Review for READY PLAYER ONE
Because you people watch/listen to anything 80s related these days (for whatever reason), director Steven Spielberg decided to stop gunning for awards and drops a shiny piece of 80s nostalgia porn set in the not-too-distant future (I know, I know). It’s surprising that the movie’s not called STRANGERER THINGS instead of READY PLAYER ONE. On the plus side, it’s a lot less stupid than last week’s PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING, so there’s that.
The movie’s based on the 2011 Ernest Cline novel of the same name and marked the first time I paid money for a novel by a writer named Ernest since I was forced to read some Hemingway stuff for grade school. For those of you familiar with the novel, the movie follows the same blueprint, except the time when it veers off and you go “Hey, this isn’t in the book”.
The year is 2045. The world is an overpopulated cesspool. No one wants to be in the real world because it sucks. They continue to make Marvel movies and still, no one dies.
YES. This is a total fantasy so far. Hard to believe, I know.
To escape reality, a lot of people log on to The Oasis, a Virtual Reality World that’s a lot more fun than real life. It’s a world where the only limits are your imagination and the limits of a PG-13 rating.
The Wonka-ish creator of The Oasis, James Halliday (Oscar Winner Mark Rylance) has died. In his will he challenges everyone in the Oasis to find three virtual Keys and those Keys unlock Easter Eggs hidden all over the Oasis. The person that wins gets half a trillion dollars and complete control of the Oasis.
When READY PLAYER ONE begins, it has been five years since Halliday has died no one has found any of the Keys even though millions of people have pored over Halliday’s files and history and corporations have spent millions researching and searching through the Oasis.
Things are about to change because we meet our One-Dimensional Good Guy Wade, or Parzival, as he’s known in the Oasis (Tye Sheridan) along with his One-Dimensional Female Lead Art3mis (Olivia Cooke).
The One-Dimensional Bad Guy is Nelson Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn, the more-dimensional bad guy from ROGUE ONE, or ROGUEY PLAYER ONE). He’s determined to take control of the Oasis, so he and his evil company IOI can monetize it. Boo! Hiss!
Along with Parzival and Art3mis are One-Dimensional Token Black Person Aech (Lena Waithe) and two One-Dimensional Token Asian people that I won’t even bother to name because they’re barely in the movie.
The movie follows Parzival and his steps backward and forward in his quest for the Keys as RPO is heavy on plot, but light on story. You won’t notice it much because you’ll be too busy having fun, jacked into the sugar rush of Steven Spielberg’s empty-calorie dessert. I mean that in a good way.
What works with READY PLAYER ONE—
1) A bravura sequence set to THE SHINING. No, it’s not in the novel, but it’s one of the few times you’re completely sucked into the storytelling of the movie. Watching Spielberg reference Kubrick is something you never knew you needed.
2) A reference to an 80s Horror that got a collective Gasp from the audience and an excellent use of the lone PG-13 F Word.
3) Oscar Winner Mark Rylance comes the closest to having a fully realized character as the nerdy, dead Halliday. He’s barely in the movie but he makes an impression because he’s the only character you have a chance of remembering because he’s almost multidimensional. Plus, he gets to wear so many wacky Wigs!!!
4) CGI landscapes chock full of pop cultural references you’ll have to pause the videotape multiple times when you eventually rent this from Blockbuster in order to get them all. The FX are so much more developed than the characters.
What Doesn’t work—
1) As Stated before, the characters barely have any dimensions to them as they seem as stock and generic as the numerous video games they reference.
2) Congratulations, Simon Pegg! Your part has been almost cut out of the movie. The Iron Giant has more screen time than you do.
3) Clocking in a 2 hours and Fifteen minutes, it feels 15 minutes longer than it should be. You get why Spielberg left it in, but like all sugar rushes, the comedown is hard and fast.
4) The Most Generic 80s soundtrack. I’m doing the music “Supervisor” a favor and not looking up his/her name up because it’s clear all he/she did was Google “Famous 80s Songs”, took the top 5 results they could get the rights to and sprinkled them throughout the movie. Not Rad.
OVERALL You sat through Spielberg’s Shot to Trump last December in THE POST. As a reward you get to enjoy the thrill ride that is READY PLAYER ONE, provided you don’t get shot in the theater.