'Ready Player One' Review (2018)
A Pop Culture Extravaganza that Delivers a Fun Experience, but Lacks the Heart of the Book
Steven Spielberg has brought us some of the most iconic blockbusters of all time. From E.T. to Jurassic Park, Spielberg has brought us to enchanting worlds and has created some very memorable characters. When it was announced that the book Ready Player One was going to be turned into a movie, it made a ton of sense to bring in Spielberg to direct. The book featured a ton of pop culture references from the 1980's, including E.T., Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Back to the Future. These films were either directed or produced by Spielberg. Not only does it make copyright issues easier, but it allows Spielberg to bring some of his most famous characters back to life, and he certainly brings back the Spielberg magic and fun that he is so well known for.
In the distant future, the earth has become a polluted, economically depressed environment. The only way people can escape this reality is through a virtual world called the OASIS. The creator of this game, Haliday (Mark Rylance), has recently died and has left three hidden easter eggs throughout the game. Whoever finds the easter eggs will receive the inheritance of the creator, which is worth about $500 dollars, as well as full ownership of the OASIS. The film follows Wade, an expert on all things about Haliday, and his journey to fin the three eggs. He is desperate to find the eggs, however, a large corporation known as IOI wants to find the eggs first to take control of the OASIS and restrict player's freedoms. With the help of some friends within OASIs, such as Art3mis (Olivia Cooke) and Aech (Lena Waithe), Wade will take on IOI in order to find the eggs first and save the OASIS.
So, I am someone who did read the book and I am a huge fan of the book. I loved the journey that it took me on and I loved the way that the author, Ernest Cline, used 80's nostalgia to advance the narrative. I never felt that the references were forced. They usually had a reason for being there or were just quickly mentioned. One thing that I was worried about for the movie was that it as just going to be a non-stop pop culture reference onslaught. Luckily, that isn't the case.
Spielberg does a great job at balancing the references. There is a lot of them, but they're often in the background of the characters who we are focusing on. They don't take over the scenery. They're very subtle, but it did put a smile on my face when I saw many of the references. Some of them may say something or have a cool action shot, while others may just be walking by. An interesting difference from the book was that some of the references in this movie are from present day. Almost every reference in the book was from the 80's. This movie definitely requires multiple viewings if you are trying to catch all of the references because I know that there are some that I missed.
I thought Spielberg was a perfect for choice for director and he directs this movie really well. This movie flows really well. I was never bored and the movie didn't feel overlong. The visuals are also fantastic. I love how the real world looks so different than the world inside of the OASIS. It definitely gives it a video game look without making it seem too cartoony. The OASIS has much more color and fluidity, while the real world is dull and rough. The action scenes are very entertaining as well. The race shown in the trailers and the final battle are both visually spectacular.
The performances are also really good in this movie. Sheridan does a really good job as Wade. He is very passionate towards the OASIS and it shows through his performance. Cooke as Art3mis also brings a lot of strength to her character. She is a very independent character and Cooke has a really assertive attitude throughout the film.
I also really liked Rylance as Haliday. He is extremely quirky and nerdy, but he shows why making and preserving the OASIS is so important to this character. He also had a lot of good comedic moments that played well in the film.
Ben Mendelsohn plays the head of IOI and he is great as the villain. He is nothing more than an greedy, power-hungry businessman but he does a good job at selling it. I really liked how vicious his character is and how he does almost anything to ensure that IOI won the challenge. T.J. Miller also voices another villainous character, and he is pretty funny as this character. This character wasn't in the book, but it is a welcome addition.
The soundtrack also helped to create the environment for the film. Most of the songs were from the 80's and helped to add to the feelings of nostalgia that this film is trying to create. Alan Silvestri does the musical score and he was a good choice for this score. He knows how to add to the adventure of an action scene and his music helps to make the scene more intense and entertaining.
As I said earlier, this film is very different from the books. While some of these changes are welcome, one large difference that I did not like is that this film lacked a lot of the heart that the original film had. Not that these characters aren't easy to cheer for, its just that there isn't much to their characters. A lot of the character development is taking out of the film so that the film can focus more on the egg hunt, which I feel was a mistake. The beginning of the book allowed us to learn more about Wade and who he was as a person. In the film, it just jumps straight into the adventure and all we know about Wade is a few lines of exposition.
I also did not like how this movie treated the two brothers Sho (Philip Zhao) and Daito (Win Morisaki). In the book, these two brothers have a strong emotional connection and something happens between them that really leaves an impact on our main characters. In this film, they are really simplified. One, they are barely seen for the first half of the movie and there is no explanation about who they are. All we know is their names. I did not feel any connection to these characters nor did I think they had strong chemistry with one another.
The dialogue between the characters is also very weak. I felt like I could've copied and pasted a bunch of lines from any adventure movie and put it into this movie.The lines were cheesy at some points and sometimes felt very forced. There are also some attempts at humor that didn't exactly work out.
Also, the pacing of the film feels very rushed. The film just goes straight to the first quest, knowing exactly where it is and how to get the first egg. In the book, there is a lot of mystery behind the challenge. People have pretty much forgotten about it until Wade stumbles upon the first challenge. Here, there is no mystery or secrecy for the challenge. The film basically starts with the first challenge and it completely takes out the mystery behind the challenge. It also doesn't take enough time to set up the world of the OASIS. In the book, people do everything within OASIS, such as go to school and work. The film doesn't really show any of that.
Honestly, I think your enjoyment of this movie really depends on whether you have read the book or not. It is a really fun, action movie, but as a huge fan of the book, it felt like there was something missing. If you haven't read the book, then you will definitely enjoy the spectacle and nostalgia that this movie brings. If you have read the book, you may be disappointed with changes that the movie made. Overall, I really enjoyed the visuals and the action, but I wish it had brought in the emotion and character development that made the book so enjoyable.