When you look at the marketing material produced for Ready Player One, it’s hard not to be reminded of classic film posters from the 80’s, and that’s the first clue that what you are going to see is a love letter to those sort of films. Spielberg has taken the source material, the novel of the same name by Ernest Kline, and delivered a non apologetic, Easter Egg drenched nostalgia fest that spoils the audience with treat after pop culture treat, at a break neck roller coaster pace that demands re-watch after re-watch, just to take it all in.
In other hands, this may have just been a convoluted soulless mess, but with the master at the helm, I find it hard to imagine even the hardest reviewer not finding something entertaining to enjoy. The story of a class divided near future that, offers a virtual reality “Oasis” for people to lose themselves in, seems timely and relevant today.
We all, in some way or another, find solace in the imaginary, in an attempt to momentarily escape from the hum drum that makes up our every day lives. It may be film, tv, books, comics or gaming, but I imagine all of you reading this review have your own form of escape. In “Ready Player One” it is of course, taken to it’s Nth degree.
The film splits the action between the real world and the virtual one, and it seems that there are very few people in this environment that don’t have an active virtual life. When the creator of “The Oasis” James Halliday, reveals that there is a game within Oasis that will result in the winner becoming the new owner of the “world”, there is a concerted effort from various different parties to solve the puzzle that will lead them to fortune and glory. Cue evil corporate conglomerate IOI to devote an entire department to breaking the codes to find the 3 keys that will hand them complete control over the virtual kingdom. Meanwhile young Wade Watts quietly tries on his own to find the clues, and his careful attention to the journals of the now deceased Halliday begin to pay dividends, bringing him to the attention of all involved.
I’ve only seen this film once, and while writing this I feel that at least another viewing would be required to evaluate it in depth, but on the surface, this is a just an air punching thrill ride that engaged me immediately and held my interest from start to finish. One of the reasons behind this is my complete immersion in the virtual world, and the pop culture references that often left me gob smacked. To reveal them here would be an injustice. There are so many fantastic moments that to spoil them seems a disservice.
I was lucky enough to see this completely cold, hard to imagine in this day and age, but I hadn’t even watched a trailer for it. I didn’t read any reviews and I don’t know the source material, so when the characters are engaged in the virtual world, I could not believe some of the set pieces and background avatars. I spent a lot of time turning to Mrs reviewer and saying “Did you see that?” and “Can you believe they used them?” It was only comparable to watching Who Framed Roger Rabbit for the first time, and being blown away by seeing scenes with Daffy and Donald Duck together, and Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny interacting. The only problem with spectacle such as this, is that you can become detracted from the actual film itself.
I was so obsessed with watching for fan service avatars and references, that there were moments when I almost lost interest in the plot. However, as we white water rafted into the final reel, Spielberg brought out all the big guns and propelled me back to a simpler age of movies that left the audience I watched it with happy and satisfied.
This film is a delight that filled me with a warm glow despite what the actual overall message of the material might have been. Sure we are hurtling towards a desperate and greedy future dystopian world where virtual reality may be our only salvation, but with so many Easter Eggs to hunt for who cares? Besides if we take Tuesdays and Thursday’s off, it should work out alright in the end.