Ready Player One
By Aaron Potter
...a crazy cinematic endeavour that only a director as storied and revered as Steven Spielberg could pull off...
From the moment Ernest Cline’s best-selling novel flew off shelves in 2011, fans have been dreaming of what a big screen adaptation of Ready Player One might look like.
Chock full of cameos, blink-and-you’ll-miss-em pop culture winks, and a heavy injection of 1980s-fuelled nostalgia, Spielberg helms an ultimate love-letter to the era he helped forge: a genuine blockbuster that doesn’t skimp on spectacle, even if it doesn’t “wow” quite as much as the material it pulls from.
Set in a world where global deprivation has led much of the world’s population to spend their days in an extravagant virtual reality known as the OASIS, Ready Player successfully captures this platform of infinite possibilities. As Wade Watts begins his quest for the three hidden keys which control the virtual world, we’re treated to everything from cinematic battle worlds, physics-defying race sequences, and even some painstakingly detailed recreations of geekdom’s most treasured locations.
The excessive Easter eggs that could have so easily been used as a cheap marketing gimmick to entice audiences instead serve in the creation of a vibrant virtual world and rarely disrupt the kinetic plot which rolls on at a breakneck pace. Much of the original novel’s fat has been trimmed, and the result is a concise narrative that thankfully spends less time with the iffy in-game avatars as the virtual world makes way for the eye-opening slum-like Stacks of reality, giving extra depth to the concepts of escapism and our heroes’ thrilling plight.
What’s less thrilling is Tye Sheridan's central performance as the all too unlikely hero who lacks the charisma needed to make for a convincing protagonist that will rally against Ben Mendelsohn’s menacing IOI Corporation. The real success is with supporting characters like Olivia Cooke’s thrill-seeking Art3mis and Mark Rylance’s eccentric OASIS creator James Halliday who both add colour to the reasons why they’ve devoted so much of their life living in the virtual world. If only more could have been spent with either of them.
The through line here might just be a reboot of the age-old tale of good vs evil, but Ready Player One does well to integrate so much of the familiar without ever feeling slavish to it. It’s a crazy cinematic endeavour that only a director as storied and revered as Steven Spielberg could pull off, delivering for the most part on his promise of a movie that is a celebration of the things we cherish but one that also flourishes in its own right. Game on!