Ready Player One
Ready Player One: Filled to the Brim with Nostalgia
Movie Review by Trijai Nerthi (Rocheston Certified Movie Critic)
The summer blockbuster season is officially here. So, who better to officiate it, than the master of the box-office Steven Spielberg himself. Just four months after The Post, Spielberg releases, Ready Player One, a science fiction adventure film based on Ernest Cline’s 2011 novel of the same name.
Ready Player One pays homage to the genre of films that made Spielberg’s career. From the film’s larger than life depiction and stellar CGI, it is clear that the director still holds the power to ignite sparks of his brand of magic. But, is there an element in Ready Player One that differentiates it from his other films? Is it a masterpiece? Unfortunately, the answer is no. While the film is thoroughly entertaining, its loopholes and a lack of surprises make it a fine popcorn movie but it isn’t remarkable enough to go on the director’s legendary wall of fame.
Set in the year 2045, you are taken through the desolated earth where people live in trailers among cities that resemble slums. To escape the chaos that surrounds the real world, people escape to the virtual reality world of OASIS (Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation).
Shortly before his death, the creator of OASIS, James Halliday (Mark Rylance) formulates a quest for the players. He challenges them to find an Easter egg by obtaining hidden keys and clues that lead the players to the ultimate prize. The player who finds the egg will inherit not only his fortune but the OASIS as well.
At the front of this quest is an eighteen year old Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) who along with his avatar Parzival and virtual friends Art3mis (Olivia Cooke), Aech (Lena Waithe) sets out to finish this race.
If you think about it, Ready Player One is a film of contradictions. It is a mixed bag even. How? Well, it is full of pop-cultural references from the 80’s and 90’s. There are moments where you’ll love these references and then there are equal numbers of moments where you’ll find the references to be too overwhelming. As far as these references continue to drive the narration, it works. But the moment the same nostalgia takes over the central plot, it becomes tad overkill.
Having said this, one of the most interesting sequences in the film too, is a reference. In one particular scene, Parzival and his partners end up in the setting of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. It takes you back to the Overlook Hotel and brings back many compelling memories the film left you with. This scene in particular is executed with absolute mastery. It is very hard to think of a Ready Player One without it. Many such pop cultural references including that of Chucky from Child’s Play and Jeeves, the former mascot of Ask.com are delightful to witness; they pay homage to the golden era of Hollywood.
One of the admirable aspects of the film is how it achieves a balance of familiarity and grandeur. It fills you up with nostalgia but it also leaves you in wonder. At its core it is retro and yet it remains relatable.
There is a point where the battle in the OASIS also takes place in the real streets of Columbus. The manner in which action is choreographed in these scenes is truly breathtaking. There isn’t a dull moment in this speedy stretch of the film. This kind of imagination in executing action sequences has been missing in Hollywood cinema thanks to the array of mindless franchises making their way into the theatres, year after year.
Needless to say, even the CGI and live action in Ready Player One is quite an extravagant sight for the sore eyes. Be it the glum slums in the real world or the mystery-filled charm of the Oasis, the film brings alive a world that is largely thrilling.
One of the reasons why the film isn’t extraordinary is its clichéd underdog saves the day concept. This rebellion of the nerd has been tried and tested for far too long in Hollywood cinema that it no longer packs an element of intrigue. Furthermore, at its core, Ready Player One’s Easter egg quest reminds one of the Golden Ticket from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. If Spielberg went on to delve deeper into these references and the influence it had on people, the film would’ve have been much more unpredictable.
As Wade Watts, Tye Sheridan fittingly portrays a certain longing that comes with the realization that the reality isn’t as great as the virtual reality. But if there has to be one character who stole the limelight, it has to be that of James Halliday. Mark Rylance brings in traces of Steven Spielberg’s personality, and a dash of Steve Job’s persona to make for a character whose unmatchable wits and unfathomable emotional quotient is truly awe-inspiring.
On the whole, Ready Player One provides the enthralling escape that a summer blockbuster demands, but it is hardly a masterpiece.