They always say you can’t trust anyone you meet online. Ready Player One shows audiences that sometimes, the person you meet online might be a young child or someone of a different gender. But, if you’re a hot Hollywood-type who falls in love with someone that you meet in a video game, that person will probably also be a hot Hollywood-type. So it works out.
Ready Player One, directed by Steven Spielberg, is a big-screen adaptation of a very popular sci-fi novel of the same name written by Ernest Cline in 2011. It’s set a few decades in the future, where many people live in relative poverty but escape their depressing surroundings in a virtual-reality program called OASIS. In OASIS, players can create avatars, designing them in any way they choose.
Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), our protagonist, teams up with a few friends to solve the puzzle that was left by the game’s creator, the late James Halliday (Mark Rylance). The first person to collect all three keys and complete the puzzle will be awarded ownership of the game and Halliday’s fortune. While working to solve the puzzle, Watts falls in love with an in-game avatar named Art3mis (Olivia Cooke) and must fight back against the evil CEO of a powerful corporation, Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), who seeks to wrest control of the game and fortune for his own use.
Ready Player One is as close as audiences have gotten to “classic” Spielberg in quite a while. The film is full of “those moments.” What this means is that Ready Player One has the incredible ability to make the hearts of viewers soar, to literally push audiences to the edge of their seats as they watch the action unfold. Those exalting moments of triumph and success fill this movie, imbuing those who find themselves lost in the world with a sense of personal investment and accomplishment.
Ready Player One also excels in its action. The movie is at its best when it pulls no punches, going all-out on a sweeping action set-piece, in which characters fight for their lives (or at least the lives of their video-game avatar). The stakes feel real, the impacts of explosions or punches have real weight, and the visuals are stunning. When the movie spends time in OASIS, Ready Player One really does look like a graphically-enhanced video game. For those familiar with this type of animation, the transitions are fluid and natural. These are the best parts of Ready Player One and fortunately, there are a lot of them.
The movie does falter at times. When Ready Player One is forced to move the plot forward in the real world, the film stumbles. When the plot is moving along with the action, in the real world or in OASIS, there’s nothing to complain about. It is when Ready Player One is forced to rely on real-world dialogue-heavy scenes, however, that the movie does struggle. It’s almost as if in Ready Player One, the virtual world feels more real, more natural, and more organic than reality.
All of the actors do a fine job in their respective roles, but no one really stands out. The secondary characters—Wade’s friends—are sorely underdeveloped. Ready Player One spends a little time with each of them, but they exist mostly on the periphery. The main villain, Sorrento, is pretty generic. He’s evil and he likes money. End of character. His motivations are hinted at through backstory—backstory that is incorporated into the movie seamlessly—but Sorrento leaves audiences with an aftertaste of nebulous evil, but little else.
While these criticisms should be noted, Ready Player One is not much worse for them. The movie is incredibly enjoyable, and a lot of fun to watch. In terms of fun (and pretty good) action movies, we’ve been in a real slump since Black Panther. But, Ready Player One is the blockbuster we needed to tide audiences through into the summer. Fans of the novel will likely enjoy it—although quite a few changes have been made for the movie adaptation—and fans of movies in general will too. Ready Player One has wide appeal for movie-goers, especially people who liked ’80s pop-culture. References to Back to the Future, The Shining, the emergence of video games, and ’80s fashion abound in Ready Player One, and trying to catch them all is a blast. Spielberg has succeeded in creating another entertaining, action-packed movie that people of any age would enjoy, and it’s come at just the right time.
Featured Image by Warner Bros. Pictures