When the creator of a virtual reality world called the OASIS dies, he releases a video in which he challenges all OASIS users to find his Easter Egg, which will give the finder his fortune.
Based on Ernest Cline’s smorgasbord novel of pop culture references, the inevitable film adaptation of ‘Ready Player One’ heads into cinemas in the hands of a man who crafted much of the material the novel is nostalgic for, Steven Spielberg. I haven’t read the novel so I was going in cold, although it’s hard not to notice many of the references to 80s (in particular) pop culture that are peppered throughout the film, and although it does have an element of smugness to its referencing, I thought the genuinely great flashes outweighed that. There haven’t been many good video game adaptations and whilst ‘Ready Player One’ isn’t directly based on a video game, it’s the closest I’ve seen a film come to capturing that kind of experience within the world of the ‘OASIS’ with the emphasis on finding ‘easter eggs’ nicely detailed.
The film is set in 2045 in a dystopian environment whereby much of the poorer population live in buildings known as stacks, essentially modern day ghettos with trailers piled on top of one another as a result of overcrowding. One of these people is Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), a young guy who spends much of his time in the OASIS to escape from his ordinary live. The ‘OASIS’ is the centrepiece of the film and is an extension of VR technology to its logical endpoint, a place where people can do, see and feel almost anything they can imagine in a digital environment, with limited consequences in the real world. When the creator, Halliday (Mark Rylance), of the OASIS dies, he leaves behind a challenge to all players with the winner becoming the new ‘owner’ of the OASIS, and this draws Wade in alongside numerous others, including shady corporation boss Nolan Sorrento, played with a menacing glee by Ben Mendelsohn.
I’m a sucker for nostalgia (even if this nostalgia is before I was born in many cases!) and I enjoyed the way the film played out much like a video game as players hunted for the keys to win Halliday’s game, interacting with numerous classic video games, films and characters along the way. The special effects are well done (this film must have had one of the biggest SFX budgets of all time) and I thought the story clipped along at a fair pace, maintaining momentum that perhaps allowed me to overlook some of the flaws in the narrative. In that respect I don’t think the film did a great job of selling the implications of the characters actions in the real world and I never felt any of the characters were in genuine peril in reality, which does slow the intensity somewhat, but you know what, it’s really fun and entertaining, and sometimes that’s all that matters!
‘Ready Player One’ is an entertaining movie that pays tribute to the pop culture that inspired it whilst only slightly going over the line as it tries to tell an original story of its own. It’s not a film I imagine I’ll watch again anytime soon but I had a blast at the time and I’d recommend seeing it in IMAX if you can, mainly to revel in the visual effects used to create the OASIS.
Directed By: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Mark Rylance, T. J. Miller, Simon Pegg, Lena Waithe, Win Morisaki, Hannah John-Kamen, Susan Lynch, Ralph Ineson, McKenna Grace and Letitia Wright