by Sherry Lipp
The Lowdown: What Ready Player One lacks in depth it makes up for in dazzling visual effects and thrilling action.
These days imagining a future where everyone lives life in a virtual world isn’t all that hard to imagine. Based on the novel by Ernest Cline, Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One navigates a virtual world known as the Oasis. While full of excitement and fun, Spielberg’s take on living in a made-up reality is missing much of the depth that made Cline’s novel a cautionary tale of the future.
Ready Player One is an ode to Gen X pop culture. Set in 2045, society has become so obsessed with ‘80s nostalgia they’ve abandoned any artistic endeavors of their own. Everyone lives their lives in the Oasis. It’s where they go to work, school, and find all forms of entertainment. The reason for all of this? James Halliday (Mark Rylance), the creator of The Oasis. Born in 1972, he crammed all of his favorite childhood movies, video games, and music into his creation so he could live in a perpetual state of nostalgia.
In perhaps an homage to Willy Wonka, Halliday is bequeathing his fortune, along with control of the Oasis, to a worthy successor. In this world controlling the Oasis pretty much means controlling the entire world. It’s no small prize. What makes a worthy successor? In the land of video games it’s the person who finds Halliday’s deeply hidden Easter Egg first.
In Cline’s book this meant someone so familiar with Halliday, and the things he loved, they would be able to solve his riddles to find a set of keys that would lead to the mystical egg. That element is somewhat lost in the film. In the film this becomes more of a literal race to the finish line. Here we meet Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), a teen suffering in his sub-lower-class neighborhood and sees the egg as his only way out.
Also competing for possession of the egg is Innovative Online Industries (IOI) an evil corporation, bent on converting the Oasis into nothing but a money-generating world of advertising. IOI is a fairly stereotypical corporation led by a soulless executive named Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn). Unfortunately Sorrento doesn’t come across with enough menace to make IOI the intimidating threat it should be. He’s so bumbling as a leader it seems obvious he will be beaten.
There are a lot of great action sequences in this film. The car race that opens each quest for the first key is particularly thrilling. It’s full of some pretty cool Easter eggs of its own, so keep your eyes open. Wade faces a whole new set of challenges in the film than in the book, which adds and extra element of surprise for fans of the book.
I only wish we could have gotten to know the characters themselves a little better. Why do we care about Wade Watts? When it comes to the heroes and villains in this film, Spielberg relies on what audiences already know about these types of characters rather than showing us what truly makes them tick.
That being said, Ready Player One has a lot going for it in its visual presentation and fast-paced story. It’s certainly worth checking out, especially if you’re a fan of the book.
Ready Player One Images: Warner Brothers