Stephen Spielberg is back again, just three months after the release of The Post. This time around, he’s having a lot more fun in the directing chair with Ready Player One.
Ready Player One takes place in the near future of 2045 where most people are captivated with a virtual reality world called the “Oasis” that was created by a Bill Gates-type character named James Halliday (Mark Rylance).
The story follows Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), a very stereotypical teen who finds his escape in the video game world of the Oasis. He enters into a competition, engineered by Halliday, that sets him on a mission to find three keys that unlock the door to ownership and control of the Oasis.
After earning the first key in an adrenaline-fueled race at the wheel of the DeLorean, Wade, also known by his in-game name Parzival, joins forces with his best friend Aech (Lena Waithe) and the famous Art3mis (Olivia Cooke) on his quest for the keys. Together, they travel back into the recorded memories of Halliday to search for clues, while fighting off the forces of the evil corporation IOI (Innovative Online Industries), helmed by CEO Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn).
Ready Player One is co-written by Ernest Cline, the author of the novel. And it’s easy to tell.
In trying to stay loyal to the source material, Cline has crammed as much of the book as he can into the film. This makes for an exposition-heavy first fifteen minutes of the film that is filled to the brim with information about the world in an already lengthy two hour and 20 minute runtime.
Once the exposition is out of the way, Ready Player One jumps right into the action-packed, exciting world of the Oasis. Spielberg explores the potential of a virtual world in which you can do anything and capitalizes on it with visuals that make the audience feel as if they have a VR headset on themselves.
Through the power of motion capture and special effects, the film’s characters’ quest takes the audience to the battlefield of World of Warcraft, The Shining’s Overlook Hotel and a high-speed race track featuring King Kong.
The film is at its best in the virtual world, but the scenes that take place in the real world of fictional Columbus, Ohio, pale in comparison. Potential is found when Wade’s conflict in the Oasis enters his real world. But that real-world conflict isn’t fully realized, because the film doesn’t invest much time in his home life.
Two-dimensional characters prevent real investment into the characters’ lives, but they are held up by a solid script and good acting. Cooke is excellent as Samantha (Art3mis), starring in her second film of this month (Thoroughbreds). Ben Mendelsohn as Sorrento is playing the same kind of loveable-jerk character that he played in Rogue One, and it’s a joy to watch.
The film based on the popular novel of the same name is just what the theaters needed in this mostly-barren month of March.
Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures