Review by J.T. Johnson
DIRECTOR: Steven Spielberg
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Janusz Kamiński
WRITERS: Zak Penn, Ernest Cline
MUSIC: Alan Silvestri
The first thing I’ll say before I really dive into this review is that I have read “Ready Player One” by writer Ernest Cline. I’m a big fan of the book and love that its only intention to to entertain and tickle my nostalgic heart. The movie, co-written by Cline along with Zak Penn and directed by Steven Spielberg, is different from the book.
There were things that I could tell were condensed for time and there were other things that I’m sure were changed because of the rights issues involved to get all the pop culture references featured in the book. Beyond that, I’m also certain that things were changed just for the sake of changing things. So, if you’re wanting an ultra faithful adaptation of the novel, then you will be sorely disappointed.
If you’re looking for an entertaining thrill ride that captures the spirit of the book, then this is the film for you. For those not in the know, the film follows Wade Watts, a young man living in the Stacks that consists of hundreds of trailers stacked onto one another in a dystopian Columbus, Ohio. Like virtually everyone else in the world, Wade lives mostly in a virtual reality world called the OASIS.
The world was designed by James Halliday and when he died, he set up a challenge. If you could find three keys, then you would gain access to the Easter Egg, an item that will allow you to inherit Halliday’s entire fortune and complete control of the OASIS. Wade is a Gunter (someone who hunts for the egg) named Parzival. For five years, he and his best friend Aech have been searching for the keys.
Also trying to capture the keys is a company named IOI, headed up by CEO Nolan Sorrento. Using an army of loyal players, the IOI hopes to gain control of the OASIS for their own greedy corporate desires.
Beyond them, there is also another Gunter named Art3mis. She is looking for the keys for more noble reasons that we find out about as the film progresses. From the start of the film, the chase is on mostly in the OASIS but also in the real world to see who will gain control of the entire virtual world and the future itself.
Like the novel, the movie is a huge celebration of pop culture. Does it play on nostalgia? You bet your ass it does and I had fun with every second of it. Some people will complain that this film is not that deep and to be honest, it really isn’t. It’s a chase movie at its heart, but the important thing is that I cared for the characters I was following and wanted to see them win.
Tye Sheridan and Olivia Cooke do a great job as the lead characters Parzival and Art3mis. In addition to their journey for the Egg, their love story was also something that I wanted to see develop. The supporting characters are also interesting and fun to watch as well despite being less developed.
Ben Mendelsohn proved just how good he could be as a bad guy when he appeared as the main antagonist in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”. Here, he plays a similar bad guy that is once again trying to gain an ultimate victory for the evil organization that he is working for. While he is a little bit of a simple villain, Sorento is a good bad guy that I want to see go down!
The action, ranging from a chase scene at the top of the film to some pretty epic battles featuring several pop culture icons, is stellar to look at. You are constantly reminded that this film was made by Spielberg, the man who practically invented the modern day blockbuster. I would be really surprised if this film wasn’t at least nominated for a best visual effects Oscar.
In conclusion, while the film may not be that deep, it is ultimately a huge celebration of the things we love in pop culture. It’s an entertaining ride that simply wants to thrill us and it succeeds in a big bad way on that front. I don’t really think that I could ask for more than that.