Oh, how I've missed this kind of filmmaking from Steven Spielberg.
Ready Player One is a movie that half of the internet decided they were going to hate before it even came out. I couldn’t care less. Complain about the amount of “forced” cameos and nostalgia all you want — I happen to believe that having fun at the movies is a thing.
The film is based on a novel by Ernet Cline (that I’ve actually read, which is saying something because I never read unless it’s by Stephen King) and comes from one of the best filmmakers of our time, Steven Spielberg.
That’s right, Lincoln and The Post are important movies and all, but seeing Spielberg return to his blockbuster roots is something we’ve all been waiting for. Now, it’s finally here.
The year is 2045 (just nine years before the events in Minority Report take place, and don’t even tell me that’s some kind of crazy coincidence. Spielberg extended universe confirmed). The world has, more or less, torn itself apart. Pollution, over-population and climate change have made most of the planet uninhabitable, therefore forcing people to live in slum-like conditions given the name ‘the stacks.’
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. James Halliday (Mark Rylance), an inventive genius with a serious love for ‘80s culture, gave people a way to escape from all of this — something called the OASIS.
The OASIS is a virtual reality world with hundreds and hundreds of different planets, in which players can pretty much anything and everything they please. One second you’re facing down an angry horde of aliens alongside Batman and Freddy Krueger, the next second you’re being summoned into class in one of the OASIS’ school systems.
The OASIS has become reality to most people in the world at this point, as their lives inside the game are far superior to that of theirs in real life.
Five years ago, however, something happened that would change the course of the OASIS for forever. On his deathbed, Halliday made an announcement: he wants to leave the keys to his creation to the player who might be the most worthy (meaning he’s basically Willy Wonka). Halliday has hidden three clues somewhere in the OASIS; whoever can find them all and crack the code gets to rule the world that he’s made.
Which takes us to Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), a teenager residing in less than pleasant living conditions in Columbus, Ohio.
In the five years since Halliday’s passing, no one has been able to find even one clue. Not even the ‘Gunthers,’ which are those dedicated to studying the life of Halliday and every piece of pop-culture that he loved, have gotten anywhere close. Of course, the Sixers haven’t either, as they’re just a bunch of corporate-driven machines run by their CEO commander Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn).
But then, on a whim, Parzival (which is the name of Watt’s avatar) does it. He found the first clue. Suddenly the race is on and Watts, with help from some fellow Gunthers named Art3mis (Olivia Cooke), Aech (Lena Waithe), Sho (Philip Zhao) and Daito (Win Morisaki), have to beat the Sixers to the final Easter egg or risk the entire OASIS falling into the wrong hands.
And Ready Player One is fun. Like, shove popcorn in your mouth, watch the Iron Giant team up with some of your other favorite characters (keeping it vague to not spoil any surprises) level of fun.
The main concern I, and I think most people, had going into Ready Player One was how the cameos and easter eggs were going to be handled. It’s fun to see your favorite characters all in one place, but if the whole thing becomes fan service just for the sake of fan service, we’re going to have a problem.
Spielberg is smarter than that. Yes, there are references, but all of them come after the story and character development. The references that are there all play into that story, having organic reasons for being there and never being forced — the greatest of which takes place about half-way through the movie in a segment I won’t spoil, but is going to make film fanatics and critics go absolutely nuts. Spielberg might have outdone himself with that one.
That story is one that works for the context of the film, too. The thing I’ve always admired about Spielberg is that he can take stories that should be clichéd and over-told and find new spins to put on them.
There’s nothing new about the underdog hero, thrown into an expansive world beyond his understanding. While the film occasionally plays into the cliches a bit more than it should, Spielberg knows how to change the story up. Ready Player One is full of surprises, and even a few touching moments toward the end, that make this unlike anything else we’ve seen.
There’s also the whole world building aspect around Ready Player One as well, as most of the movie takes place in the animated world as the OASIS. It may not be as immersive as some of the other worlds Spielberg has created, nor does it explore the different components as much as the book does, but there’s a lot of fun to be had here and the animation style actually fits really well (even if the trailers might have you think something different).
Some of the performances are worth mentioning, even if a lot of the movie is done through voice-over due to the animation. While I didn’t buy the love story between Watts and Art3mis (although, I’ve heard the point made that the only reason they fell in love was because of how shitty their lives were, and if that’s true I want to see more), Sheridan and Cooke both do good work in the movie. Ben Mendelsohn plays an intimidating villain as always, and Mark Rylance gives an unexpectedly hilarious yet moving performance as well.
Ready Player One is everything that I, personally, wanted it to be. It’s not the best movie Spielberg has ever made, nor does it even stand-up with something like Jurassic Park or Jaws. It’s just, plain a simple, a whole lot of fun. There’s a car-chase right at the beginning of the film that’s so well filmed, it screams Spielberg in every frame and I loved it to pieces. The references are all handled with class and respect, this shows Spielberg doing what he does best: taking us back to those feelings of pure childlike awe. What more can you ask for, really?
Watch the trailer for Ready Player One here and let us know, in the comments below, what did you think of this movie? Were you a fan? Have you read the book?
'Ready Player One' review: The future is now and I can't wait7