Gamers, pop-culture enthusiasts and movie lovers – get ready for an epic journey down memory lane in Spielberg’s latest blockbuster escapade. Ready Player One is a futuristic, adventure film directed and produced by Steven Spielberg and adapted from Ernest Cline’s original 2011 novel. The story takes us inside the world of a dystopian Columbus, Ohio (year 2045), in which its inhabitants spend the majority of their time escaping the harsh realities of life and into a virtual domain known as the Oasis. After the death of Oasis creator, James Halliday, a game is set into motion in which the winner would be appointed as the official heir to Halliday’s fortune. And with a prize that grand, there’s bound to be dangers that would threaten the gamers and even the Oasis’ existence.
In a place where you can do anything or be anyone, the Oasis is a virtual escapist’s fantasy to many. As one of the ‘missing millions,’ Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) knew this feeling all too well: for him, anything was better than living in the stacks. Wade is joined by his virtual friends, Aech (Lena Waithe), whose elite knowledge of popular culture and great sense of humor make her a charming character, and Art3mis (Olivia Cooke), a smart, independent and vigilant Easter egg hunter. While each character, individually, offers satisfactory contributions to the story, it is their eventual formation of High-Five with two other gamers that elevates the plot towards an epic mission of protecting the future of the Oasis.
As far as blockbusters go, Spielberg proves with Ready Player One that a movie filled with Easter eggs, nostalgia and a simple plot can be heartwarming and entertaining. And despite a long, 140-minute runtime, the non-stop action sequences and pop-culture references provide a movie-going experience that is exciting from start to finish. There are, however, minimal places to catch your breath. So when they come, you’ll be grateful for them. Along with the nods to a variety of pop culture references including superheroes, horror film characters and videos games, audiences will thoroughly enjoy the music. If you’re a fan of the 80s, the soundtrack will have you dancing throughout the film. Quite frankly, the music is the one thing about this film that I didn’t need to be perfect, but it truly was.
Perhaps one of the most fascinating things about Spielberg’s Ready Player One is the incorporation of a certain horror film in the second act of the movie. Admittedly, it comes at a time in which there seems to be an Easter egg overload, but it’s integrated in a rather genius way that’ll make you forget about any preexisting pop-culture whiplash. And it is at this moment in the movie where I realized how great the VFX was. I had noticed before, but this – oh this was so great. Without giving too much away, it was one of the best sequences of the movie because it reminds us how great the referenced film is too. Specifically, it’s incorporated to enhance the storytelling by using the classic film in an exciting, new way – all without being shoehorned into appreciation.
Though Spielberg proves that he still has it when it comes to blockbusters, there are some noteworthy things that could’ve been better. For instance, with a narrative as heavy as escaping a depressing life to exist in a world free of judgment or sadness, Spielberg barely taps into what could’ve been a beautiful story that many young adults experience in real life. Instead, Ready Player One focuses so much on nostalgia that it forgets to expand beyond that; and at times, it feels like a long game of I-spy instead of getting the audience to invest in the story. There is a brief moment in which Spielberg somewhat chastises the idea of using all of our time in gaming or any virtual medium, but it barely escapes beyond the surface. I would’ve personally enjoyed more exploration into those ideas, however, the film is fine without it as well.
In the end, Ready Player One is an impressive adventure worth seeing. The film is full of Easter eggs consisting of references to classic and popular movies, games and music that’ll have the general audience hooked from the beginning. Ultimately, Spielberg’s adaptation is a love letter to the 1980s that is hypnotic, visually-appealing and funny. The story is simple, yet the intriguing mystery and heavy dose of nostalgia leads to an explosive finale that feels justified due to great character interactions and their experiences together.