Steven Speilberg’s been busy as of recent. His last film, The Post, was released just 3 months ago with an incredible cast and shot, edited and ready to go in 8 months, all the while working on this visual spectacle. The 71-year old shows no sign of slowing down, and with Ready Player One, he looks to keep that momentum moving forward, albeit this time in a completely different genre and reality, specifically a virtual one.
The film is adapted from the 2011 book of the same name as we follow Wade Watts, a 17 year old that lives in the ‘stacks’, a modern take on shanty towns in 2045. Major cities around the world have become slums so to escape this pretty drab life, people turn to VR to live out their fantasies. The game, created by now deceased James Halliday, teases the existence of an ‘Easter egg’ that will allow total control over the game. Wade is not immune to the pull of this prize, with the escapism and quest taking over much of his time. As he progresses through, the danger becomes more real and begins to blur the boundaries between reality and fantasy.
Ready Player One is stacked full of actual Easter eggs and references, and for a geek that grew up playing video games and reading comics, it’s a dream. From Star Trek to Monty Python, Blade Runner to Star Wars, you’d feel like you missed out if you didn’t get at least some of the references littered throughout the film. While there are some moments that feel heavy due to these, it feels more of a shout out to geekdom rather than pandering to advertising *cough* Emoji Movie *cough*. It’s also refreshing to see references that would have otherwise not made it onto the screen.
The standout performances from Tye Sheriden and Ben Mandelsohn, especially in the virtual world, are great for matching the grand scale of the action-packed fight scenes. Speilberg knows his fight scenes, and can shift the action and characters so rapidly that your head will keep spinning long after the conclusion of these scenes. The one major downside comes out because of the attention to detail in the OASIS (the virtual world). You notice the more neglected real world, with less nuance given to both the setting and the storyline. This aside, the film actually improves on the book, taking away much of the fluff that weighed the otherwise brilliant story down.
For geeks, it’s a great romp through your back catalogue of collectables. For everyone else, it’s a genuinely fun take on a video game-esque story, but one with a bit more gravitas and a lot more excitement. The way that Spielberg chose to play with time, space, reality and fantasy is incredibly appealing, and while not one of the blockbusters of the year, the time was well spent bringing this flick to the big screen.