“Ready Player One” stars Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, T. J. Miller, Simon Pegg, and Mark Rylance. Released on March 29, 2018, the film is about a young man who takes part in a competition in which the winner is granted full ownership of an interconnected virtual reality world.
The film is directed by Steven Spielberg, who directed last year’s The Post, and it is based on the 2011 novel of the same name by Ernest Cline. When he’s not making films that take place during different parts of history, Spielberg usually creates imaginative stories that mesmerize movie-goers and cinematic fans alike. Jaws, Jurassic Park, E.T., Indiana Jones, the list goes on. This latest science fiction adventure seeks to bring Spielberg back to his whimsical and thrilling storytelling ways as well as impress those who are familiar with the source material. Now clearly, I haven’t read the book, but I was looking forward to it anyway for just two reasons: Spielberg himself and a whole bunch of pop culture references and characters. The concept itself looks like it has got that old Spielberg magic, but is the film any good?
For those who are unfamiliar with Cline’s novel, “Ready Player One” is generally a huge basket full of easter eggs. No, I’m not referring to the colorful eggs that we get from the Easter bunny. I’m talking about the characters, references, and props that are from different parts of pop culture, ranging from the DeLorean time machine from Back to the Future to the Iron Giant from the 1999 animated film of the same name. The film also includes a story that involves a teenager named Wade Watts (Sheridan) who competes in a contest developed by the deceased creator of the virtual reality world known as the OASIS. Not only that, but it had a specific message that relates to the line between living in virtual reality and living in actual reality. It’s a mixture between storytelling and nostalgia that only Spielberg can conjure up, and it’s a sight to behold. If you’re expecting it to be the next Bridge of Spies or the next Saving Private Ryan, it’s not going to win you over. However, if you’re a big pop culture fan who is looking for an immersive cinematic experience, this film is definitely right up your alley. In fact, it’s possible that it could join the list of Spielberg’s most thrilling and daring adventures that he’s ever directed in his career. Tye Sheridan and Olivia Cooke turned in some very likable performance as Wade and Art3mis, respectively. Mark Rylance was also impressive yet again as James Halliday, the creator of the OASIS, as well as Ben Mendelsohn, who continues his streak at playing menacing bad guys, as Nolan Sorrento. T. J. Miller is also in the film as an OASIS baddie who works with Sorrento. At first, I was skeptical about this casting choice based on the character, but after a while, it somehow grew on me, mostly due to Miller delivering one of his better performances in quite a while. What really impressed me the most was the design of the OASIS and the avatars that live there. Yes, the OASIS is entirely filled with pop cultural characters and props, but they also included original avatars with different varieties to keep things a little more balanced. My most personal highlight of the film has to be the visuals. Wow, it’s almost like they took inspiration from some of the CGI cinematic video game trailers and applied it into the film itself. They really went all out in creating this breathtaking and expansive virtual world as well as some brilliant sequences like the vehicle race in the first act and the recreation of Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining”. If this doesn’t get any Oscar recognition for its incredible use of visual effects, I’ll be entirely speechless. I also think the soundtrack and Alan Silvestri’s musical score offered some very nice moments as well. The only minor issues that other people might face while watching this is that it can get a bit overlong (the film is over two hours and 20 minutes) and that the storyline can be a bit underwhelming compared to Spielberg’s other masterpieces. To me, personally, the pacing is swift enough to keep my attention despite its running time, and I actually thought the story was both interesting and fun considering the fact that I wasn’t a huge 80s fan like everyone else.
Overall, Steven Spielberg’s “Ready Player One” is an incredible experience that deserves to be seen on the biggest screen possible. Thanks to its likable cast, its fantastic visuals, its soundtrack, and a story that carefully combines its sense of nostalgia with its relatable commentary, this is another imaginative thrill ride that proves once again that Spielberg can make any concept fun and adventurous for people of all ages. I would highly recommend this to those who liked some of Spielberg’s works and to those who are familiar with the cultural references from the 80s and 90s.