Ready Player One review
Why do we love video games? They have gone from an electronic novelty to multi-million dollar industries that practically have the same clout as major movie studios. And yet, what are we really doing? Some might say were sitting in front of screens doing nothing but playing with meaningless games. People who make that analogy are probably not the target audience for video games. Guys like myself who do play, play for a variety of reasons; to relax, to be entertained, but more importantly, to feel like we can escape. Whether your gunning down aliens in Halo, jumping pipes in Super Mario Bros. or eating pellets in Pac-Man, video games have given people the ability to feel like their taken to another world.
As technology has gotten better, virtual reality or VR gaming has gained popularity. I haven't had much experience with it, but I'm blown away with how much more it can transport those people into the games. Today's movie is all about VR technology at it's grandest. It's also about capable it is at creating anything they want for people to experience. So I guess if you wanted to be a Ghostbuster or play 8 bit golf, you could. It's all possible in Ready Player One.
In 2045, society is at an economic low as many people are forced to live in slum-living spaces, like the Stacks, an area where many RVs are stacked on top of each other. To curb life's disappointments, many people log into the Oasis, a giant VR experience created by James Halliday (played by Mark Rylance) where they can engage to play games, educate themselves, and even work. Because of what's offered to gamers, Halliday's death is seen as a loss to the tech industry. Regardless, the Oasis is seen as an amazing thing.
For the past five years, players of the Oasis have been a part of a quest that Halliday had set up after his death, in which whoever can find three hidden keys in the Oasis will acquire a golden egg, plus total control of the Oasis. Young Wade Watts (played by Tye Sheridan) has been playing, studying all the potential clues, hoping his avatar Parzival can be the one to win. He manages to get the first key, making him an instant celebrity. While he's working with Art3mis (played by Olivia Cooke) and Aech, he's also being followed by Nolan Sorrento (played by Ben Mendelsohn), the CEO of another company, IOI, who also wants to win to acquire the Oasis.
The big concern that most people had with Ready Player One was that it was going to rely too much on references to eighties nostalgia. Thanks to the direction by Steven Spielberg, he balances out the heavy references with fun adventure. Based on the novel of the same name by Ernest Cline (who also wrote the script), the movie keeps it's reference-heavy scenario, but tries it's hardest to be sure it never overshadows the overall character development.
The good news is that despite having mostly unknowns, the casting works out good. Both Tye Sheridan and Olivia Cooke make for likable leads. Though I put a lot of question of whether they really resemble gamers, their personalities made them work just enough. Honestly, the real stars were the side characters. Ben Mendelsohn makes for a fun villain as a corporate suit who is only interested in the money with little care about gamers. Mark Rylance gives the best performance as the quiet VR founder who carries a lot of pressure for a guy who dislikes his own creation and even what it's brought to the world.
Now for the overall story and plot, there were things improved on from the book and elements I think could have used more thought. While I won't say how he wins the race for the first key, I find it hard to believe that it would have taken gamers five years to try it. But there is a film recreation done for the second key that makes for a fascinating visual effect that I'm still trying to figure out if it was real or digitally recreated. While every part of the journey doesn't make a ton of sense (half the time when they were chased by IOI, I kept wondering why they didn't just remove the VR goggles and respawn elsewhere), the overall journey makes this for a fun movie just to be entertained by.
I'll give this four eight bit keys out of five. I can definitely say I had fun seeing a lot of characters from Street Fighter, Iron Giant, Batman, The Shining, Mobile Suit Gundum, Sonic the Hedgehog, Back to the Future, King Kong, and much more all being thrown into a VR experience that I'm honestly glad doesn't exist in the real world. This is Steven Spielberg giving us an adventure film that will probably entertain most people (he had already done his Oscar bait movie The Post last year). If the references in the previews bothered you, you'll probably not like this. But for everyone else, this is one of the nerdiest movies made…and I mean that in a good way. Log in and see this this Easter Egg hunt is worth following.