Film review: Ready Player One (2018)

ready player one photoBy Jase Brandt    Sterling, KS — April 11, 2018, 9:03 P.M.

Release Date: March 29, 2018

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, bloody images, some suggestive material, partial nudity and language

Runtime: Two hours, 20 minutes

Genre: Action | Adventure | Sci-Fi

 

Steven Spielberg’s long-awaited rendition of the best-selling novel by Ernest Cline has finally come! Set in the year 2045, Ready Player One follows Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) as both his physical self in the real world and his digital self in the virtual world of the Oasis. In the real world, Wade is your typical teenage boy who is struggling to get by as he lives during a worldwide energy crisis with his aunt and her string of abusive boyfriends. In the Oasis, Wade is known as Parzival and spends his time trying to solve a series of puzzles known as Anorak’s Quest, which grants the Quest’s first completer total ownership of the company responsible for the development of the Oasis. Five years after Anorak’s Quest was announced, no one is a clue closer to completing it…that is, until Parzival completes the first of the three puzzles.

The film keeps a pretty good pace throughout its entirety. It is almost nonstop action and adventure from the moment Wade puts his VR headset on to enter the Oasis. The performances by the cast are surprisingly strong, especially since most of the characters are teenagers. The strongest performances come from Tye Sheridan (who plays Wade, virtual name: Parzival) and Olivia Cooke (plays Samantha, Parzival’s love interest, virtual name: Art3mis). Where the film excels in its performances by the cast, it lacks in its story. Like most page-to-screen adaptations, the film lacks the depth of creativeness that the book exhibited. The story is not that engaging as it is not very complex and does so many things that have been done before. The plot is more akin to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) than any other film, even more than you might expect. The filmmakers did a pretty good job with not having the entirety of the film set in the Oasis. Granted, the majority of it is, but there are enough real world scenes that allow the audience to take a break from the computer graphic images (CGI) that today’s moviegoers are so accustomed to seeing in movies. The CGI itself is amazing. It’s not that realistic, but it works because it wasn’t designed to look real. It is, in essence, a video game, and has to have the look and feel of one. Once you accept that fact, it makes the film easier to watch.

Ready Player One is also very fun to watch because of the abundance of Easter eggs in it. The film’s plot centers around the existence and use of Easter eggs that make up Anorak’s Quest. I was afraid that Spielberg would overuse them, but he used them better than I had anticipated. He doesn’t just throw them in there. A lot of the Easter eggs contribute to the film. Blatant examples of this include Aech’s (Lena Waithe) use of the Iron Giant from The Iron Giant (1999), Parzival’s use of a combination of the Back to the Future (1985) DeLorean Time Machine and KITT from Knight Rider (1982-1986), James Halliday’s Dungeons and Dragons-inspired avatar, among countless others. I can only imagine the legal mess it took for Spielberg to get rights to each of the properties exhibited in the film from each of their respective copyright owners. This is why I think there are hardly any Disney Easter eggs. There are brief references to Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark, but nothing more. With the film being set in a virtual world, I was disappointed in my wait for a TRON Easter egg, because it never came.

As previously mentioned, the action in the film is almost nonstop. There are almost nonstop battles and shoot-outs, most of which take place in the Oasis and are similar to those found in other videogames. The “bloody images” tag in the film’s rating is credited to one extensive scene in particular. The second puzzle of Anorak’s Quest takes place in the Overlook Hotel from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980), featuring the iconic elevator scene with animated blood. The “partial nudity” tag can also be found here in Room 237. A young woman is seen bathing. Nothing explicit is shown, but the tension this causes is worth mentioning. There is also a scene where Parzival and Art3mis dance in a nightclub together. While they dance, Art3mis feels Parzival up and we see Wade’s VR suit light up where she is caressing him, but this sequence is interrupted before it goes too far. The language is heavy, considering this is a film advertised to younger viewers, and does include the f-bomb.

The movie deviates from the book quite a bit in terms of story and character development, making the movie shallower than the book, but there are moments where the movie almost directly quotes the book. Nonetheless, both are highly enjoyable. Overall, Ready Player One is a very fun movie from start to finish. Not only is it action-packed and full of humor, it is full of Easter eggs that will leave fans studying it for a while. Children will love the bright colors and humor while adults will enjoy the ‘80s pop culture references and callbacks. It will keep you looking for more Easter eggs with each subsequent viewing. For starters, you could solve the maze that makes up the lettering for the movie’s title in the poster.

 

Image: © 2018 Warner Bros. Pictures

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