Spielberg is back and directs Ready Player One, an adaptation of the popular novel from Ernest Cline, set in Michigan in 2045 in a technologically advanced future, entrepreneur James Halliday has invented the most popular VR program of all time which most of the population essentially live inside of. Halliday hid special easter eggs inside of his game that players are eager to find in order to win ownership of the Oasis, especially the enthusiastic teenager Wade Watts. Starring Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Lena Waithe, TJ Miller, Simon Pegg and Mark Rylance.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t go into the film that enthusiastic despite the cool references littered through its marketing and trailers, I didn’t really get that much feeling for a plot and I thought it would be a bit too nostalgic for nostalgias sake but the story handles its nods quite well, yes there are a tonne of obvious in your face ones – King Kong, the T-Rex from Jurassic Park, a DeLorean but there are lots of cool smaller ones that you’ll probably miss, so it’s fun to look back on the film and see what was included. The easter eggs aren’t just in there for the sake of it either, with James Halliday including references to films, TV and games that he loved from the 80s and all the more modern things – they’re just avatars in the Oasis that gamers choose to look like, everything from Halo, to Overwatch to The Iron Giant, though I’m sure the more modern references were added with younger audiences in mind.
The core of the film is The Oasis, a very interestingly virtual world that you can do anything in to escape from the mundanity of the real world, it’s essentially all encompassing and an intriguing imagining of VR that may not be too far ahead in the future and in the Oasis is where the plot really gets going, let by Wade Watts (Percival in the Oasis, played by Tye Sheridan), an enthusiastic 18 year old who loves the virtual world and seems to only have friends inside there. His best friend and technical mastermind H (Lena Waithe) as well as pro gamers Daito (Win Morisaki) and Sho (Phillip Zao), none of whom he has ever met in real life mind you, this may feel somewhat sad but again entirely believable, with online exclusive friends absolutely a thing that exists in the real world. The performances are actually quite good on the whole, Sheridan brings an enthusiastic, driven performance and carries a lot of the story, somewhat naive in places, especially when he comes across Artemis/Samantha (Olivia Cooke) who he convinces himself he falls in love with, although their relationship does feel fairly organic, Cooke especially brings a lot of gusto to her role, bringing some grounded realism to Wade and the situation they’re in. She’s more concerned about the real world and stopping corporations ruining peoples lives via the Oasis while Wade just wants to find the easter eggs, this makes for an interesting dynamic between the two, despite their feelings for each other.
The drama compliments the action in the Oasis quite well, a world laden with fantastical elements, weapons and great action, with some interesting nods to online culture with players like I-ROK (TJ Miller), a high level and skilled player who’s quite a naive nerd who loves and hordes all the things he’s collected in game, it’s also great to actually meet Wades friends in real life who are all a bit different to what you expect. Aside from this and because the story is so important, it’s not really a deep dive into gaming as much as it is an adventure and exploration of James Hallidays life and mind with the vehicle of the Oasis and a touch of Spielberg, this isn’t really a criticism but looking at the film critically, some may feel The Oasis gaming rules are nebulous at best and non-sensical at worst/
Ultimately Ready Player One, is a fun ride, not too deep of a drama and very sentimental with convenient plot events that in a way feel very Spielberg, the world of the Oasis is fascinating and the visuals are great, with a truckload of fun references to boot for lovers of the 80s and 90s, it’s definitely not for everyone but I can enjoyed my viewing and I’d be keen to go back into the Oasis and the futuristic vision of the world present.
. Good performances all around, especially Sheridan, Cooke and Mendelsohn
. Interesting plethora of references, great visuals
. Some convenient plot points