Review: Ready Player One

Ready Player One
8 10

PLOT: In a future where the population is obsessed with a virtual reality world called OASIS, a young man (Tye Sheridan) and his friends try to outsmart the machinations of an evil corporation which looks to solve three hidden puzzles within the digital universe, which would give them complete control over it.

REVIEW: There’s an audience out there for READY PLAYER ONE, and certainly I’m part of it. Ernie Cline’s book was catnip for fan culture, perfect for lovers of eighties movies, music and gaming. To some it was just a bunch of references tied together by a flimsy plot that seemed plucked out of THE MATRIX, but there was an art to the way Cline made his book so cinematic and evocative of the Amblin’ era movies it pays tribute to. So, it’s fitting that a big screen version is directed by Steven Spielberg, the man behind so many of the movies Cline celebrated.

Its really a film only he could have done, as it likely took his muscle to navigate the licensing rights to allow The Iron Giant, King Kong, Robocop, Chucky and so many more show up in his film. With Spielberg at the helm it probably only took a couple of phone calls, as in his fourth decade of film-making, he’s still essentially the king of Hollywood. It helps that some of the movies referenced were ones he produced or even directed, although perhaps in an effort to be a little less self-referential, some of his movies are off-limits, with him even opting not to use John Williams to craft the score, lest he celebrate himself too much (for all his power, Spielberg still comes across as impressively modest).

He’s ended up doing right by Cline’s book, even if for the sake of being cinematic some big changes are made. The first third of the film is tremendously faithful to the novel, until a twist about forty minutes in that brings Olivia Cooke’s Art3mis into the real world, a move which gives her more agency and makes the romance between her and Tye Sheridan’s Parzival/Wade Watts easier to swallow. Both are excellent in the leads, and have good chemistry. Cooke’s performance is especially good under Spielberg’s direction. I expect her to turn up in a lot more of his films.

Meanwhile, Ben Mendelsohn is cast to perfection as the oily Nolan Sorrento, while Mark Rylance makes for an effective Halliday, even if I’m not sure I buy him as a fanboy. Everyone else, including Lena Waithe and Simon Pegg, fit into the world perfectly and make ideal big-screen doppelgangers for their characters on the page.

For those wondering how many references Spielberg’s managed to shove in, there are too many to absorb, with everything from the Glaive in KRULL to an extended tribute to THE SHINING being a part of the film. Alan Silvestri’s score also has some great references to his own Amblin’ work, but I won’t spoil them here.

My only issue with READY PLAYER ONE is the same one I had with the book. If you strip away the references, what are you left with? There are so many call-outs to iconic films that it feels like fanfic and I’m not sure that when it comes down to it READY PLAYER ONE, by virtue of how much it depends on nostalgia, can really take its place among Spielberg’s essential films. I also disliked the look of the OASIS just because it wasn’t how I pictured it, but that’s on me and not necessarily the film’s problem.

So while I’m not sure READY PLAYER ONE stands on its own as a distinct work, it can’t be denied that it is what it is and is the best possible version of Cline’s novel that could have been realistically done. Spielberg knows how to make a movie like this hum along beautifully, and while I’m not sure it’s one of his great movies, it’s still a blast. Spielberg obviously had a good time making it, and you’ll have a good time watching it if you can keep up with the non-stop pop culture assault.

Source: JoBlo.com



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