Movie Review

‘Ready Player One’ Movie Review

Has legendary filmmaker Steven Spielberg delivered another hit with Ready Player One? Read our spoiler-free review.

Note: This review was originally posted on Kieran’s Movie Space

The film is set in 2045, with the world on the brink of chaos and collapse. But the people have found salvation in the OASIS, an expansive virtual reality universe created by the brilliant and eccentric James Halliday (Mark Rylance). When Halliday dies, he leaves his immense fortune to the first person to find a digital Easter egg he has hidden somewhere in the OASIS, sparking a contest that grips the entire world. When an unlikely young hero named Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) decides to join the contest, he is hurled into a breakneck, reality-bending treasure hunt through a fantastical universe of mystery, discovery and danger. 

Director – Steven Spielberg

Cast: Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Win Morisaki, Philip Zhao, Lena Waithe, Mark Rylance, Hannah John-Kamen and Simon Pegg.

Genre: Fantasy/Sci-Fi

Ready Player One Trailer:
The Good

With films like Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T. and Jurassic Park under his belt, Steven Spielberg is perhaps the most significant living director and undoubtedly deserves a spot among the greatest filmmakers of all-time. With that said, I’ll admit to being slightly apprehensive when it came to his latest blockbuster, Ready Player One. While it might sound stupid to be worried about a Spielberg movie, there were varying factors, which led to my fears. First and foremost, having read (and loved) the book, I knew that it would be difficult for any filmmaker (even the great Spielberg) to take what was described and adapt it for the big screen. Secondly, it’s been a while since Spielberg directed a blockbuster of this scale, so I wasn’t sure how well he’d jump back into this form of filmmaking. Thankfully, my fears were unnecessary as Spielberg’s direction stands as the most impressive component of Ready Player One. Somehow, Spielberg has jumped back into the world of blockbuster filmmaking with comfortable ease and managed to capture the same feeling of wonder that made some of his earlier films so ridiculously fantastic.

Possibly the best aspect of Ready Player One is the mind-blowing amount of pop culture references and cameos that appear throughout the movie. Of course, we glimpsed some of these in the various trailers (i.e. the Iron Giant, King Kong and the DeLorean), but trust me when I tell you that the trailers only gave us a small taste of a very, very large meal. As someone who usually gets annoyed when a film leans too heavily on nostalgia, I was surprised to find that Ready Player One did a pretty stellar job of knowing where to draw the line. It never felt like a cameo/reference was shoehorned in at the last minute or used unnecessarily. In fact, the virtual setting of the film demanded the many cameos and references, which made it so that instead of being overwhelmed by the countless well-known characters on screen, you were able to fully geek-out (which I did many, many times) while still enjoying a well-told and compelling story. I would say that if you’re a fan of easter eggs, smart references and cameo appearances, Ready Player One is definitely for you.

Looking from a technical standpoint, Ready Player One is easily one of the most beautiful and visually stunning movies in recent memory. When you’re telling a story that’s partly set within a virtual reality, there will obviously be a lot of otherworldly visuals on display, and the folks over at ILM did a fantastic job. The world within the story gave Spielberg (plus hundreds of artists) the opportunity to go bats**t crazy with the special effects, and the level of detail in every shot (both in the OASIS and in the real world) is astounding if not totally mind-boggling. From the different worlds and environments to larger battle sequences and character designs, it’s fair to say that Ready Player One will be talked about for its visual effects for a very, very long time.

The cast of Ready Player One also manages to be a highlight, with decent performances across the board. Tye Sheridan (X-Men: ApocalypseMud) leads the film exceptionally as Wade Watts aka. Parzival, and really sells that fact that his character is an uber-nerd. There’s a certain amount of charm to the character and Sheridan does a great job of making Parzival a likeable and relatable hero. Aside from X-Men: Apocalypse, which was arguably the worst X-Men movie, I wasn’t familiar with Sheridan’s work, but if his performance in Ready Player One is any indication, this guy is gonna be a pretty big star. Olivia Cooke (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl)  is equally as impressive, bringing strength and a ton of likeability to Art3mis. It’s also worth noting that the two leads have an incredible amount of chemistry, and both do a great job of selling the romance between the two characters. Ben Mendelsohn is perfectly cast as the sleazebag villain (but when isn’t he?) and does a fantastic job of making his power-hungry businessman feel like a real enough threat to our heroes. Finally, Mark Rylance offers a scene-stealing performance in his small but pivotal role as OASIS creator James Halliday.

With the exception of Hannah John-Kamen (Black Mirror) who is often stiff and overly dramatic, the supporting cast is also excellent. This includes Lena Waithe as Parzival’s BFF and fellow “High Five” member Aech, Win Morisaki as Daito, Phillip Zhao (making his debut) as Sho and Simon Pegg as OASIS co-creator Ogden Morrow. The film also features Susan Lynch as Wade’s Aunt Alice and Ralph Ineson as Rick, although both roles are too small to make any real impact.

The film’s score, which is composed by Alan Silvestri, stands as one of the most memorable and enjoyable elements of the movie (coming from a soundtrack collector). The soundtrack perfectly captures the wonder and beauty of the film, making some of the large-scale battles even more epic. This is definitely a soundtrack I’ll be buying on vinyl, and I highly recommend you check it out after you’ve seen the movie.

The Bad

My only gripes with Ready Player One are microscopic if not downright nitpicks, but I feel like they’re still significant enough to be mentioned here. Possibly my biggest issue with the film is that while Spielberg is focused on giving audiences a memorable and fun time, he often forgets to tell a surprising or original story (mostly the books fault). At various points throughout, Ready Player One falls into the trap of becoming predictable, with the larger narrative following the same checkpoints as countless other action/adventure movies. Thankfully, Spielberg makes up for the lack of originality with plenty of groundbreaking visuals and a great concept, but it’s a shame that the story itself couldn’t stand as one of the most groundbreaking things about Ready Player One.

My only other issue with Ready Player One is that we don’t get a lot of character development. Because the film is so fast-paced and everything is happening so quickly, we don’t get to see any of the characters develop much over the course of the movie. There aren’t many scenes that really push us to care about these characters in a significant way, and although we root for the heroes, we don’t get a sense that they’ve changed much or learnt anything from the events of the story. With that said, the film is so quickly paced and fun that I doubt you’ll notice or care much about the lack of character development.

Overall

Even with a predictable story and no real character development, Ready Player One is one of the most fun and exhilarating experiences in Hollywood history. Steven Spielberg returns to the world of blockbuster filmmaking with a bang and delivers a cinematic thrill ride with enough crazy visuals, smart pop culture references and imaginative cameos to crack a smile on even the most stubborn of faces.

★★★★

 

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