Ready Player One
Visually outstanding, full with nostalgia, solid action and engaging script, "Ready Player One" is Spielberg's best film since "Minority Report"
For more than a decade I have been waiting for a proper Spielberg film. Not a historical drama, weird children fantasy film or a horse movie. No. All I wanted to see was a classic Spielberg movie that pushes the boundary of filmmaking. And finally, probably first time since “Minority Report”, he has delivered. He gives us “Ready Player One”, based on a novel by Ernest Cline.
In year 2045, after economic collapse, climate change, overall anarchy, etc. billions of people connect to OASIS. It is the virtual reality system that has been created by famous inventor James Halliday. People go to school, work, play, dream, study, dance in OASIS. They live in OASIS. See, there is nothing to stop your imagination in OASIS, you can be anyone or anything! And while World has embraced the idea and joined the online community, this also made it’s creator and sole owner, James Halliday, a trillionaire. But he passes away in 2040. In his will, Halliday reveals the he has apparently hidden a secret object, an Easter Egg, somewhere in the endless locations of OASIS. He who finds the Easter Egg will inherit the fortunes and also will own the OASIS. And so the hunt begins.
Or so it seems. Because to get to Easter Egg, one must find three keys. And for 5 years since the death of Halliday no one is able to even find the first one. Everyone knows that Halliday was a big nerd and was obsessed with pop culture of 80’s and 90’s. So nowadays what most of the users do is rewatch old movies, TV shows, play old video games, read old books over and over and over to figure out the clue to find the first key. And so does young Wade Watts. He lives in slums of Ohio and goes by the name of Parzival in OASIS. Suddenly, with the help of his best friend he never seen in real life, called AECH and mysterious blogger Art3mis, he has a breakthrough and is able to get to first key. Overnight Parzival becomes a celebrity. And he attracts attention of corporation called IOI, who wants to find the Egg in order to own the whole OASIS. And so the race begins.
Sreenplay borrows heavily from the book, since the screenwriter is the writer of “Ready Player One” Ernest Cline himself. That being said, there are numerous differences made to the story, mostly to contain the runtime within manageable film length. Also there were changes to the key challenges. They are made more cinematic and visual. Characters no longer have to play some old Arcade game for hours like in the book or lip sync “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” to get to the keys. Instead there are equally amazing new sequences and challenges that will surprise you.
That being said, character development has suffered tremendously. When the book had Wade as complete nobody who suddenly becomes famous there is a big arc relating to changes in Wade’s personality and his realization of commercialization of whole OASIS. Film doesn’t offer anything to explore that. Also romantic subplot with Art3mis was in my opinion very cliche and too fast. Her character seemed really one-dimensional in the film. So did all supporting characters, actually. Which is really uncharacteristic of Spielberg. I am sure given that film was pushing 2.5 hours already, this was an artistic choice that he made.
Taking account that 75% of the film happens in OASIS, it is mind-blowing how intricate the World has been made. The opening car race sequence will literally make your jaw drop. And Spielberg goes all in, cashing on his inner teenager, while creating this super engaging and thrilling sequences. After so many years of period dramas, you would think he has forgotten how to make action enjoyable. After watching the film, I exclaimed “Wow! He still got it!” And interestingly, despite all the madness of color and explosions on the screen, action scenes never lose coherence and never bore you down. Spielberg also utilizes his famous fast/slow sequence alteration throughout the film, as usual, masterfully. Fast scenes are not too much, and slow scenes don’t make you yawn.
Also it is visible how much actually Spielberg is loving making “Ready Player One”. Since the film is built on pop culture, he gives us EVERYTHING related to 80’s and 90’s. And by everything I mean, characters from Street Fighter, Alien, Mortal Kombat, Iron Giant, Chucky, Freddy Krueger, Duke Nukem, DOOM, Tomb Raider, Overwatch. Characters drive DeLorean, Christine and Akira’s motorbike. There are so many movie, TV shows, cartoon, comic book, video game, board game, toy line, book references that it will make you go “OHMYGOD! That’s freaking Alien bursting from the chest of Goro!” Unfortunately this abundance of pop culture references is so much, that it might drag you down, honestly, because at some point I caught myself trying to catch a glimpse of Halo soldier fighting with Ninja Turtle, than actually paying attention to the movie.
Spielberg also addresses his own nerd self and pays homage to his own heroes. There is T-Rex, taken directly from the “Jurassic Park” and also King Kong on Empire State Building (1933 film is one of his most beloved ones). He also pays tribute to his late friend and mentor Stanley Kubrick with whole “The Shining” sequence (which was, by the was amazing!). Surprisingly missing from all this action are Star Wars characters. Apparently Spielberg couldn’t get permission from Disney to use them.
Tye Sheridan plays Wade Watts. His performance is solid in live action and also in CGI, through motion capture. His character is goofy enough and at the same time is very relatable. Olivia Cooke plays mysterious Art3mis. Unlike her weird role in “Thoroughbreds“, here she shows her emotional side to full extent. Strong and outspoken as her virtual self, awkward and vulnerable in real life. She and Tye share very nice screen chemistry, both in CGI and live action. Ben Mendelsohn plays main villain Nolan Sorrento, CEO of IOI. He is good, but it is virtually same role he plays in “The Dark Knight Rises” and “Rogue One”. Mark Rylance delivers outstanding performance as late trillionaire James Halliday. He is nerdy, awkward, shy, and at the same time delivers the biggest emotional performance of “Ready Player One”.
The world of OASIS is all CGI with motion capture of the characters faces and actions. While real life is dirty and gritty, OASIS is complete opposite – radiant and cheerful. No wonder people don’t want to leave OASIS. At the same time, Spielberg goes a big way to make you understand the OASIS is not real. Despite how good and nice it looks, there are still some pixelization and meshing on the characters, specifically done to increase this “fake” effect. Visually “Ready Player One” has one of the best CGI effects I have seen in recent. Spielberg bets a lot on that and he wins it all. Some CGI sequences will shock you with detail and complexity.
Visually outstanding “Ready Player One” marks return of Steven Spielberg to action/sci-fi genre. Being one of his best films in more than decade, it shows that great director still got it. I hope he continues this trend and gives us more of this.