From the visceral visuals to the never-ending barrage of pop culture icons instilled within this fun-filled adventure – Ready Player One captures classic Spielberg magic in virtual form, transporting audiences to a non-stop joyride through the ages. But can its digital charm really translate to a younger generation of audiences? or will falter like Spielberg’s previous attempt in 2016’s The BFG.
Ready Player One is based on the novel of the same name by Ernest Cline – set in the near future, it follows the story of a young man named Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) living his days in a virtual world called “the Oasis”, a world where you can be anyone and do anything. A challenge is laid before all of those in the Oasis when the creator and inventor (Mark Rylance) of the Oasis passes away, he reveals that whoever can complete his challenges will then inherit his empire and fortune. A race is set to discover clues and uncover the mystery behind it all, as Wade and his friend Art3mis (Olivia Cooke) are hunted down by a maniacal CEO (Ben Mendelsohn) of a rival company.
Blasting audiences into a virtual world of wonder and pure imagination; Ready Player One is as close to nostalgia in movie form as it can get – all guided by the steady hand of Steven Spielberg. From video games to movies, and everything in between, almost any age group can find a string to relate to in this film’s vast landscape of pop culture. While originally I had doubts it could have been messy and oversaturated, all of it blends very seamlessly into the story, creating a rich and interesting cocktail of imagery for the viewer.
Additionally, this film borrows from the classic adventure tropes, being heavily reminiscent of Spielberg’s older adventure films such as The Goonies (1985) and Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). What this film did perhaps most effectively is create a world that works in this day and age, a fiction that is easily relatable for the younger audiences of the digital generation was essential. With Spielberg at the helm it’s no surprise it worked with ease. Beyond all of the entertainment value that this film offers up, there are some admirable moral messages to give the film some substance.
The general theme is that the Oasis is a place for people to live an alternate reality, it is shown as both a place of magical experiences and harsh consequences. Throughout this film you see the theme of time used often, specifically how the past is something that cannot be undone and how the people of the world use the Oasis to escape the world they’re currently in, the world they’ve left behind, the past they’ve left behind. Disconnection, regret, and mistakes are all strong messages used throughout this film, giving me answers behind questions I didn’t know I wanted answered, leaving behind a strong conclusion to the film.
Though not all worked as well as it could have, the lead performance by Tye Sheridan certainly had its ups and downs, sometimes acting a little too over-the-top and pushy with his personality – his substandard backstory didn’t leave much room for connection to his character and this left me with a fairly meh feeling about him when the film concludes. Olivia Cooke plays the role of Art3mis, she offers up the most range out of the main heroes in terms of emotional expressions and steals the spotlight when more detailed acting begins. Oddly enough the CGI managed to make emotional expressions more intense on the virtual characters than the real actors own faces, seeing this happen was certainly a first for me.
Ben Mendelsohn didn’t offer anything complex in his villainous performance as a near stereotypical evil businessman, though I won’t discount his efforts, he did well enough with his near comedic role. However, you do get this bizarre performance from Hannah John-Kamen, as she portrays a sort of contract killer, it reminded me heavily of a downgraded version of Luv (the killer Replicant) from Blade Runner 2049 (2017). Above all, Mark Rylance stands at the top of the performances, his layered and truly original portrayal of a misunderstood eccentric billionaire came to life, his quirks and mannerisms felt natural to his character and his strange mind with a hint self-doubt in his voice felt truly authentic.
There is no question that this film’s visuals were its most powerful component in capturing the world, an even level of detail was spread across the entire film, I was hard pressed to find some CGI that looked unfinished or weak, I truly came up short. From the ultra detailed skin on the characters in the Oasis to the large scale battles, everything looked good and felt good across the board. In terms of visual cinematography we were offered some truly gorgeous shots with different imagery, from mesmerising sci-fi ballrooms, to mountains, to creepy hotel rooms – there is such a vast range of visuals that I almost felt overwhelmed.
However, the area in which our lead character resides in the real world had some fairly bland design, as well as the real world around him, despite the purpose of the Oasis being bigger and greater than the real world, I would have liked to of seen some better parallels showing beauty the real world has over the Oasis. While the soundtrack doesn’t make strides anywhere near Spielberg’s past films; the sound mixing was phenomenal with a powerful composition of different iconic sounds taking the spotlight seconds apart from one another. This film looked good, felt good, and sounded good across the board.
Overall, Ready Player One certainly doesn’t fall short of pure adventure and takes a spot alongside Spielberg’s classic adventure films, working as an experience that could be re-watched many times over. Though not perfect in all of its aspects, it sits as one of most genuinely entertaining kids films in quite some time.