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MOVIE REVIEW: FTN reviews Ready Player One

March 20th, 2018 by Andrew Comments

Ready Player One (12a/PG13)
Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Lena Waithe, Letitia Wright, T.J. Miller, Simon Pegg, Mark Rylance.
Run time: 2h 20mins

When the creator of a virtual reality world called the OASIS dies, he releases a video in which he challenges all OASIS users to find his Easter Egg, which will give the finder his fortune.

Wade Watts (Sheridan) lives in the over-populated and run down slums of Columbia in the year 2045, spending his life online along with most of the world in the Oasis, a virtual reality universe created decades earlier by James Halliday (Rylance).

When Halliday died, he left a hidden easter egg game in the Oasis, with the promise that the winner would be awarded all of Halliday’s controlling stake in the Oasis system as well as his substantial wealth in the real world.

To that end, Wade and several other ‘gunters’ (egg hunters) come together after he becomes is the first person in years to make progress in the game and collect the first of three keys, gaining the attention of Nolan Sorrento (Mendelsohn), CEO of Innovative Online Industries (IOI), who will stop at nothing to ensure that his corporation gets control of the Oasis for his own personal gains.

Ready Player One is director Steven Spielberg’s return to the world of science fiction after several movies focused on more realistic subjects, and it is based on the 2011 novel by Ernest Cline who wrote the script with screenwriter Zak Penn.

I have to admit, when I had seen the trailers I thought it looked interesting, but it had never grabbed me as much as some other upcoming releases, so I was unsure what to expect with little advance word from others. I can gladly confirm that for once the trailers do not mislead and in some ways are rather apt with the use of a cover version of ‘Pure Imagination’ from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, as Ready Player One is essentially an online version of that story, with the chocolate factory replaced with the online universe of the Oasis.

The movie runs along at a steady pace, with fantastical computer generated sequences as we follow Wade and the other characters through car races, musical dance sequences, horror movie recreations, and huge scale battles, but it doesn’t let itself get carried away by the effects or the chases – In fact, quite the opposite.

As spectacular as these sequences are, many of them are not perfect effects because they are not meant to look like real life. This would normally be a distraction, but because it is a video game it is easy to accept for what it is, and it never gets in the way of character development as so often is the case.

If I had to nit-pick about one aspect of the movie that could have been improved, it would be that it would have been nicer to see a little more of the run down real world than we glimpse in the movie, but this might have negated the social commentary that the story is trying to put across, and we see just enough of it to let that commentary come through in a subtle way.

The subject of online gaming and the resulting lack of social interaction for the characters and their resulting insecurities is present due to their use of virtual avatars, discussed between the characters at points as none of them have actually met or seen each other in the real world – in fact, for the first half of the movie the only character we see in reality is Tye Sheridan’s Wade.

There is a missed opportunity for a deeper look into that subject and also the subject of corporate takeover and ownership of people by way of debt collection and indentured servitude, but that would have made for a less fun and much darker (and likely higher rated) movie – though as it is, Ready Player One could hardly be described as a light watch.

The movie is loaded with gaming and pop-culture references to a degree not seen since Wreck It Ralph, many of which will be known and recognisable to older audiences including the original Robocop, King Kong, Terminator 2, The Iron Giant, Back To The Future, Batman, Firefly, A Nightmare on Elm Street and War of the Worlds. Though there are a couple that will be particularly obscure to younger audiences, especially a heavily plotted sequence of the movie that references classic horror The Shining in great gory detail, and perhaps the funniest reference of controversial horror franchise Child’s Play you will ever see on screen. While these two instances are humorous if you know the context, younger audiences may just find them disturbing, and I would recommend any parents strongly consider viewing the movie before taking anyone below the age of 10-12 to see it.

Ready Player One hits many of the bars it is aiming for successfully, resulting in a fun, humorous and enjoyable movie that not only contains an important subtext but also entertains hugely. Not only does Spielberg provide a visual feast, but an emotionally engaging one too, with solid performances from the cast, particularly Mark Rylance, who despite looking like something out of Spinal Tap gives a performance that at times invokes nervous laughter, and at others provides the signature Spielberg moments that hits you right in the feels and brings a tear to your eye.

A must for any classic Spielberg fan.

5 out of 5 Nerds

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Co-host of the Monday Movie Show, Andrew is a huge movie fan who is into all sorts of things movie related, as well as a fan of all things nerd. In his spare time he likes to work at script writing, that is when he's not spending it on something movie or nerd related!