Ready Player One – Throwback Theater

*WARNING* This article does not contain major spoilers, but does discuss plot points, details, and possible minor spoilers. If that is not cool with you, watch the movie and come back. Reader discretion is advised.

Ready Player One is an adaptation of the best-selling novel of the same name, which was written by Ernest Cline. The movie version was directed by Steven Spielberg and stars Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, T.J. Miller, Mark Rylance, and Simon Pegg. The story, which takes place in 2045, focuses on an “easter egg” hunt in a virtual reality world called the OASIS.

The Achilles’ heel of adaptations of well-liked novels is the need to shorten the story, which definitely hurts the film. The film starts out with the main character, Wade Watts/Parzival (Tye Sheridan) offering about 10/15 minutes of narration about his personal backstory and explaining the OASIS. In a 400-page novel, there is time to explore these details and connect more with the background of the protagonist, but in a film, trying to smush all of this info into a narration comes off as lazy exposition to save some time. After that, the audience is taken on a ride through the OASIS, which essentially gives the people of this world the opportunity to do anything and everything. They can be someone else or play as themselves. The visuals for the portions of the movie that take place in the OASIS are absolutely stunning; creating a perfect balance between a video game feeling and a real life look.

The goal of the hunt is to find and solve clues that will lead the player to the three keys. These keys will then be used to unlock the “easter egg” which was placed by the creator of the OASIS, James Halliday (Mark Rylance). This easter egg will award the finder with control of the OASIS and all of Halliday’s immense fortune. The conflict of the story is with IOI, an evil corporation headed by Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), which wants to find the egg and gain control over the OASIS. The character of Sorrento is both a fine villain, but also a source of comedic relief, which Mendelsohn plays well.

The process of finding the keys seems a little underwhelming, as the characters suddenly find answers that took years to find before, that part comes off as unrealistic and convenient. Altogether, it’s a little unbelievable.  The visuals and action of the race sequence were especially phenomenal, and the other key challenges were, for the most part, also well done.

I worried that the stories over reliance on references would become a nuisance to the plot, but it often added to a scene and led to greatly dramatic and funny moments, especially the movie’s one, PG-13 F-bomb. The worlds we get to see, as well as characters appearing in battles and other scenes make rewatching the movie a partially different experience, as you see new characters each time.

Mark Rylance delivers an excellent performance as James Halliday, the eccentric innovator who would much rather be in the virtual world than the real world. While never directly stated, it is highly hinted that Halliday has some form of Autism, probably Asperger’s (I’m not a doctor). Regardless, Rylance’s performance absolutely stole the show. He portrays the aloof, unintentionally-cold, and somehow still likable character well, and I found myself only wanting more of him on the screen.

My other main concern going into the theater was the possible overuse of the OASIS. The opposite turned out to be true for me, I felt that the scenes taking place in the real world were lacking in quality, and the OASIS could’ve (and should’ve) been given more attention. With all of the possibilities available to them, I would’ve liked to see more, especially with how beautiful the visuals were.

The movie suffers from some pacing issues in the middle of the film, but picks back up for the final act. The ending fight is a mindless battle which keeps the trend of well-done graphics with a good balance of humor and action.

Once all is said and done, the movie is a fine film. Not the best of the year, but far from the worst. I highly recommend the book, especially if you at all liked the movie. The relationships between the characters is developed well past whatever possible in the short span of a movie.

I didn’t really buy the buy the on-screen romance between Parzival and Art3mis (Olivia Cooke). I was a bit disappointed, because the relationship between the two was my favorite part of the book. The performances between the two characters was meh, and it came off as rushed overall, especially when compared to the book, which handled the two near perfectly. Overall, the film is good, and, to quote Jeremy Jahns, it’s definitely worth grabbing on Blu-Ray. It didn’t quite live up to my hopes for it after reading the book, but I would still recommend watching it, especially if you identify yourself as a nerd or geek. The message at the end is specifically designed for us, and hits pretty well.


James D.

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