Possible spoilers ahead!
“Ready Player One” takes place in a dystopian future where much of the world has been dealing with issues like overpopulation, environmental degradation, and rampant corporate take overs. Hoping to escape the real world, people spend most of their time interacting and in the OASIS, a virtual reality world created by the late James Halliday (Mark Rylance) and his partner Ogden Morrow (Simon Pegg).
The OASIS is heavily informed and powered by Halliday’s love with pop culture of the late 20th and early 21st century. This includes everything from movies, tv, music and more. This allows its users to create avatars of their own design, which then can then use to compete in all kinds of games with other players; work for a living in the OASIS; or simply explore the limits of their imagination in a never-ending virtual reality world.
Following his death, it’s revealed that Halliday created one final game in the OASIS known as Anorak’s Quest. The mission calls for players to track down three keys through a series of smaller quests, in order to find Halliday’s last Easter Egg: an item that will grant the winner full control and ownership of the OASIS and its assets in the real world and VR world alike.
No one has been successful in the Anorak’s Quest, until a young man named Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), who goes by Parzival in the OASIS, becomes the first person to complete one of these three mini-quests. Perzival becomes an instant celebrity, and draws the attention of a famous player known as Art3mis (Olivia Cooke). But more importantly, Wade makes himself a target for the Innovative Online Industries CEO Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), who is determined to gain control of the OASIS at any cost.
Adapted from the novel by Ernest Cline, “Ready Player One” is the latest effort from legendary director Steven Spielberg. He’s a director that’s hit or miss for me. For the most part, I either love his movies or hate them. There’s rarely any room in between. But “Ready Player One” is unlike anything Spielberg has ever done, and thus, it doesn’t feel like a Spielberg movie. Perhaps that’s why I ended up enjoying “Ready Player One” as much as I did.
But let’s be clear about one thing: the OASIS is the true star of “Ready Player One,” and a ton of credit has to go to Spielberg and his special effects team. The filmmakers created a world filled with mo-cap characters, and a ton of easter eggs for fan boys like me. There’s so much going on in these scenes that its likely I missed a bunch of stuff. But it was still a thrill seeing the Iron Giant, Batman, Voltron, the “Back to the Future” Delorean, and more together.
If “Ready Player One” fails in one area, it would be in making the real world characters likable and engaging. I don’t think its the actor’s fault, but the script could have done better by them. I never felt much of a connection with lead character Wade Watts, especially since the character of Art3mis was more fully developed than he was. She’s a more complicated character than I expected, and just as capable (if not more) than Wade.
One aspect of the cast I did enjoy were Wade Watts’ friends in the OASIS, including his good buddy Aech (Lena Waithe) and the siblings Sho and Daito (Philip Zhao and Win Morisaki). Some of my favorite moments int he film were the scenes in which this group of players join forces to battle Nolan Sorrento and his goons.
For the past six years my friend Nick has been telling me to read this novel. I still haven’t, despite his nagging, so I’m not sure how closely Steven Spielberg stuck to the source material. But I’m guessing he took a few liberties here and there. Regardless, I found “Ready Player One” to be a fun, fast paced trip down memory lane. Add to that the incredible world of the OASIs, and I was hooked. This is one movie I’ll be watching again.
“Ready Player One” score: B