Release Date: March 29, 2018 | Directed by: Steven Spielberg | Starring: Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Lena Waithe, T.J. Miller | Rating: PG-13 | Run Time: 2 hours 20 minutes
Ready Player One (2018)
There is no director in Hollywood that could have taken on the daunting task of bringing Ernest Cline’s 2011 best seller to the silver screen better than Spielberg. However, as with any iconic pop-culture piece of work, there will be critics of the adaptation holding tight to the story lines and details that will inevitably be left out of the 140 minute transformation. Look on any YouTube trailer for Ready Player One and you will see the trolls out in masses already dismissing the movie before its release.
What the trolls are missing is that there is no other driver you want piloting this film than Spielberg who essentially is the Halliday (stand by for explanation) of our world. Bringing to life more pop-culture icons (think Jaws, Indiana Jones, Back to the Future, Forest Gump) than any director in history and making them an integral part of our daily lives. Ready Player One dives into the inevitable future of man with the accelerated rate of technology intersecting with our daily lives and creating an escape from the inevitable dystopian future that lie ahead in the virtual-limitless world of the Oasis (I will get to that too.)
The story is set in Columbus, Ohio (changed from the Oklahoma City of the book) 27 years from now in 2045, in an area called the Stack which is essentially mobile homes stacked on top of each other to maximize the people that can be housed in a small area due to a probable nod to overpopulation. There isn’t much backstory on how the world got this way, but one could imagine such a scenario happening in the not-to-distant future.
We are quickly introduced to Wade Watts (Sheridan) who is a resident of the Stacks, and like everyone else in society, is an avid frequenter of the Oasis, a virtual world created 20 years prior by a man named James Halliday (Rylance) who has taken on a God-like persona amongst the people who believe their time in the Oasis is more meaningful to their lives than time spent in the real world. Everyone is able to create an avatar of themselves in the Oasis that can be anything from SpongeBob to Batman. Wade chooses a character known as Parzival to represent him. The catch while in the Oasis is that; why you may not be able to die, you can lose all of the “coins” (virtual money) you collect while playing in the virtual world. This has serious consequences, as the currency is useable in the real world as well.
When word goes out about Halliday’s imminent death on the horizon, it’s learned that a competition will be had that all citizens can compete in to essentially win Halliday’s fortune and control of the Oasis. Watts’ obsession with Halliday, video games and the Oasis leads him to keep playing the seemingly impossible game Halliday has created after years passing by where nobody has completed a single task to acquire one of the three keys needed to find Halliday’s hidden “Easter Egg” which is ultimately the prize of winning his fortune and control of the Oasis.
Watts is determined to find the keys by studying Halliday’s virtual life story that hides clues to finding them. His autobiography is seamlessly captured through computers recreating scenes of his life that can be watched like a movie. But with the seeking of unprecedented wealth and power comes a rival to Watts, and others looking to win the competition, from the software company Innovative Online Industries (IOI), who employs a vast squad of players to find the keys for the nefarious CEO, Nolan Sorrento (Mendelsohn). The constant threat of having IOI at Watts’ heels as he navigates his way through Halliday’s challenges, leads to various confrontations between the two and ultimately the good (the people) versus the evil (greedy corporations) that propels the story forward.
The heart of the story is showcased through the relationships Wade Watts has with the “clan” he forms with a few others in the Oasis who are also competing to win Halliday’s prize. One of which being the bad-ass Art3mis (Cooke), known as Samantha in the real world. These relationships ground the movie and give pause to real human connection, even when people’s outward appearance doesn’t match their avatar in the Oasis.
The real movie-magic happens when Spielberg puts his pop-culture prowess on display through scene-after-scene of dizzying references to both past and present pop-culture icons. Don’t blink as you watch the race scene that has hundreds of notable cars going for the win that include the DeLorean from Back to the Future or the car from the 1983 horror film Christine. There is so much layered into these moments that you could literally watch the movie a dozen times and see things you may have missed…wait was that the Princess driving a Mario Cart I just saw zoom by?
Spielberg does a brilliant job showing us what the future could hold in store for us and how tech idols (think Steve Jobs) can be more worshipped figures than previous deities. He takes our hand and introduces us to a world that we could all only imagine would be the ultimate utopia, but simultaneously warns us about leaving our reality behind in search of this.
On a scale of 1 to 10—1 being oregano, and 10 being top-shelf kush—we give Ready Player One a solid 9.