This weekend I finally watched the Spielberg production of “Ready Player One,” based on the book by Ernest Clive. In the near future, the world is mostly addicted to an online, virtual reality game known as the Oasis. In the Oasis you can be anything, do anything. It’s creator has died and in a posthumous release announces that since he had no heirs, the keys to all of Oasis will be granted to the first player to complete three challenges hidden throughout the world of Oasis. Everyone’s trying, including our protagonist Wade and his avatar Parzival, and an evil corporation that wants to use the Oasis to increase their bank accounts.
I’ve not read the novel, so I can’t comment on the movie’s faithfulness or diversion from its plot. What I can say is that this is a Spielberg movie, so we have kids in peril (this time real and virtual), and ultimately a happy ending. I don’t consider that spoilers in the least. The man makes good, often great, movies, but he has a formula.
The movie is also, I’m sure you’ve heard, riddled with references. Many of these are from the 1980s for some reason (the movie takes place in 2045, but the creator of the Oasis would have been a teen in the 80s, so maybe that’s the reasoning), but the film also puts in references to some of Mr. Spielberg’s past movies as well. Some of the references I caught included, but not limited to, Duke Nukem, Marvin the Martian, Joust, Mortal Kombat, “Alien”, Street Fighter, “Tron”, Tracer from Overwatch (not even remotely nostalgia yet)…most of those not from the 80s. Some of the references are blatant, like the Iron Giant (from the 1999 movie, itself based on a 1968 novel), King Kong, and the DeLorean from “Back to the Future” as these actually serve the plot. Many are very subtle. But it’s loaded with them, that’s for sure, particularly references to 1980s video games. And Batman comes up a few times. (It’s a Warner Bros. release, and they do currently own the movie rights to him.)
The references are fine, I suppose, but I couldn’t help but wonder why teenagers in the year 2045 would care about stuff from six decades prior. I could see some of them being into it, sure…but everyone? Maybe they don’t even realize that’s where those items/characters/plot points come from?
On another tangent — it seemed more than half the running time (140 minutes) is an animated movie, but this will still be referred to as live action I’m sure. That seems to be the case with many of the CGI spectacles we get from Hollywood these days. A large chunk of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is animated, too, but no one seems to mention it. There’s a reason there’s 10 minutes of credits, folks! Gotta list all those techies!
The movie is entertaining, but not without faults. One scene in particular that bugged me was our hero going to play his game, broad daylight. He goes into the system, has a chat with the villain for about 10 minutes, then after being threatened disconnects and rushes outside — into the dark of night. Fastest sunset ever. Cause, ya know, drama, I guess? Evil schemes better seen at night? Time works differently in the virtual world? There were a few other continuity errors I spotted as well. I realize I catch these things more than most people, but in a huge budget spectacle movie? I expected more.
As for the rest, the acting is fine by the main cast members. The plot moves along at a decent pace, despite the length of the movie. And even though you know how it is going to turn out on all fronts, you’ll likely have an enjoyable time getting there. At its heart it is an action adventure movie, and our heroes are on a quest fraught with challenges, riddles, skill tests, and a scene from Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining.”