A few nights ago, my mate and I decided to see a late-night movie. We chose Ready Player One. We really didn’t know what to expect. We had no expectations, no preconceived ideas. We hadn’t read the book the film was based on or read the reviews about it online. It was an impulsive decision. We just wanted to see an enjoyable film that was going to engage and entertain us. We wanted to escape from our mundane existences and from doing the dishes after dinner. Ready Player One was the right choice. It was an out of this world experience.
I must confess, I HAD seen the trailer. Not that it gave much away. I knew it was going to involve VR (virtual reality). I saw it was directed by Steven Spielberg. And I knew it had a DeLorean in it. Apart from that, I was in the dark. So, when the lights dimmed in the cinema, I found myself wondering whether I was going to make it all the way through the movie without falling asleep.
I am pleased to report to the readers of TechGeek365, I really enjoyed it.
(If you haven’t seen the film yet and don’t want to be spoiled by this review, ‘favorite’ this page in your browser and return to it after you have seen it, as we’re about to enter spoiler territory!)
So, let’s start this review by breaking down the plot.
The film starts in the year 2045. The world as we know it in 2018 is gone, replaced by a global society addicted and reliant on OASIS, an immersive VR gaming world. This augmented reality world allows players to be anyone they want to be and go anywhere they want to go. In this case, the sky is not the limit. Everything is possible. Sounds great, right?
We are introduced to a character named Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan). An orphaned boy from the Stacks. He narrates the start of the film and tells us (the audience) about the OASIS experience – and its eccentric creator James Halliday (Mark Rylance).
Several years before the movie takes place, Halliday has died and left his considerable wealth (and complete control of OASIS) to the winner of a virtual contest which has been designed by him to find a worthy individual to take over the OASIS world. When Watts (handle Parzival in OASIS) beats the first challenge of the contest he and his new friend Art3mis (Olivia Cooke) are thrown into a pop-cultural and fantastical universe of deception and danger to save the OASIS world from the film’s antagonist Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn) and Innovative Online Industries (aka IOI).
As plots go, it didn’t boast anything original. The film is a classic re-telling of a hero’s journey. While the plot didn’t do anything exceptional (more the fault of the film being based on the book by author Ernest Cline) there were elements of the movie that more than made up for it. The visual effects were impressive, so much so that it become almost impossible to distinguish what was happening in the real world and what was happening inside OASIS. It was very well directed by Spielberg and the cinematography was excellent.
There were many great pop cultural references and moments, too. From the obvious inclusion of the DeLorean (reaching far greater speeds than 80MPH) from the Back To The Future film series and The Batmobile from the 1960s Batman TV show seen in a race against the aforementioned DeLorean to the “blink and you’ll miss it” TARDIS from BBC’s Doctor Who in the background of Aech’s workshop, this film is one to re-watch again and again just to spot and appreciate all the subtle pop-cultural references – of which there are dozens more. Despite not being a huge pop-culture fan, there was enough in the film for me to recognize and enjoy. I was surprised by how quickly I found myself becoming invested in the characters and their wellbeing. I sat on the edge of my seats numerous times, hoping that my favorite characters were going to survive the next dangerous task or challenge against IOI within OASIS. There were genuine heart-pounding moments, as we believed that anything could happen to the characters – particularly when they were being pursued by Nolan Sorrento within OASIS.
It would be remiss not to mention the cast in this review, as they were excellent. Our protagonist’s believable portrayal of their characters helped ground the story in [virtual] reality and they created relatable human characters – ironic considering they were digital avatars for most of the film. From Tye Sheridan and Olivia Cooke to Ben Mendelsohn and Mark Rylance, the cast gave it their all.
Humor played a part in making the film appeal to a variety of audience members too – at least in our cinema. There were many laugh out loud moments for the under 40s and many LOL moments for the under 20s, too. It brought the discombobulating fantasy world, back to reality.
So, what didn’t work? The film was a little too long. It would have benefited from the removal of some padding and story tightening in the middle of the film. Some of the scenes between Nolan and his head of security F’Nale Zandor (Hannah John-Kamenat) at IOI could have been removed altogether. Instead time could have been spent developing the romantic relationship between the two main characters Wade Watt and Samantha Cook (aka Art3mis) to make their love story a little more believable or the fractured relationship between Nolan and Halliday.
The real issue for me, came in the form of vulgar language being used throughout the film. I am no prude, but it felt wrong being used within this context. I assume it was there to make younger members of the audience feel cool watching it, but it’s inclusion could alienate that demographic from being allowed to watch it by their parents. As a teacher, this would have been a great film to teach students about the benefits and pitfalls of VR, but alas – with the inclusion of bad language, this is no longer a curriculum option.
Overall, Ready Player One is an enjoyable film of visual amazement. If you want to see a contemporary take on a classic storytelling model that breaks down the barriers between the real and virtual world or simply get out of doing the dishes by reaching for your PlayStation or Samsung Gear VR, Ready Player One is for you.
A rating of 3.5/5 from @robkellytweets.
Reviewed by Rob Kelly for TechGeek365.com.
Tech Teacher at Department of Education, AUS. Education Columnist for starnewsgroup.com.au.