Ready Player One

Director: Steven Spielberg.
Screenplay: Zak Penn, Ernest Cline.
Starring: Tye Sheridan, Ben Mendelsohn, Olivia Cooke, Mark Rylance, Simon Pegg, Lena Waithe, T.J. Miller, Philip Zhao, Win Morisaki, Hannah John-Kamen, Ralph Ineson, Susan Lynch, Clare Higgins, Perdita Weeks.

“People come to the Oasis for all the things they can do, but they stay for all the things they can be”

When Jaws was released in 1975, it done so well at the box-office that it was the first film to become, what we now know as, the “blockbuster”. Having been responsible for this, it looks like Steven Spielberg (at the ripe age of 71) isn’t in any mood for changing as Ready Player One – his 33rd film – is still an example of the big brand of entertainment that he’s now synonymous with. That said, he hasn’t been delivering that many of these types of films for quite some time now, choosing instead to focus on more dramatic material but I’m happy to say that he still possesses that childlike imagination and adventurous touch.

Plot: In the year 2045, a virtual reality system called the Oasis is an immersive world that allows people to escape their harsh reality and be or do anything they want – the only limits are your own imagination. The Oasis creator James Halliday (Mark Rylance) decides to leave a message for all its users before he dies. He creates an Easter egg within the game and anyone who finds it will inherit his immense fortune and gain complete control of the Oasis itself. Naturally, everyone sets out to complete the challenge but unlikely hero Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) finds himself at the forefront of the hunt.

It’s fair to say that Spielberg has been (and still is) one of the most influential filmmakers in history. So many of his films have entered popular culture, making him the perfect director to adapt Ernest Cline’s nostalgic novel Ready Player One which works primarily on delving into the very pop-culture that Spielberg himself has helped shape. In Cline’s book, Spielberg is even mentioned but to give the director his due he has decided, for the most part, to omit his contributions when adapting it for the screen. Despite this, however, you really can’t have a film that relies on pop-culture references without Spielberg being mentioned and he does throw in the odd welcome nod to himself.

It’s not just Spielberg on show here, though, as theres an abundance of nostalgia for anyone that grew up in the 80’s and 90’s and has even a passing knowledge of the rise of video games and such classic films as Saturday Night Fever, King Kong and Spielberg’s own Jurassic Park. Most surprisingly of all, however, is the influence of The Shining. There’s a sequence here that may offend the die hard fans of Stanley Kubrick’s horror masterpiece but, personally, I was astounded at how well Spielberg uses scenes from that film to inject his own characters into; room 237 is explored again and we get to see the creepy twins in the hallway as well as the river of blood that floods from the elevator. Witnessing this with Spielberg’s digitally enhanced characters shows how far technology can go in the movies and this is only one example. We also get to see Back to the Future‘s Deloreon back in action and fans of The Iron Giant will rejoice in that animated character being brought to life. To put it simply, the film is practically one big homage or nostalgic trip to films of the past and Spielberg wrings it out for all it’s worth. Some may say that the central storyline suffers as a result of the CGI and I wouldn’t argue with that but this is a film that wouldn’t even have been possible 20 years ago and the imagination involved here is so intoxicating and reminiscent that I didn’t care about the narrative taking a backseat. I was just happy getting swept along for the ride.

As visual spectacles go, this is a truly astounding piece of work as Spielberg captures the allure and breakneck pace of a video game world – with an astonishingly exciting race in the film’s opening – and transports us into this virtual reality with ease. In fact, the CGI moments are so good that it can sometime leave the scenes in the real world somewhat flat and doesn’t allow the actors to fully embrace their roles. That said, Tye Sheridan is a serviceable lead and Ben Mendelsohn delivers his usual reliability in the villain role but the other actors don’t make much of an impact and this is most apparent in the final third when they’re relied upon more. It’s around this point that film loses touch with its pace and feels a little overlong. As entertaining as it is overall, it could’ve benefited from a little trim. I also wonder whether the film will appeal to our current generation of kids when there’s a lot of references that will inevitably go over their heads. In essence, this film has a target audience and it’s most definitely for those who grew up in the 80’s and 90’s and those that experienced the rise of gaming before virtual reality was even a thing.

An intoxicating doze of nostalgia and a wonderful piece of escapism from Spielberg. The inventor of the blockbuster can still produce the goods and he proves it with his most entertaining movie for some time. Minor flaws aside, this is a true cinematic experience and one that made me feel like a child again – a skill that Spielberg has always excelled at.

Mark Walker

Trivia: Steven Spielberg made The Post (2017) while he was waiting for Industrial Light & Magic to create close to 1,500 digital effect shots for this movie.

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8 Responses to “Ready Player One”

  1. I don’t know man. I thought most of the pop-culture references felt forced and didn’t add much of anything to the character development. I think there’s a number of compelling things you can do with the concept of the Oasis (how people feitishizes pop-culture, the absorption of virtual reality to ignore actual reality, etc.), but RPO doesn’t really touch any of these subjects.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hear you , man. It could’ve explored into further depths but to be honest, I didn’t care. I went for the entertainment value and Spielberg delivered that. I’m sure there’s numerous flaws in this film and I caught some in the first viewing but it mattered little to me. I went expecting visual escapism and I walked out with that. I really enjoyed it for what it was.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. An excellent read sir.

    Funny, your closing lines are pretty much what I plan to open my review with. At the ripe age of 71, Spielberg has proven he has never lost touch with his inner child, in the process creating an unforgettable VR adventure that made ME feel like a kid all over again. I loved this thing, noticeable flaws and all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a generational thing, mucker. We are similar ages therefore we were the target audience, essentially. There’s were a few flaws here as there but I really entered into it and got swept away in the nostalgia. It the most enjoyable film Spielbergs done in some time. It’s hard to imagine that most can’t at least take something from this?!

      Liked by 1 person

      • 100% agreed. I loved that moment when Wade’s avatar finally meets Halliday in the bedroom. That felt like CLASSIC Spielberg to me. So nostalgic.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Absolutely, man. Spielberg knows exactly what he’s tapping into here. All the little details of things from our childhood were here. I’ve heard a lot of criticism surrounding the film but it’s unashamedly nostalgic and I loved it for that.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Agreed, this is Spielberg’s most fun movie in quite some time. Some of its flaws took me out of the movie, but overall, I had a good time watching this. I also worry how many of the references kids will actually get, but for old farts like us it was visual candy.

    Liked by 1 person

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