Review of 'Ready Player One'

ready_player_one.jpg Another blockbuster from Spielberg, “Ready Player One” takes us into the world of virtual reality, a world Spielberg himself believes is closer than you might think.

In the year 2045 the world is overpopulated with people forced to live in tall towers of trailer homes known as “the stacks”. The population escape their troubled reality by spending their time in the OASIS - A virtual reality universe offering all manner of amusements and where many live their lives. OASIS was created by the late James Halliday (Mark Rylance), a man obsessed with 1980s culture, who has left behind an “Easter Egg” hunt, a set of clues hidden in the OASIS itself that lead to keys giving the bearer full control over the OASIS. Many years have passed since Halliday threw down the gauntlet but no one has managed to solve the first clue. Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) is a a young man living in the stacks who, like many others, dreams of finding the keys as his alter-ego in the OASIS “Parzival”. When Wade stumbles over the solution to the first clue he attracts the attention of businessman Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn) CEO of Innovative Online Industries (IOI), a video game conglomerate and manufacturer of virtual reality equipment. Sorrento has created an army of debt-indentured players known as “sixers” who continuously play in the OASIS seeking to find the keys and seize control over the OASIS for commercial gain. Wade forms a group called the “High Five” composed of OASIS masters to help him solve the riddle including his long-time hero “Art3mis” (Olivia Cooke) - in reality, Samantha, a woman living outside the norms of modern society - as well as the massively muscular mechanic “Aech” (Lena Waithe) - in reality a woman called “Helen”, “I-R0k” (T.J. Miller) and martial arts brothers “Sho” (Philip Zhao) and “Daito” (Win Morisaki). With the weight of the world on their shoulders it is up to this group to defeat the forces of IOI and save the OASIS from corporate greed.

After reading the original book (see my review here) I looked forward to Spielberg's big screen adaptation. I was not disappointed. The spirit (if not, of course, the entire substance) of the book is translated faithfully to the screen. The effects are simply amazing and, frankly, really fun to look at with knowing nods to so many different, much loved characters, from 1980s film particularly in the massive final virtual battle - Yeah, P. The characters are sympathetically and earnestly portrayed. Sheridan as Watts is intense but still manages to be awed by what is happening around him while Cooke as Art3mis grounds Watts and often steals the show as her antics serve to take them to the final prize. You never know where the film is going to take you with surprising twists throughout. Boring this is not.

There are a few weaknesses here. I found the wooden and odd performance from Mark Rylance as Halliday jarring to say the least. It really was such a caricature that I had a hard time taking very seriously. He certainly did grab the attention on the screen but perhaps not in a good way. Most large action scenes, though incredible, are simple melees - Very difficult to follow as a sea of characters duke it out on the screen. Great to look at but that is about it. Luckily this pandemonium is not confusing us too often and we are quickly focused back in on the heart of the action. These are all just nit-picks though that can be forgiven in light of the amazing-ness all around it.

I had wondered whether the rather abstract idea of a virtual reality world would work with the (quite full) audience at the screening but I think that in this day and age the idea of OASIS is not so far fetched so people quickly are able to grasp and accept what is on the screen. Throughout the show not a single eye (except both of mine) was off the screen as the action splashed across it. Yes, this film you really need to see on the big screen.

Here Spielberg returns to his fun and youthful best. “Ready Player One” hearkens back to Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park, and E.T. - Fun and amazing looking films. Yet at the same time all of these have a heart and earnestness that draws us in. It is up to posterity to decide whether “Ready Player One” will stand up with these other classics of modern cinema.

A lot of fun and well worth seeing on the big screen. Sit back and enjoy the ride.

Rating: “Nearly perfect, but not quite”

Review Date: 2018-04-13

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Studio: Amblin Entertainment

Year: 2018

Length: 140 minutes

Genre: Science Fiction

Other reviewed films by Steven Spielberg: