Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Lena Waithe
Review Author: Tony
There’s been a strange narrative leading up to this film as if Spielberg had fallen off the wagon and that Ready Player One would be his glorious return or the nail in his coffin. It was a rather head-scratching affair considering last year’s, The Post, was one of the most heavily nominated films of the Academy Awards. While his summer recent summer film, The BFG, didn’t quite set the box office on fire, Spielberg has still remained on form. While he is still the master of the adventure genre, Spielberg has always been in my eyes one of the best directors for science fiction. His last outing with the genre was 2005’s Minority Report and I’ve been waiting in anticipation for his return to science fiction glory.
Set in the year 2045, the world has become overpopulated and gone into disrepair. As a form of escape people connect to the Oasis, an online virtual reality where the only limits are their imagination. The Oasis is the creation of genius, James Halliday, who passed away in 2040. On the day of his passing Halliday left a message for the world revealing an Easter Egg hidden within the Oasis that would grant its finder the company’s fortunes as well as complete control of the Oasis. For five years no one has discovered any of the three keys required to unlock the Easter Egg leaving the hunt to Gunters, egg hunters, and corporate slaves known as Sixers, who are employed by the shady CEO of the rival corporation, Innovation Online Industries. One Gunter, Wade Watts, is determined to find the egg and escape his slum and meager life.
Spielberg has the difficult task of building two worlds, one virtual, the other a dystopian future. For someone as playful and bursting with imagination as Spielberg, it proves to be effortless as he seamlessly crowds every short with such detail and character it begs for rewatches. The Oasis is pure nerd fantasy brought to life with seemingly infinite possibilities and a chance to become someone new (even if most choose avatars of well-known characters), It’s the embodiment of escapism. The real world is just as interesting with a pretty bleak vision of the future where people stopped solving their problems and just disconnected from them. “The Stacks” where Wade lives is an architectural nightmare of mobile homes flimsily stocked on top of each other to cater for overpopulation. It’s easy to see why one would want to escape to a world centered on Nostalgia and pop culture.
Edgar Wright recently came out full of praise for Spielberg and his master skill at blocking (movement and position of the camera and the actors in a shot), and Ready Player One further solidifies this point. The action set pieces are some of the most thrilling I’ve seen for a while, with hundreds of on-screen extras filling up the screen. The race scene from the trailers is an absolute blast to witness, but also incredibly impressive. There is so much carnage, destruction and dozens of on-screen vehicles that it’s easy for a scene like this to devolve into a clusterfuck, it’s captured perfectly with every significant character or event caught clear and in the center. Ready Player One really gives the legendary director a chance to flex his blockbuster muscles with bombastic action scenes, but it’s a sequence in the middle where our heroes find themselves on the set of one of the most famous horror films of all time that truly dazzled me.
While it’s another young cast for a leading blockbuster film thankfully they are enjoyable with enough idiosyncrasies to build a basic attachment to them (unlike the young cast of Pacific Rim Uprising who had me rooting for their demises). Despite this, the characters are pretty shallow with far too little characteristics or anything in the way of an arc. This is due in large part due to the story, which is surprisingly thin coming from a master storyteller like Spielberg. Ben Mendelsohn’s villain is painfully one note with nothing to define him from any other evil corporate CEO and his motivation seems to be driven by nothing other than being evil and the number one corporation. Even the heroes’ quest is surprisingly one note.
While it wasn’t quite the revelation that others had led me to believe, Ready Player One is still a thrilling film with plenty of replay value. It delves into perhaps a little too much nostalgia, but Spielberg gives the film many more layers and keeps a sense of adventure throughout. It’s an exciting return to the genre he helped define and another damn fine film to add to his extensive filmography.
Rating: 3.5 / 5 Pints of Guinness