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‘Ready Player One’ Review

Marc Kaliroff, Editor

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For over three decades, Hollywood has attempted to recreate novels into movies. What Hollywood has nosedived even harder on however is video game movies. Ready Player One presented the movie industry’s hardest task yet; to create a novel that’s inspired by video games. What may initially seem like a catastrophic disaster waiting to bomb at the box office, turned out to be one of the most entertaining movies in recent years. Steven Spielberg may have been born seven decades ago, but he still understands younger audiences past his prime and fills a void that the newest generation of directors should have an easier time with; crafting movies that draw inspiration from the most well-known pieces of pop culture. Spielberg manages to capture the magic of movies, video games, and books into one gigantic late 20th and early 21st-century extravaganza that oozes with nostalgia scene after scene.

Wade Watts in the OASIS.

Wade Watts is an awkward yet not so altruistic and ambitious teen who was born during the rise of video game entertainment. Living in the slums area of Ohio called the “stacks” with his aunt and abusive uncle after his parents were brutally murdered during a riot, Wade has only one escape from the horrors of reality; the OASIS. A world entered through virtual reality headsets, where humans spend the majority of their time, but not just for fun. The OASIS retains the global economy that is now fueled by player progression and the companies that reside within this virtual endless galaxy. No one refers to each other as their real names. Every person has a Gamertag, or in-game name, such as the protagonist Wade and female lead Samantha being called Parzival and Art3mis. The digital age has quite literally taken over human life with its control of the economy and censorship. People go to the OASIS to work, relax, exercise, and chat. Escapism has truly been achieved due to the worlds expansive use of the post-modern technology present in the film. Behind its twisted ideologies and odd ways of fun, lies an unidentifiable easter egg that will reward the adventurer with the reward of a lifetime; the ability to claim the ownership of the OASIS and its half a trillion dollar value from its previous deceased creator James Halliday. Wade Watts uses all his time in the OASIS attempting to find clues to the unsolved easter egg in order to gain the funding to escape his miserable uneventful life in the stacks. During his fruitless journey he comes across a famous player named Samantha Evelyn who has a deep understand of Halliday, but is seeking the easter egg in order to fight for a moral cause; to stop IOI industries from achieving their masterplan. The mustache twirly Innovative Online Industries, IOI, devises a method of finding the easter egg before the people. The purpose of the companies efforts is to gain full control over the worlds biggest economic powerhouse and leave its leader with a taste of revenge against Halliday’s final words. Wade’s journey plays out distinctively like a movie, but spirals into a story straight out of a video game during it is over the top and action-packed third act. Over the years Spielberg has created unforgettable character and stories that are clouded in mystery that leaves you with a childish feeling deep down. Ready Player One naturally adapts to Spielberg’s lighthearted and colorful style of storytelling. This is a film for both children and adults. What made you love films like Jurassic Park, E.T, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Jaws have all been stuffed into this thrill ride.

The nightclub scene, one of the film’s most standout visual moments.

Ready Player One is not all bells and whistles during its two hour and twenty-minute runtime. It has trouble when it comes to story-building at times due to the film having to multitask both reality and the OASIS. While it may be fascinating at first sight, the movie does not fully succeed in providing more story building to the reality side of the world, but it’s for the better. The virtual wonderland that is the OASIS is the film’s primary focus. There is a lack of time dedicated to showing how the world evolved in the last three decades into the technological madhouse controlled by the OASIS, besides the opening segment. As nice as it would have been to learn more about what the riots were that killed the protagonist’s parents or more insight into what the rebellion was, there lies just enough details for audiences to answer their questions, in a similar fashion to movies like Mad Max: Fury Road. On the other hand, the world-building in the movie is phenomenal. Through the cinematography and methodically placed details, it is clearly evident that there was a relentless amount of passion put into this project. The amount of detail that is barely visible is excessive. This is a gorgeous film that clearly was not afraid to mix colors, turn up the contrast, and use different visual techniques. If you are a fan of both modern and classic pop-culture then the entire film will be an easter egg hunt in itself due to the thousands of references placed throughout the film. Without spoiling any of the characters that appear, I found myself recognizing someone or something so minor almost every few minutes. There are dozens of objects and characters that you will miss during your first viewing. It amazed me how much I actually missed versus how much I recognized.

The biggest problem with Ready Player One is how it logistically does not make sense at times. For a movie that relies almost entirely on the logic of video games, it has trouble keeping up with consistency. For example, the first trial that Wade and his friends face during the first act will leave any racing game fans skeptic. In order to win the trial, Wade has to drive backward at the start of the race. The problem with this is that when have you not attempted to go backwards in a racing game whether it was on purpose or by complete accident? This is a world with millions of players and it would seem highly unlikely that no one had attempted this before. One could argue that resources are precious in the OASIS, but it still would seem highly unlikely that no one had thought of previously attempting this after over five years of failed endeavour.

Nolan Sorrento, played by Ben Mendelsohn.

Every movie adaptation comes with a few changes to its original source material. Securing the rights to every franchise that was referenced in the original novel is rather harsh in today’s society due to strict copyright laws and studio ownership rights. Ready Player One attempts to stay accurate to the book, but it does take its own leisures; specifically in the second act of the film when Wade and company face the second trial. I personally do not mind changes being made to the source material, but I have one condition; the changes have to make sense. What resulted from a copyright issue was the most memorable sequence in Ready Player One. Replacing the entire concept of the second trial, was one of if not, the greatest changes made to a an adaptation of a novel. The writers have cooked up a superior situation then what Ernest Cline originally published. Warner Bros has carefully crafted the trial based on the classic film The Shining. The characters are forced to travel through a reenactment of the original horror movie. Every single detail of the mansion that appeared in Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece is here. Once again, there was clearly a lot of passion put into this project. I was amazed at how accurate Ready Player One stayed to Kubrick’s film. This was a genius change that I’m sure readers will welcome with open arms and older audiences will get a kick out of. Other notable changes consist of changing up some of Cline’s stereotypical controversial character descriptions and the absence of recurring references to Spielberg films.

If there is one aspect to a movie that Steven Spielberg grasps the best, it is character chemistry. Besides a minor female assassin that has almost no purpose in the story and disrupts particular scenes, everyone present has a purpose to the story and fits in like a puzzle. Rather than attempting to jam everything together, each character specifically interacts with who they need to. The two main characters, Wade Watts and Samantha Evelyn, never have moments that feel wasted along with the rest of Wade’s clan that appear throughout the film. While the leading actors due a good job at portraying the heroes, the one who works the best and deserves a notable mention, however, is the villain; Nolan Sorrento who is played by Ben Mendelsohn. Mendelsohn knocks it out of the park in this role. There is never a dull moment when Mendelsohn takes the forefront on screen. This is an actor who clearly loves his job and I am personally glad that he has been receiving more recognition lately ever since he played Director Krennic in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Mendelsohn’s sinister uptight businessman does not get the chance to interact with every character who has a larger role, but when he gets the chance it always ended up creating another shining moment for an already likable antagonist.

The Verdict
Ready Player One is one of the very few movie adaptations of a novel that makes beneficial alterations to its source material. While it may contain a substantial amount of glaring flaws, it shines with memorable moments that will leave audiences with fun memories from their time in the theater. At its core, it’s a Spielberg film; it is full of fun, adventure, laughter, and excitement and that is all I could have asked for. It left me with a feeling of both nostalgia and satisfaction; two feelings that you do not typically get mixed together by a film. If you are a fan of John Williams orchestral scores then stay during the credits!

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‘Ready Player One’ Review