Usually when father recommends something to me, I will wait 4 months before actioning the recommendation then pass it off as my idea originally. This is a sneaky tactic which does not often hold water but it makes me feel better for being so slow to accept new ideas. One such new fangled idea is this wonderful film, Ready Player One. Directed by Steven Spielberg, this film tells the story of a dystopian future where a virtual reality game world, The Oasis, is the solar plexus of everyone’s lives and indeed livelihoods.
Tye Sheridan is Wade Watts, a lonely teenager living in Columbus, Ohio, which is now a gruesome favela of trailers stacked on top of each other. His only interest is in strapping on the VR headset and entering the alternative universe of the Oasis, as a mythic avatar named Parzival. Here is a limitless fantasyscape of the mind where people can play games and have experiences. Guardian
James Halliday, played by Mark Rylance, is almost deified from the get go. Before his death, he hid three keys throughout the Oasis which, if found, grant the finder a lucky Easter Egg – control of the Oasis. On the journey to the three keys we are subjected to a visual feast, the likes of which Ready Player One’s author, Earnest Cline, must have been immensely pleased with. There are myriad pop culture references. In one of the opening scenes, the race which is the first of the three key challenges, we see the DeLorian, Lara Croft, the A Team Van, a Plymouth Fury, Jurassic Park T-Rex and King Kong. This movie for me is partly a love letter to the 1980’s. It is so filled with movie and pop culture references that I felt dizzied.
A less accomplished director could get bogged down in this, causing the film to be a moving riff on a Where’s Wally? book, but Spielberg strikes the perfect balance. He knows exactly when to pull back to focus on the characters — especially the central relationship between Wade/Parzival and Samantha/Art3mis (Cooke), which gives the film a necessary and touching grounding in reality — and the story. Empire
The real masterful element for me was the dichotomy between reality and the virtual world. We are frequently thrust between both on account of IOI, a despicable organisation who are trying their utmost to win the three challenges and take control of the game for *shock, horror* profit! While on the face of it, the plot is really quite simplistic, this is more than made up for. Surprisingly, if you’ve seen the latest out of Hollywood (think Battleships), the acting is palpable, if not good! The plot is spurned by a burgeoning love between Parzival and Art3mis, whose online and offline interactions are well portrayed.
Spielberg’s visual inventiveness is unflagging. He stumbles only when trying to warm up the tech gadgetry with a personal touch, as when Wade and his friends, known as the High 5, finally connect in a reality that brings fantasy crashing down to earth. Sheridan and Cooke bring genuine romantic longing to their few scenes together. But the live-action segments of the movie are more buzz kill than bracing. Rolling Stone
Overall, what this film lacks in general plot, it more than makes up for in ingenuity and sheer visual brilliance. This is a rollercoaster of references which to lean more towards the 80s movie geek, but has most assuredly got something for everyone. See here for a full list of references used in the film.