Review: Ready Player One (2018)

Steven Spielberg’s effects showered referential Sci-Fi spectacle brings Ernest Cline’s novel very comfortably to the big screen.

It seems that certain sectors of the Internet have already deemed Ready Player One as the worst film 2018 and “the death of creativity”, based mostly on the fact these keyboard cobras did not like some posters! Well, there you go, anyway, if you are up for pressing start on the latest big screen adventure from Steven Spielberg, join us as we enter the OASIS…

Set in a future society that is beset by economic and social problems, most of the globe instead opts to turn on their headset and enter the OASIS. A vast virtual world co-created by James Halliday (Mark Rylance) and Ogden Morrow (Simon Pegg) which allows you to live out the very limits of your imagination. Mountain climbing with Batman, sure. Racing your DeLorean against The A-Team’s GMC Vandura, of course. Setting up a Piers Morgan fan club, ok maybe that’s a stretch. Point is, the OASIS is an escape for mankind and when Halliday announced to the world he was dying, he also made the globe aware of a series of keys he placed within his creation, solve the puzzles/Easter eggs and find all the keys and you win the ultimate prize…ownership of the entire OASIS. And for teen Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) from a slum city in Ohio, this is the ultimate dream but will Wade be ready for the challenges he will face in pursuing it.

For a brief moment during Ready Player One I panicked myself into thinking, “what if this is another The Emoji Movie?” It sent a cold shiver right down my spine I can tell you. Luckily, within moments I was reassured by a film that is not just a cold corporate advert but, akin to Wreck-it-Ralph, a fun, genuine, celebration of classic entertainment. Cinema fans and gamers will have a ball, as the wild Ready Player One is like being in a movie-themed pinball machine, as its virtual landscape is populated with references and characters far and wide (some blatant, some blink and miss). Multiple viewings will be required to catch them all but needless to say this digital toy box is fast and hyperactive.

Much like The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn this is Spielberg having fun and while some issues persist with tone and character depth, this fast paced visually exciting adventure makes for an explosive silver screen exhibition of what can be achieved on that screen. These kinetic visuals race around before your eyes and the exceptional CGI that brings such imagery to life is matched by Alan Silvestri’s brilliantly nostalgic score (not to mention a string of well chosen songs), which itself harks back to bygone classics. Is it fan service or fanboyism, yeah probably is, but it works a treat in providing an extremely enjoyable ride that salutes a trove of generational entertainment (perhaps most of all the ‘80s).

Behind such nostalgia and pop culture worship though, the film never forgets to maintain a human story and a rather cautionary one, which urges us to never fully submerge in the alluring delights of fantasy and in turn lose our grip of what is real. In quite timely fashion, the film also addresses issues of corporate interference on social mediums. These themes feel generous and help power this very human story of purpose, dreams and rebellion. The film also boldly embraces material beyond its core target audience, for instance a huge chunk of the plot mid-film is one perfectly crafted tribute to a horror classic that will likely be less known to many sectors of its 12A market but those who know the film in question inside out will be in bloody heaven.

True the film does get a bit exhaustive at points with its unrelenting barrage of action set pieces and its plethora of references, in fact you sometimes feel you need a breather but never is the fun unplugged. Ernest Cline (the author of the book on which the film is based) and Zak Penn’s screenplay and Spielberg’s direction translates the material well for the big screen (which feels like the perfect medium for this story) and the cast are all enjoying the game.

Tye Sheridan makes a great lead as Watts, Olivia Cooke is fantastic as Art3mis an avatar Watts falls for in the OASIS and Ben Mendelsohn presents another fine villainous turn as the CEO of Innovative Online Industries (IOI) Nolan Sorrento – head of the ruthless company intent on acquiring the OASIS. There are also a cast of supporting turns, which come to be more effective later in the film, by a fantastic Lena Waithe, Win Morisaki and young Philip Zao. I also really enjoyed Mark Rylance’s mad-haired turn as the socially hapless Halliday and Simon Pegg as the promotionally savvy Morrow, as the two are this film’s answer to Jobs and Wozniak.

Ready Player One is another great Spielberg spectacle with a human story at the centre, it has its issues but contrary to the viral vitriol, it’s a heck of a fun ride. Hell, how can you not love a film that pits the Iron Giant against Mechagodzilla?! So switch on, select player, sit back, grab some popcorn and escape reality for two hours…just be sure to return back to it afterwards.

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