Dan's Review: "Ready Player One" has plenty of virtual fun
Mar 29, 2018 05:09PM
● By Dan Metcalf
Tye Sheridan in Ready Player One - © 2018 Warner Bros.
Ready Player One (Warner Bros.)
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action violence, bloody images, some suggestive material, partial nudity and language.
Starring Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Lena Waithe, T.J. Miller (voice), Simon Pegg, Mark Rylance, Philip Zhao, Win Morisaki, Hannah John-Kamen, Susan Lynch, Ralph Ineson, Perdita Weeks, Letitia Wright, Clare Higgins.
Written by Zak Penn and Ernest Cline, based on the novel by Ernest Cline.
Directed by Stephen Spielberg.
Kids these days, with their Game Pads and PS Boxes…In my day, we had Pong and Space Invaders, and we liked it! Yes, such are the rantings of people born 10 presidents ago concerning all that “dang” technology that rots the brains of our youth, and before you peg me as the guy yelling at kids to, “get off my lawn,” let me assure you, Dear Reader, that I can throw down with any millennial challenge to many current video games, even though my kids repeatedly crush me at Super Smash Bros. Video game culture is here to stay, with gaming leagues, televised competitions and a multibillion dollar industry that shows no signs of slowing. Ready Player One, based on Ernest Cline’s novel of the same title is set in a future world where virtual reality and video gaming are fully integrated into a dystopian culture.
Tye Sheridan stars as Wade/Parzival an orphaned gamer living in the “Stacks” (makeshift towers comprised of mobile homes) in the suburbs of Cleveland, more than 30 years into the future. It’s a world where everyone plays inside the “Oasis” a virtual reality world where they perform virtual jobs and participate in competitions that gain prestige and wealth, while also exposing all participants to the risk of “zeroing” out. Inside the Oasis, the virtual world creator James Halliday (Mark Rylance) has hidden a major “Easter Egg” that will bequeath his virtual creation to the finder. Halliday left clues to about the Easter Egg following his death via a recorded message within the virtual space. Despite years of trying, no one has been able to beat the competitions that will lead to the first of 3 keys that will unlock the hidden treasure. Wade has plenty of competition, including Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), the evil head of the IOI corporation, a remnant of the company created by Halliday and cohort Ogden Morrow (Simon Pegg). Sorrento doesn’t play fair, hiring anyone with any gaming skills to compete on his behalf, hoping to snag the prize and take complete control of the Oasis. Other independent gamers using fake avatars like Wade are in there, too, including best pal Aech (Lena Waithe), Sho (Philip Zhao), Daito (Win Morisaki) and the beautiful Art3mis (Olivia Cooke). Since it’s a virtual world, Wade is never sure if his virtual friends are all they seem in the Oasis, since anyone can look and be anything they want (everyone has real names, to be revealed later). When Wade has a breakthrough and discovers the path to the first key, he enlists his pals to help find the next clue. He also falls in love with Art3mis, as Sorrento employs a clandestine hit man named i-R0k (voiced by T.J. Miller) to hunt Wade and his new team down before they get the egg. Wade makes the mistake of revealing his true identity, which leads to deadly consequences in the real world, especially to those in the “stacks.” As Sorrento gets closer, Wade must enlist more help from the downtrodden masses of the Oasis to defeat the IOI army in a great and final battle.
Ready Player One is a fun thrill ride, and watching it is very much like being immersed in an all-out action video game. The cool thing about Ernest Cline’s virtual world is the endless possibilities to adapt any kind of weapon, character or pop culture scenario to aid your quest (the Iron Giant, Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining,” Star Wars ships and the DeLorean from Back to the Future represent only a few of these elements borrowed for the movie). I’m not sure if the mostly computer-generated world took any longer than the legal copyright clearances needed to corral all the diverse media sources necessary to pull this movie off.
Director Stephen Spielberg deftly integrates several endearing and effective characters into the epic virtual reality world, without losing sight of the modern appeal for such adventures. One qualm I have with Ready Player One is the film’s conclusion, which seems to be set up for a cultural shift but ends as a shrug-worthy continuation of a world mired in virtual reality.
As an added “bonus level” you might enjoy looking for all the pop culture “Easter Eggs” in Ready Player One when it comes out on video. Get that pause button ready (if you can find it).
Ready Player One Trailer