Ready Player One is set in Columbus, Ohio, in the year 2045, where Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) lives in the Stacks (high-rise caravan slums, basically) and he dreams of a life out of there, like everyone else.
Everyone is way over-addicted to Virtual Reality and has the requisite headset, which work even better when you have an omnidirectional treadmill, although not everyone does and they have to make do with acting it out on the streets… somehow NOT knocking into one another. H (not from Steps) is his best friend in the Oasis, but they’ve never met in real life. However, Wade becomes besotted with Art3mis, the avatar used by Samantha (Olivia Cooke).
Wade lives with his aunt, Alice (Susan Lynch), and her violent boyfriend, Rick (Ralph Ineson), who’s spent all the family money on loot crates. If you’re not sure what they are, they’re a form of gambling. While some games allow microtransactions which mean that instead of spending 20 hours of working your way through a game to obtain a particular item, you can spend £20 to just buy it instead. When a game costs upwards of £45, and with lots of these microtransactions possible, you could’ve spent £1000 on EA’s Star Wars Battlefront II before EA saw the light after being castigated for it. Loot crates are similar, but you receive a number of items… some of which are useful and some which aren’t, hence the gamble. For more explanation, check out DreamcastGuy’s video on this below… and in fact, in Ready Player One, you can spend in-game points on real world items such as an all-over VR suit.
The creator of Oasis, Halliday (Mark Rylance), has died, and his final ‘gift’ to the world is an easter egg. Find it in the Oasis, by first finding three special keys, and you’ll win the Oasis, itself… so it’s like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Five years on from his death, and no-one’s found a single key, so Wade wants to be the winner, the first challenge being a wacky race where he drives a DeLorean… Yes, get ready for plenty of Spielberg references, especially from Back to the Future where not only the incidental music pops up (this movie has the same composer), but you can buy a Zemeckis Cube. The cube’s reason to exist is something you’ll discover along the way, but Robert Zemeckis directed all three movies, while it was produced by this director’s film company, Amblin Entertainment. Also spot the Star Wars noises along the way.
The CGI of the Oasis is all very fast and clever as it flies by, but the more I saw of it, the less I was impressed. Once it finds its level, it feels like I’m watching a Final Fantasy movie for two-and-a-half hours. Some will love that, sure, but I wanted a Spielberg movie not what feels like a lazy rip-off… of not only that, but also like watching one of those videogame adverts when they mash several characters together and/or dress a game up and then put at the bottom of the screen: “Not actual gaming footage”.
“Several characters”? Yes, because while there are a lot of avatars late on such as Halo‘s Master Chief and Overwatch‘s Tracer, there’s an over-abundance of movie references, such as Terminator 2, The Dark Crystal, one showing King Kong, a baddie from War of the Worlds and even a suit from Buckaroo Banzai, along with others making you think – well, there’s a nod to that film, and there’s a doff of the cap to that, and here’s a lazy 10-minute section where we spend time in THAT movie’s world… I won’t name it, as it was a surprise to me, but I thought – if the BEST thing I can say about a film is that I just felt like I was watching a bunch of OTHER films, well, that’s not great.
Tye Sheridan was superb in Detour, a film almost no-one will have seen, and a film which was quite incredible, but here, he just has to suit up and look surly when things aren’t going his way… that’s on the occasional time he’s onscreen as the CGI does all the work the rest of the time.
Ben Mendelsohn, as corporate bigwig and cardboard cut-out baddie Nolan Sorrento, from the company in charge of the Oasis, isn’t exactly David Warner’s evil Dillinger in this gaming world which can’t even hold a candle to TRON. Another throwaway movie reference is The Breakfast Club, and the sharp eye will spot how Sorrento’s dressed, at one point, in a suit which makes him look the spitting image of Richard Vernon in that movie, the character portrayed brilliantly by the late Paul Gleason.
There’s even a spell where the first word in it is “anal”… which is pronounced “Ann-ahl”. Oh dear.
Oh, and there’s a device (or plot device) called the Orb of Orsovox which… well, you won’t really care when you see it because no-one else in the film seemed to do so, either, since all you need to know is that it quickly degenerates into a chase movie.
In addition, there’s the potential of a number of Atari 2600 VCS games thrown in from the ’70s and ’80s, but when this comes up, not only to you hardly see any of the footage, but it also feels like filler. What a shame.
On the plus side, however, there are plenty of cosplay opportunities to come from this, most notably Art3mis, who feels very reminiscent of the aforementioned Tracer; and there’s a lot of ’70s and ’80s music tracks including Bee Gees’ Stayin’ Alive and New Order’s Blue Monday, all crowbarred in for your aural pleasure.
That said, to add insult to injury about this film, Vue Cinemas excelled themselves with their usual dumbness, as instead of just whacking the lights on during the credits, not just to 30% levels (like during the pre-film trailers and ads) but to 50% so the screen is a white-out (I’ve tried complaining about that but Head Office don’t understand “The customer is always right” and misinterpret council rules on health and safety as “turn the lights up so bright that you can see the room from SPACE!”, while Odeon Trafford keep them at a level such that you can still read the credits and enjoy them)…
…However, today – and I won’t give spoilers for the film – but I saw the 12.00pm screen 3 screening at Vue Lowry and at 2.32pm (I made a point of checking) the lights came on at 50% with several minutes of the film left to run. As soon as the credits began, the cleaner came in and whacked the big cleaning lights up and ran off to the back of the room so I couldn’t get her attention anyway. After she left, the big cleaning lights were switched off and those of us who wanted to watch the credits were left in 50% bright light.
In the end, after complaining online, I received two free tickets for next time! Hope the lights stay off 😉
Also available is the Soundtrack CD.
Running time: 140 minutes
Studio: Warner Bros
Format: 2.35:1 (Dolby Vision)
Released: March 29th 2018
Director: Steven Spielberg
Producers: Donald De Line, Dan Farah, Kristie Macosko Krieger and Steven Spielberg
Screenplay: Zak Penn and Ernest Cline (based on the novel by Ernest Cline)
Music: Alan Silvestri
Parzival / Wade Watts: Tye Sheridan
Art3mis / Samantha: Olivia Cooke
Nolan Sorrento: Ben Mendelsohn
Aech / Helen: Lena Waithe
I-R0k: TJ Miller
Ogden Morrow: Simon Pegg
Anorak / Halliday: Mark Rylance
Sho: Philip Zhao
Daito: Win Morisaki
F’Nale Zandor: Hannah John-Kamen
Rick: Ralph Ineson
Alice: Susan Lynch
Mrs. Gilmore: Clare Higgins
Lame Tattoo Guy (Reb): Laurence Spellman
Kira: Perdita Weeks
Old Zombie Woman: Mark Stanley
Twin: Emily Beacock
Twin: Rosanna Beacock
Pretty Naked Girl Body Double: Gem Refoufi
Queen of Cats / Bathroom Zombie / Mocap Core Cast: Jane Leaney
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.