­tory” meets “The Ma­trix.” It’s a book I al­ways wanted to read, be­cause it’s the kind of ma­te­r­ial I’m at­tached to. And who’s bet­ter to di­rect the adap­ta­tion than the man who’s ba­si­cally re­spon­si­ble for cre­at­ing the term “block­buster:” Mr. Steven Spiel­berg? He’s my fa­vorite di­rec­tor of all-time, and nearly all his movies made me who I am to­day. And who else could truly pull this off, since most of Spiel­berg’s movies are ref­er­enced in the orig­i­nal book? Be­cause of this, “Ready Player One” was def­i­nitely one of my most an­tic­i­pated movies of the year, and every trailer they put out in­creased my ex­cite­ment even more. Will “Ready Player One” be one of my fa­vorites of the year? No…but it’s still tons of fun en­joy­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence on­screen.

Spiel­berg has­n’t di­rected a huge movie like this in a long time. He’s done the stan­dard drama flicks like “Lin­coln,” “Bridge of Spies,” “The Post” and oth­ers, but not a lot of them re­ally show­cased what he can do for a huge au­di­ence. In “Ready Player One,” you can tell that all of his ef­forts were in. Putting all this con­tent to­gether in a brisk 140-minute run­time is worth the hours spent. Cline adapted his book along­side screen­writer Zak Penn (“The Avengers”), and I know some who read the book that said some el­e­ments were left out, but, com­ing from some­one never read it, that’s to be ex­pected from book adap­ta­tions. Just from my per­spec­tive, it came off as en­gag­ing.

The film is also rel­e­vant to to­day’s stan­dards. with peo­ple be­ing at­tached to vir­tual re­al­i­ties sim­u­la­tions and let­ting peo­ple ex­press who they are not just on­line, but in real life, and just en­joy­ing real life while you still can. A lot of scenes take place in the OA­SIS, and I’m not ly­ing when I say they were the best parts of the en­tire film. It does go back and forth be­tween the OA­SIS and the real world, but the set­ting in the OA­SIS re­ally kept my in­ter­est with­out be­com­ing over­bear­ing. The con­cept of the OA­SIS is fas­ci­nat­ing, es­pe­cially with the grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity of VR.

Lena Waithe and Tye Sheridan in Ready Player One (2018)

Sheri­dan’s lik­able per­for­mance as Wade was very good. On his ad­ven­ture, Wade meets Saman­tha (Olivia Cooke, “Bates Mo­tel”), an­other player in the OA­SIS, and there was some au­then­tic chem­istry be­tween the two of them. Con­nect­ing as their avatars, Parzi­val and Art3mis, Sheri­dan and Cooke worked well to­gether as “Gun­ters,” (“egg hunters,”) play­ing the game, and it made me care more about them.

And who’s the main bad guy to stop these kids? It’s al­ways the evil cor­po­rate CEO dude played by Ben Mendel­sohn. Mendel­sohn is a tal­ented ac­tor known for play­ing the vil­lain, such as in “Blood­line” or “Rogue One.” But that’s be­cause he’s just so good at be­ing one. This time, he’s Nolan Sor­rento, and Mendel­sohn brought out the hammy-ness in the role, but in a good way.

And I can’t for­get to men­tion Lena Waithe (“Mas­ter of None”) as Aech, a friend of Wade and an­other Gunter, who had a fair share of en­ter­tain­ing mo­ments.

There are tons of pop cul­ture ref­er­ences through­out the film, as there should be. This was­n’t even go­ing to be a prob­lem for me, since the book is filled with them. Do all of them have a pur­pose? Not ex­actly, but as long as they’re not push­ing it too hard, then it’s per­fectly fine. If you’ve ever watched a movie or tele­vi­sion show or played a video game in your en­tire life, they will sneak up on you so quickly, such as the De­Lorean from “Back to the Fu­ture” or the tit­u­lar ro­bot from “The Iron Gi­ant” show­ing up. Mo­ments where you might say, “Did you see that?” or “I got that” will come up every ten min­utes or so. My mind felt like it ex­ploded, and the ex­pres­sion of my face was pure joy. And for a prop­erty that has a lot of ‘80s nos­tal­gia, they did­n’t shove it down your throat at any given chance. It was­n’t just con­tent from the ‘80s, but through to­day’s gen­er­a­tion.

Ready Player One (2018)

The im­mer­sive ac­tion set pieces were well-con­structed, match­ing with the sur­pris­ingly good vi­sual ef­fects work. There are two se­quences that re­ally stood out and are­def­i­nitely some of my fa­vorite scenes of the year so far: The crazy race that hap­pens re­ally early on in the movie and a se­quence where they ac­tu­ally go into “The Shin­ing,” which I thought was in­cred­i­ble and kept a huge grin on my face through­out.

John Williams is usu­ally the go-to com­poser for Spiel­berg pic­tures, but not this time around. But Alan Sil­vestri’s score is very mem­o­rable. And be­cause he’s known for do­ing the mag­nif­i­cent “Back to the Fu­ture” score, there is some­thing rem­i­nis­cent of that fran­chise in a few of his pieces. Adding to that, as some­one who loves ‘80s, the sound­track in­cluded some clas­sic gems like Van Halen’s “Jump,” which opens the film.

Ready Player One (2018)

There were def­i­nitely some is­sues with the film. There are a few char­ac­ters that ei­ther don’t have any­thing re­sem­bling de­vel­op­ment, or are just pushed aside in the back­ground. Two par­tic­u­lar ex­am­ples are Philip Zhao and Win Morisaki as Sho and Daito, re­spec­tively. T.J. Miller voic­ing the bounty hunter i-R0k also did­n’t fit. The first act felt rushed, with most of it be­ing ex­plained through nar­ra­tion. And there was­n’t re­ally any­thing that had an emo­tional weight to the story, in my opin­ion.

As some­one who loves Spiel­berg, nos­tal­gia and pop cul­ture ref­er­ences at every cor­ner, “Ready Player One” is highly en­ter­tain­ing. This is one of the more re­cent Spiel­berg movies that I can eas­ily find my­self re-watch­ing in the fu­ture, and it makes me want to read the book. Is it up there with all the cin­e­matic clas­sics he’s done in the past like the “In­di­ana Jones” tril­ogy, “E.T.” or “Juras­sic Park?” No, but it’s al­most like a re­turn of sorts to his mak­ing a sat­is­fy­ing block­buster again, just like made a name for him­self at the peak of cin­ema. This is a film for all the nerds and geeks out there.

Cap­tur­ing all the fun and ex­cite­ment our nos­tal­gia in pop cul­ture, “Ready Player One” will amuse many fans of Steven Spiel­berg mak­ing this ad­ven­tur­ous adap­ta­tion one of his coolest films in years.  Grade: B


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