It has been a week since Ready Player One came out, but I finally had the chance to watch it this past Friday in its entirety (to see why I’m a week late watching the whole movie, read this). Plus, you’ve only been waiting for my review to see if you should watch it, right? RIGHT!? Anyways, I had no idea how they were going to be able to adapt the book written by Ernest Cline to the big screen. It was going to be a huge undertaking for any director. The novel was chock full of pop culture references and featured a giant virtual world where the characters spent most of their time, but it had heart. While there are references galore in the film, and the special effects look amazing, a lot of that heart from the novel is sorely missing from the film. I’ll say I liked the book better, which is really saying something because I read the book over a year ago and forgot quite a bit of it (that will tell you this film is nothing like the book). However, despite that, it’s still an enjoyable ride thanks to Steven Spielberg and his vision when it comes to the mind blowing action scenes.
Mild spoilers from the book and movie are in here, so here’s your warning….
The story takes place in the year 2045. Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) lives in Oklahoma in a place called “The Stacks”, which is literally a trailer park with a bunch of motor homes stacked on top of each other so everyone can fit. His parents passed away when he was young, so now he stays with his surprisingly caring aunt (she was a real bitch in the book) and her abusive boyfriend. The real world isn’t exactly a place anyone wants to live in (there’s an energy crisis and global warming, but the movie doesn’t tell you that, the book does), so the entire human race escapes to a virtual world called The Oasis. It’s a gargantuan MMO where you can be anything and do anything you want. When the creator of The Oasis, James Halliday (Mark Rylance) passed away, he had a video released revealing that he had left behind something for everyone. He left three keys within challenges that are hidden somewhere in The Oasis. Whoever is the first to find these challenges and win all three keys will unlock the final Easter egg. Unlocking this Egg will give the player complete control of The Oasis and Halliday’s fortune (half a trillion dollars). Wade/Parzival (Parzival is his in-game name), along with his friends Art3mis (Olivia Cooke), Aech (Lena Waithe), Sho (Philip Zhao), and Daito (Win Morisaki) must get to the keys before this evil corporation called IOI run by Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn) gets there first. Sorrento is all about that pay to win bullshit and will turn the Oasis into the next Star Wars Battlefront 2.
In the novel, The Oasis is described as this place where literally everything happens. Business meetings, school, hanging out, sex, EVERYTHING. The film however treats it like nothing more than a game. You don’t really get a feel for just how dire the situation is. A key scene in the book, where Wade rents an apartment and shuts himself off from the real world completely (he gets a crazy steel front door installed) so he can focus on winning the prize was powerful. He was dedicating his life and well being to this contest and we worried for him. We don’t get that here (they just leave that whole part out). It feels like this entire contest takes place over the span of a week. In the book, it’s months before anyone finds anything in between challenges. When Wade wins the first challenge in the book, it changes his life completely (people start to follow him online, he receives sponsors and funding to keep him going), in the film, he just buys a bunch of random shit because he can. As Jeff Goldblum said in Tour de Pharmacy “The stakes are medium”.
It’s not all bad though. There are a ridiculous amount of video game and movie characters that make an appearance (Battletoads!). They’ve updated the references so kids nowadays actually know some of the pop culture that shows up. Each reference put a smile on my face, and there were a lot (my face hurt). The challenges, while not as hard as the ones in the book, are much more exciting, the 2nd one being my favorite. I won’t spoil it, but it’s hilarious considering the situation and really well done. I was happy they changed it from the novel (it’s also the reason we had to leave the film when we first watched it because it scared our daughter so bad). The film also looks fantastic. A ton of it (roughly 60%) takes place in The Oasis, so thank goodness it’s nice to look at. From the various areas, to the spectacular effects and action scenes (the opening race through a city full of death traps and the final battle are breathtaking). It’s a feast for the eyes. I watched it in AVX which was great, but I’m sure seeing this in IMAX would blow your mind.
There’s not much else I can say. If you’ve read the book, you might find, much like I did, that the film is lacking any real emotion. I really didn’t care for any of the characters particularly (except for Sho, Sho is great and Philip Zhao deserves to be in more movies), but if you want some really great action, you’ll enjoy this just fine. It’s a fun and action packed adventure with medium stakes (I really want to watch Tour de Pharmacy). Treat it like a Michael Bay film. Just shut that brain of yours off and watch shit blow up. You’ll have a blast. – NVJ