Ready Player One
Warner Brothers, Amblin Entertainment
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Written by: Zak Penn and Ernest Cline
Starring: Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Simon Pegg, TJ Miller, Mark Rylance, Lena Waithe, Win Morisaki, Hannah John-Kamen, Phillip Zhao, Ralph Ineson and Susan Lynch
The film takes place in the year 2045 in Columbus Ohio. Whatever political and social upheaval happened in the years leading up to the film is never really explained, but the bulk of the people in the film live in trailers stacked on top of each other. The people don’t seem to mind too much because most, if not all of them, are usually escaping reality in a place called The OASIS. The OASIS is a virtual reality game that combines everything that gamers and casual users could want.
The creator of The OASIS is a man named James Halliday (Mark Ryalnce). Upon his death, he tells the world that he has included a hidden Easter Egg in the simulation that, if found, will give the winner over $500 billion dollars in stock in the gaming company that runs The OASIS, but also complete control over the simulation itself.
Five years later, no one has found one of the three keys needed to unlock the egg, but everyone keeps looking including the head of rival company IOI Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn, our hero Parzival (Sheridan) and his rival/love interest Artemis (Cooke). Along for the ride are Parzival’s friends from the simulation who help him with strategy and repairs. With everyone searching for the keys and with Parzival and his friends finding them before anyone else, Sorrento decides to go after the egg more aggressively and will stop at nothing to win.
Spielberg is a master of visual style and has been for decades and this movie is no different. The best example of how good the visuals are don’t necessarily lie in the depiction of the OASIS, but in the contrast between that environment and the real world. The color palate of the real world is depicted as washed out of most color. It’s drab and depressing and it makes the viewer long to return to the lush colors and detail of the OASIS.
This was definitely done on purpose and it enhances the experience. It really put me in the mindset of someone who would not find anything wrong with spending most of my time in the OASIS itself. There were scenes, like in the IOI headquarters, that reminded me visually of another Spielberg film Minority Report with the lighting and color scheme.
The OASIS itself is brilliantly rendered with some of the best graphics I’ve seen in a long time. It looks fantastic and from the races to the transitions, everything looked great. There is a sequence in the film that transitions from the colors of the OASIS to the look and feel of Kubrick’s Overlook Hotel from The Shining and it is so seamless that I had to watch the sequence again.
The plot is pretty basic when you break it down and it works in that regard. Parzival and crew versus the big corporation intent on ruling the world, literally. Sorrento’s motives are laid out pretty early on and they aren’t particularly sinister, they’re what one would expect from a greedy corporate douchebag. There’s not a lot of nuance to it, but Mendelsohn does a great job of selling it in his performance.
The scene where he tries to tempt Wade over to the dark side is fun and groan-inducing as you watch him try to relate to this kid with his “love” of Duran Duran and Robotron. The villains in the film are probably the weakest element in that they don’t exude menace as much as they are annoyances that slow down the hero without any actual peril.
Wade’s romance with Sam aka Artemis (Cooke) is sweet, but a little forced at times. The actors do a really good job and the fact that they start as rivals who respect each other’s skills is a good thing. What makes it work is Wade’s online friend “H” (Waithe) trying to distill some truth to the love-struck kid. Wade’s circle of friends are the saving grace of the plot. Their interactions are the most interesting as well as Wade’s ability to find and interpret the clues that Halliday has left behind.
Speaking of Halliday. Mark Ryalnce’s performance as Halliday is amazing. Even though he is not on the screen for most of the film, you can feel the presence of the character throughout and Rylance crafts the character with a sweet shyness and innocence that makes learning about him throughout the film worthwhile.
With everything in the film connected to a drawing from pop culture, movies and TV from the 80’s, I would have liked to have seen more of Spielberg’s work referenced in the film. I understand why he didn’t, but his films shaped the 80’s and helped give birth to the concept of summer blockbuster films. There were some missed opportunities in that regard. The story is like a modern-day Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and on that level, it works really well.
Effects for a Brave New World
A short feature that showcases one of the effects of the film, specifically the first transition scene between the real world and the OASIS. It’s interesting but could have been added to a longer feature about the effects. 5/10
The 80’s You’re the Inspiration
Through interviews with the cast and writers Zak Penn and Ernest Cline, viewers learn about the inspiration for both the novel Ready Player One and the visual look and style of the film. It’s a nice vignette that helps to illustrate the influence that era has on the film. 7/10
Game Changer: Cracking the Code
This is the longest feature of the bunch and it illustrates the entirety of the production. It touches on the visual look of the film, the script, the casting process, how the actors got along, the performances, costumes, production design, etc. It’s the most comprehensive look at the making of the film and draws a lot on Spielberg and his presence in all aspects of the production. It’s interesting to see someone with the level of experience that Spielberg has talk about the difficulty in making this film and how he’s able to create a cast that’s willing to help him do it. 9/10
Level Up: Sound of the Future
This feature showcases the sound design of Ready Player One and you really get the sense of how important that is when it shows you scenes from the film and how layered the sounds are. It’s an aspect of the film you don’t really think about, but the sound in the film was done so well, the designers deserve some recognition from it. 8/10
High Score: Endgame
Alan Silvestri performs the score for Ready Player One and this feature shows how he was able to craft that score in a short period of time and how great it is. Silvestri had never worked with Spielberg before, but his work with Robert Zemeckis is well known, including the score for Back to the Future, portions of which can be heard in many of the scenes. What’s also interesting is that he included an Easter Egg of his own in the film’s score. 8/10
Ernie & Tye’s Excellent Adventure
Ernest Cline and Tye Sheridan talk about their experience meeting personally and how their friendship developed as they prepared for the first screening of the film at SXSW. Their points of view about the experience are really nice to see including how Cline’s love of cinema informed the writing of the book as well as the film. 7/10
There are some cool trivia pictures in the extras that give context and additional information to both scenes from the film and the overall story. I wish there were more. 7/10