Welcome to the future. Everyone – and I mean everyone – spends the vast majority of their time living their dream life in The Oasis – a VRMMOG where you can be anyone (including Batman, Iron Giant, Freddy Krueger, or badass homebrewed avatars), go anywhere (usually other planets), and buy anything (the DeLoreon from Back To The Future, the Holy Hand Grenade from Monty Python’s Quest For The Holy Grail, and even stuff to use in the real world). Epic fun, danger, and adventure lurks around every corner, and following the death of the game’s creator Halliday (Mark Rylance) everyone has an even bigger goal: find the three keys hidden throughout the multiverse of the game in order to win a fortune and take complete control over the game itself.
With such an epic concept, and global stakes (even if they are virtual stakes), it seems likely that the winner is going to be the vile Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn) and his huge organization IOI – Innovative Online Industries. They have more resources than any “normal” player could ever hope to compete with. Until our hero Wade (Tye Sheridan) comes along! With his vast knowledge of all things Halliday, Wade is able to uncover the secret to be the first player to ever get the first key (and people have been trying for well over a decade)! This puts him on IOI’s radar, which puts him in danger as they plot to wipe him out before he can get the rest.
With the help of his virtual friends Art3mis (Olivia Cooke), Aech (Lena Waithe) and a couple others, Wade sets out on an epic adventure that spans across the whole of The Oasis and the real world to beat IOI and make sure The Oasis doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.
Warning: Ready Player One is likely to induce uncontrollable geekgasms for the faithful! As with Ernest Cline’s original book (he also helped draft the screenplay) virtually every IP (intellectual property) you can think of gets a cameo appearance, from comics to movies to video games to toys (I… may have squealed with delight when someone threw out a MonsterBall!). And even though Disney refused to let director Steven Spielberg use any of their IP, Star Wars somehow managed to get a mention.
I spent much of the 2 hours and 20 minutes of this film wishing I had a pause button to check for any Easter eggs I may have been missing out on because of how fast some of the sequences rush past my eyes. If there was ever a movie made for home video scrutiny, this is it.
So, nostalgia and fanboy-isms aside, was the movie any good? I’m going to give that a resounding “Oh, hell yeah!” The story felt like something out of a 90’s-era Spielberg flick, the action was intense beyond belief, and they did a great job of incorporating the nostalgia in ways that felt vital and paramount to the world and story as a whole… not just cheap eye candy.
But the eye candy is certainly there! Huge kudos go out to cinematographer Janusz Kaminski (who’s been Spielberg’s right hand man for decades), production designer Adam Stockhausen (Bridge of Spies, 12 Years a Slave, Isle of Dogs) and the massive team of CGI artists involved in this blockbuster! Every scene, both in The Oasis and the real world, was magnificent to behold and an adrenaline-rushed thrill ride that constantly had me pointing to the screen and saying to my girlfriend “Look at that!”
Admittedly, the film did have some weak moments. The pacing does grow slow in places, which you really start to feel in the real world scenes near the end of the second act when the film’s extended runtime starts to be really noticeable. I also felt like the voice acting when we’re in the game was more skillful than the live-action scenes with the same actors. This made it feel like they were just casting for an animated film and unfortunately had to throw lesser actors into roles because of their voices, facial expressions be damned. And, of course, no normal person would ever be able to figure out the puzzles in this movie to find the keys!
Much like Sherlock Holmes always seemed to have more information than we do, Wade Watts – and his group of people so nerdy even I would be embarrassed to hang out with them – had far more information at their fingertips than anyone watching will have access too, creating a disconnect since we can’t solve the mysteries with them.
Short comings aside, Ready Player One is a hell of a good time that will keep your eyes glued to the big screen. And it’s got the coolest car chase/race sequence ever made! Even if you aren’t a huge nerd who’s going to be pointing out Batman, Harley Quinn, Gundam, Iron Giant, Mechagodzilla, Monster Balls, Hello Kitty, Mortal Kombat, King Kong, Back To The Future, Master Chief, Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek, Star Wars, more Batman (and more Batman, and more Batman… I seriously lost count how many Batman symbols are in this thing!). Do any of these references sound beyond you? You’re still going to have a good time with this movie!