Ready Player One is directed by Steven Spielberg and is an adaptation of the book with the same name, written by Ernest Cline-who also co-wrote the screenplay. The movie stars Tye Sheridan as Wade Watts, a.k.a. Parzival, and it is set in the year 2045 where the world has turned into a difficult place and a lot of people turn to the virtual universe known as the OASIS to escape their realities, which has become increasingly important to them.
As with most of my reviews I’ve just told you what I knew before going to watch the movie, as I’ve seen one trailer for the movie and having not read the book nor seen any reviews which is for me the best way to experience a movie. One thing that I have seen mentioned a lot though is the movie’s overuse of pop culture references and are in fact related to the plot in several points. After the movie ended I literally gave myself headache just trying to remember all of them, so if you do not like pop-culture references then maybe this movie isn’t for you. Having said that, let’s start with the actual review.
I don’t know whether I hold Spielberg, and his accomplishments, as a filmmaker in too high regard, but I left the theatre disappointed that it was just fine. The movie is just another blockbuster action sci-fi, with impressive production values, some great action sequences, a narrative that is just good enough to keep your attention and characters that are passable at their best. The main issue I have with the movie is that, to me, it feels soulless, with a couple of exceptions; for the most part things happen and an obligatory pop-culture reference is made and-since the plot is basically a crew of gamers hunting for Easter eggs- not so subtle nods are made to the way we play games or obsess about movies that press the plot forward, so another great action scene can occur; rinse-repeat until the movie ends. I could tell the actors had fun making this movie and Spielberg showcases why he is still one of the best directors around with impressive detail in a movie that has entire CGI scenes and, even more impressively, entire action sequences in CGI which still have a lot of details and visuals to feast upon. However, the world felt flat, like it existed when I was seeing it on the screen and when it was gone it stopped existing. They never take the time to introduce us to what happened here, why, what the world looks like beyond the slums Wade lives in, what kind of jobs do they do, are there people who are not using the OASIS; the movie just narrates its way past all of that in the first few minutes and gets straight into the OASIS, which is fine because that’s where the fun is, but in doing so made the world bland and lifeless. The other main issue I had with the movie is the references; when I said that I got a headache trying to remember all of them, I was not exaggerating. They are everywhere and most of them are fine, some of them are funny, genuinely surprising and cool while others are just distracting. In particular there is a scene where the set of a well-known movie is painstakingly recreated-which was very impressive and cool-but then the movie mixes its sensitivities with that of the movie it’s recreating and it was incredibly distracting for me.
However, besides those issues, I think the movie is fine and has a couple of notable highlights, aside from the incredible production values. Firstly the action scenes are great; they are fun and frenetic but never disorienting or confusing as to what is going on. Secondly, although most of the cast are fine and do their parts adequately, a special mention should go to Mark Rylance and his performance of James Halliday, the eccentric and socially awkward creator of the OASIS. He really sold his character’s eccentricity and sadness in a way that stood out from most other performances. Besides these two standout features, the movie is fine; the characters are sometimes dumb and not relatable but for the most part they work as vessels from which the viewer can experience the world. Likewise, the story isn’t anything noteworthy; something bad happened and people are now very reliant on OASIS, our character is introduced as just another individual in this world and when he is needed to, starts the journey of becoming a hero. So like most other blockbusters, its narrative and characters take a back seat to the main attraction and it manages to distract you away from most story loopholes with big action set pieces and more pop culture references that you could ever wish for; sometimes that is good enough, sometimes it isn’t. For me even though as a blockbuster, pop culture based movie it is better than I ever expected it to be, it is still a movie made by the legendary Steven Spielberg and he can do so much better with similar movie types-as he has done in the past- thus in that regard, it is disappointing.
In the spoiler section below I will discuss some spoillery nitpicks I have with the movie that are not important enough to warrant a spoiled review (or I don’t care enough). If you are not interested in reading them and don’t want to be spoiled, stop reading. Go see the movie and then come back. If you don’t care about spoilers, then click the box and reveal the spoiler section.
[spoiler title=’Spoilers ahead!!!’ style=’default’ collapse_link=’true’]After the movie finished I had a few nitpicks that for some reason I just couldn’t stop thinking about; as I said these are not important enough and don’t impact the movie enough to warrant a discussion about them (or I’m not interested enough to write one!). First of all, is the OASIS a viable source of income? The movie shows the real world slams populated with people in the OASIS, but in a scene where Wade heads at his Aunt’s home she gets angry with her boyfriend that he lost all of their money in OASIS. So is money in the OASIS an equivalent of the Euro or the Dollar, or is there still real-world money? I don’t know if I missed anything from the movie that explains this but I found this ambiguity rather annoying. Also, Wade is kind of a dick. His aunt dies in an explosion and he just walks away, gets taken, meets Art3mis and then completely forgets about his aunt until he meets the bad guy again and remembers that she died. I don’t know why this bothered me so much, since we don’t actually spent a lot of time with Wade’s aunt, but it seems kind of a dick move for someone who loses their guardian in a fiery explosion they witnessed-and sort of caused- to completely forget about it after a few hours. Furthermore, how does OASIS work? I’m not referring to the actual software but the hardware; we see Wade putting on a visor and running on a treadmill, we see everyone in his clan has a similar set up with a visor and set up that keeps them stationary while allowing freedom of movement, and we see everyone in IOI who is in the OASIS to have similar visor and movement set-ups. But then, towards the end, we see a bunch of people running around in the street with their visors on because in the OASIS there is a huge fight going on! Are those the GearVR versions for the OASIS? Shouldn’t that be prevented because what happens in the movie would happen in the real world-meaning people would start randomly running unto busy streets because they are playing an immersive game and are completely unaware of their surroundings? Another tiny nitpick I have is how come, in a world full of gamers and Easter egg hunters, the first trial- which is a race against the clock and full of impossible obstacles- has gone unsolved for years before Wade finally figured out the, literally, first thing that came to mind for me; go backwards, and see what happens! I get that for people who don’t play games or, to be more specific, don’t play arcade racing games that involve precision and a race against the clock like Trials, the twist of going backwards was unexpected, but for me, that was literally the first thing I thought of and kind of annoying especially since one of the movie’s messages is about not taking the virtual, imaginary worlds we create too seriously and enjoy the real world as well, but this purely inquisitive and fun deviation from the game’s rules and mechanics done in games just to see what happens, is portrayed as a thoughtful and difficult puzzle to solve. Lastly, is the OASIS mandatory in this universe? Because everyone and their moms have a visor; doesn’t matter if they are poor or rich. And how did it get so important, when the world is clearly in a rotten place? You would think that a lot of people would not spend a bunch of their limited money to buy a game, but apparently everyone did! Anyway these are just nitpicks that bothered me and I don’t want to read the book to see if they are explained there, nor do I want to see the movie again. [/spoiler]