Ready Player One is directed by Steven Spielberg, and is based on the book by Ernest Cline. The film stars Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Lena Waithe, Simon Pegg, and Mark Rylance.
Several decades into the future, the world’s major cities have been in a decline. To escape from the mundane and the frustrations of everyday life, people lose themselves in the Oasis, a virtual world in which they can go anywhere, do anything, and be anyone. Many years ago, the creator of the Oasis declared a challenge, in which visitors to the Oasis can seek out three keys to locate a mysterious “Easter egg,” with the winner of the challenge inheriting complete control of the Oasis, and a lofty cash sum. Wade Watts, a young man residing in a slum with his aunt and a never-ending series of criminal boyfriends, seeks refuge in the Oasis, continually hunting for the keys. Along his way, he meets and allies with many friends, but quickly finds himself face to face with the CEO of a rival company with its sights set on controlling the Oasis as well.
Ready Player One is overblown and overstuffed with cameos and all kinds of pop culture references, and feels like something that should collapse under the weight of its own idea. Instead, the movie ends up being a ton of fun, with references and cameos that nearly everyone will relate to, a fun story and characters, and even social commentary. No matter who you are, you’re going to find something to love about this movie.
Aside from Wreck-It Ralph a few years back, no other film has ever tried to bring together this many elements of the video gaming world. The characters are clearly fans of these franchises, and those of you who are fans as well will find no shortage of familiar faces and elements. The references also branch out into the wider pop culture world, including classic 80s pop/rock hits, and classic films as well. If you were to tell me that my favorite film of 2018 so far would be one where a Gundam battles Mechagodzilla, or one where an Alien (from the film of the same name) busts out from the chest of Goro from Mortal Kombat, I never would’ve believed you! As soon as the movie’s over, you’ll want to go back and watch it again for all the references you missed.
The characters are also a lot of fun, and have great chemistry with one another. From gamers who use the Oasis as a means to escape their everyday lives to stereotypical “suits” as villains, much of the film feels familiar, but in a fun, nostalgic way, not like an unnecessary rehash or a rip-off. That Steven Spielberg can go from releasing a serious docudrama about the Washington Post to making the movie that is essentially a gamer/movie nerd’s wet dream speaks volumes for the man’s talents and diversity as a director.
Social commentary is always a welcomed addition in a film, and Ready Player One has plenty of it. You’ve heard the stories of people getting addicted to video games and neglecting their everyday lives to the point that they’re disconnected with society? This film takes that concept to the next level. With the world being a desolate, uninteresting place, and people escaping into an alternate gaming universe of sorts, what reason do they have to do anything else? The disconnect from society that results from over-gaming and secluded behavior is beautifully demonstrated here. And it makes one of the decisions made in the film’s finale all the more relevant and comical at the same time (but I won’t spoil that here!)
The film isn’t quite perfect though. At 140 minutes, it’s about 20 minutes too long, and the third act climax/conclusion feels a bit dragged out, which causes the product to lose some momentum in those all-important final moments. Certain character relationships don’t get the fleshing out they need, though this is can be overlooked when you consider just how much fun the final product us.
Ready Player One is a fun experience that never lets up, with its onslaught of pop culture, from gaming and music to cinema. Regardless of who you are, there will be at least one element in this movie that ensnares you. If the generally fast-paced action doesn’t catch your attention, counting all the pop culture references and cameos will. Here’s another reason to love Steven Spielberg, if you needed one.
Rating: Three-and-a-half out of four stars.
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