FilmReview

Review: Pop Culture Filled ‘Ready Player One’ Innovates and Exudes Action

Toni Gangi ’21 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

What if the quest for Willy Wonka’s golden ticket was life-threatening and took place in a video game? Steven Spielberg’s highly anticipated Ready Player One, based on Ernest Cline’s novel of the same name, combines dystopian settings, romance, video games, and pop culture references to create a fun and original action-packed film. Giving audiences an expected plot in an unexpected way, Ready Player One does not disappoint.

The film follows Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), a teenager living in the year 2044. Full of garbage and poverty, Earth has become a Wall-E-like world where most people, including Wade, spend all their time playing a virtual reality video game to escape their actual reality. This Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation, or the OASIS, is a virtual world where you can look however you want and do whatever you want. But in this dystopia, the line between video game and reality is blurred. Money earned in the game can be used outside of it, just as trouble made in the game can attract unwanted attention for players outside of it.

Tye Sheridan in Ready Player One. Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

Just before his death the creator of the OASIS, James Halliday (Mark Rylance), created a game within the game to find his successor as owner. The first to solve a three-part puzzle and find Halliday’s “Easter egg,” something in a work that is intentionally hidden by its creators, would win control over the game world.

When Wade, also known as his avatar’s name Parzival, unlocks the first of three keys to Halliday’s game, he attracts some unwanted attention from Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn). Former intern to Halliday and current CEO of Innovative Online Industries, a video gaming company, Sorrento and his IOI team want full control over the OASIS and will go to great lengths to get it. Wade and his friends must complete all three challenges before IOI does.

Ready Player One. Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

A treasure trove of pop culture references, film buffs, video game nerds, and music fanatics will all find something they recognize and love in this film, whether it is in the soundtrack, dialogue, or scattered throughout the world itself. Largely but not exclusively rooted in 1980s pop culture trivia, everything from Batman to Marty McFly, Joan Jett to The Iron Giant, and Star Wars to Tootsie Pops makes an appearance.

After fleshing out the backstory through a voice-over narration, the film quickly turns into an action film filled with fantasy, putting a smile on the audience’s face, turning video games inside out, and leaving everyone wondering what is going to happen next. The film is comprised of beautiful shots filled with clutter and endless detail, much like how one would imagine the mind of a creator like Halliday, who is compared to Steve Jobs in the film, would be. Though much of the film is spent looking at CGI avatars rather than the character’s real human faces, the transitions between scenes in the real and virtual worlds are smooth and natural in the universe the filmmakers have set up.

Tye Sheridan in Ready Player One. Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

At times, the film faces story issues. It is occasionally difficult to figure out what the characters are trying to accomplish at that moment and some things, like Wade figuring out the first clue, seem to happen very quickly. However, these things are largely forgotten in the fun-filled action that likely immediately follows.

The largest fault of the film is when the romance subplot between Wade and another avatar named Art3mis (Olivia Cooke) is allowed to overshadow the rest of the story. At one point, disaster strikes and rather than making time for a proper reaction, the story skips straight back to Wade and Art3mis.

Olivia Cooke, Win Morisaki, Lena Waithe, and Philip Zhao in Ready Player One. Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

Additionally, Wade’s friends Aech (Lena Waithe), Sho (Philip Zhao), and Daito (Win Morisaki) are wonderful characters who perhaps get less screen time than they deserve – and this lack is felt. Overall, every character is either likable or hateable in the best ways and the performances, dialogue, and settings are superb so that nothing detracts too much from the film. There is never a dull moment and endless silly humor.

The character of James Halliday, the creator of the OASIS, is the true embodiment of the film. Seemingly a little silly at first, he is really just full of childhood wonder and nostalgia. Combining this with technology of the future, he creates something new for everyone to enjoy while, cheesy as it sounds, learning a little something about life and friends along the way.

Overall Grade: A

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