After reading the novel “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline, I had the thought many probably had, someone is totally going to make this into a movie, and no one can make this film the right way. But when I hear that they were indeed making this into a movie I added an addendum to my original thoughts, it’s filmable, but must be modified to fit which ever studio produced it (Warner Bros. being RPO’s film home) as they can only use certain properties to inhabit the digital world of the Oasis where comic book, cartoon, video game, and of course movie characters can all interact in this world where you can be and do anything. Then when the name Spielberg was dropped as the director, I was certain that along with the WB catalog of characters, we would see how many favors Spielberg could call in to bring even more pop culture and movie references into this world of unlimited possibilities.
Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) is a poor orphan who lives in Ohio among in the Stacks, an RV park that goes up instead of out. He is also Parzival a slick 80’s loving, delorean driving bad-ass in the Oasis, a virtual world that even the un-wealthy can access. People plug in with body sensor suits and VR goggles and fulfill their desires that mostly fall in line with the creator if the Oasis, James Halliday (Mark Rylance) think Steve Jobs but uber 70’s/80’s geek. In this virtual world where people go on vacation, play games, and generally go to escape the trappings of the real world there is a hidden Easter Egg in the game which can be found after acquiring three keys that themselves are won by solving puzzles left by Halliday. The grand prize is sole ownership of the Oasis which is not only sought after by the individual gamers, but by the IOI Corporation which is run by the nefarious Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn). Wade/Parzival along with his friends including possible love interest, Art3mis (Olivia Cooke) race to find all the keys and unlock the Eater Egg to win control of the world that controls everyone in the real world.
Much like the “The Matrix”, every time we are in the virtual world of the Oasis, it’s beautiful, overwhelming, and honestly more fun and interesting than the real world. All of which is expected, but we all know that there will be a lesson that the real world is where we should want to be. The only problem is Spielberg films Columbus, Ohio of 2045 as bland and with relationships that fit all the clichés of Lifetime movies. All the digital stuff feels straight out of a cartoon or cut scenes from a video game. The characters look really good with the performance capture, and they have great chemistry together. It was just kinda sad that they were more interested in saving the fake world over their own even as certain characters claim to be out to protect our world. The biggest star is the endless barrage of easter eggs littered throughout the Oasis. I don’t even want to tell you all the appearances as not to spoil the surprises. I will say that like the book the characters have to interact with a popular film in order to get one of their keys, and it was without a doubt my favorite group of scenes, especially since I am aware of the relationship Spielberg had with that films director, it was special in more ways than one.
I really did enjoy the film, even with its flaws, like very little character development, along with its unfocused story arc. Much like the world the screenwriters Zak Penn and author Cline created, it plays out like a video game but makes up for the missteps of a proper film narrative with its charm and settings. I also prefer this more than Spielberg’s last animated effort “The Adventures of Tintin” he blended his filmmaking style with the modern animation a lot more seamless here. Of course the subject matter and references make this a treat for 80’s kids and their own kids now who also share the love for pop and gaming culture. When explained to people what “Ready Player One” is, you will get the familiar ‘it’s like Willy Wonka meets the Matrix’ which is true, but more than that, it’s a celebration of the geek domination that has occurred in the past few years since the success of the Marvel movies. Much in the way I believed at the start that no one could make this story into a film, I believe no one could have made this film the way Steven Spielberg did. With both heart and appreciation for the very beloved film history he himself helped create for us.