The much anticipated movie adaptation of Ready Player One is here! Steven Spielberg takes the helm to direct the ultimate fan adventure story. Tye Sheridan and Olivia Cooke star in one of the most ambitious movies of recent years.
The year is 2045. The world is bursting at the seems. Resources are scarce and power had become a commodity. The schism between the rich and poor is huge. To escape this harsh reality the world disappears into a virtual world called The Oasis. The Oasis isn’t just for gamers. You can do and be anything you want in this digital world. People even go to school and work in virtual reality.
When the co-creator and sole owner of The Oasis passes away a video will, of sorts, plays for the world at large. James Halliday (Mark Rylance) outlines a game within the world. Whoever wins the game gets his immense fortune as well as control over the entire digital world.
Many hopefuls spend years attacking the riddles with no luck. One day a young gunter (egg hunter) with the handle Parzival (Tye Sheridan) cracks the first clue.
Ernest Cline’s 2011 science fiction/adventure novel is a love letter to pop culture. Cline dives deep into all things pop culture with a massive focus on the 1980’s. The 80’s is a great target for the world of Ready Player One. It makes sense contextually since it was the era Halliday grew up in. It also works for the theme of the story in discovery and pushing the boundaries in a digital world.
Who better to helm this altar of pop culture than Steven Spielberg himself? If you’re reading this Spielberg has been a part of your life. There was one downside to such a master filmmaker taking charge on this movie. He was eager to keep his own contributions to pop culture out of it. Spielberg wanted to serve the script. He wanted to serve Clien’s work. Above all else, he wanted to serve the audience. He felt it would be gross to make the movie look like a shrine to himself. Despite Spielberg’s wishes, his crew wanted to honor the man who gave us all so much. They managed to sneak a few references throughout.
Don’t let the marketing fool you. Ready Player One is more than a flashy crash course through pop culture paradise. The references are woven into the story and do more to fill the digital world than define it. I don’t understand the backlash with all the references in the story anyway, isn’t that a huge part of the fun? References, jokes, spoofs, and parodies are how target audiences converse.
With all the references it’s important to note your enjoyment doesn’t hinder on pop culture knowledge. It’s impossible you won’t get a single one going to see this movie but the story is still competent and consistent. Some of the magic may be lost on you if you aren’t a fan of pop culture. If that’s the case I doubt you’re taking the time to read this lengthy opinionated review anyway.
The story is relatively simplistic. That’s part of the charm. The gaming centric story follows gaming tropes. Three levels of increasing difficulty with rewards and wit required. Each level offers a key as an award when completed. The keys lead to the final encounter with Halliday’s avatar Anorak. The characters could have used a bit more time to develop and interact in the real world. The love story happens a bit fast. We never get a feel for the Parzival and Aech relationship. The relationship is important in that it mirrors Halliday and his old partner Morrow. The dynamics of the relationship are actually pretty integral to the plot. There is enough there to tell the story but it leaves the actors feeling a little empty.
The majority of the movie takes place in The Oasis. The quality of the animation could not have been better. The action scenes feel real and even the things that aren’t intended to look real at all are believable. The world feels like it has texture. The movements feel human. Even watching the character’s mouths move was real. At times you forget your watching what boils down to being a cartoon.
The credits are lengthy and there is no stinger. Sit through them anyway. The sheer amount of animators who bring this visual feast for life are staggering in number.
I can already hear the “but in the book…” comments starting. Let’s get one thing out of the way. A movie isn’t a book. The mediums are different and have different pros and cons. Ready Player One accepts this and nails the spirit of the story. The adventure is real. Spielberg is one of few directors who deliver a nostalgic yet fresh experience. I haven’t felt the sense of adventure and pure childhood excitement in a theater since J.J. Abram’s 2011 Super 8.
While specifics are altered, updated, made much more visual, the good will never faded. The spirit of the story came to life for thousands of people who would never read the book or listen to Wil Wheaton’s incredible narration.
Why is Ready Player One important? Our world is in a stressful state. Movies are an amazing way to escape the pressures of everyday life but they are also so much more.
A movie like this, at a time like this, is important. Yes, important. We exist in a wonderful time for ‘geek’ and ‘nerd’ culture. This section of pop culture has taken the forefront. More and more people are loving things that you loved your whole life. This seems to make everyone who claims to be into this stuff ‘before it was cool’ the ultimate hipster. You may choose graphic tees and hoodies over plaids and twirled mustaches but that gives you no right to something over someone else.
Wake up. This stuff is popular because a LOT of people like it. Isn’t that the definition? Stop this defensive, arrogant, stance on someone else’s IP. We all love pop culture. We all love stories, and we all like our modern mythology. Nothing gives you more right to like it than someone else. Do you have more of a right to gaming because you think you know everything about Ernest Cline? If he wasn’t a lifetime fan he did his research and has a lot of respect for the many worlds he touches on.
We got off the rails a bit there. Why exactly do I say Ready Player One is important? Because it’s a celebration of our fandoms. It’s pure and utter joy. There are no political agendas or heavy handed messages ruining the fun. The villain is a trope. The game is set. The kids are a lot of fun to follow and the whole thing, while predictable. is an exciting adventure.
The joy came in catching glimpses of things we love. It’s exhilarating to hear familiar musical queues. Subtle images, sounds, and shots that live deep in our subconscious come forward. Cline’s story combined with Spielberg’s unmatched imagination pull these things out of time and deliver them on a silver platter.
Why the negativity? Can’t we enjoy things? Why does who liked something longer matter? If you love something share it with the world. Instead of trying to tear down a labor of love why not raise it up? If a project or fandom isn’t for you, move on. You don’t have to tell everyone you cross paths with what you don’t like. Share some positivity!