Steven Spielberg’s “Ready Player One” is a testament to the mainstream power of video games and their newly discovered universal appeal. Much like its inspiration, “Ready Player One” is impressive and fun to watch but contains little intellectually-stimulating material as the plot and character development fall quite flat.
The most obvious draw for the film is the myriad references to pop culture, and these do not disappoint. Every scene contains some sort of homage.Keep your eyes peeled for characters from Blizzard’s Overwatch, Spartans from the Halo series, the Sphere of Annihilation from Dungeons and Dragons and the much-advertised Iron Giant from the classic animated movie of the same name. Catching these references for yourself is quite frankly more enjoyable that watching the film itself, as the plot is an excuse to wander through a virtual reality universe and see all this pop culture.
The plot itself is nothing special and contains lots of convenient devices to keep the main characters safe while the thousands of other players in the game die in droves. The story follows a player named Wade Watts as he tries to find three keys scattered throughout “the Oasis,” a virtual reality video game worth around 500 trillion dollars. Whoever finds the keys takes control of the game, and by extension, the world. The storyline is a forgettable series of riddles and traps wherein our heroes must defeat “big business” in the name of “fun gaming.” Just take your eyes off the bureaucratic, big-money villain and keep looking for video game references.
The characters in the story begin as classic teens just trying to make their way in a harsh world where video games are more comforting than real life. Sound familiar? If it does, it’s probably because you’ve read or watched some Relatable Teen FictionTM in the past, and this film follows the same formula. None of the characters really change by the end of the film, and they are really just walking tropes.
That being said, Tye Sheridan and Olivia Cooke portrayed their characters well and did the best they could with what the scriptwriters gave them. In a film where motion-point tracking is used for the characters in “the Oasis,” clear and emotional acting is crucial to keep the characters from feeling robotic. Sheridan and Cooke did this well, along with the rest of the cast. Mark Rylance’s performance is one of special note. He plays Mark Halliday, creator of the video game the entire movie is based around. His character is a classic ’90s nerd in every sense of the word, and his depiction of the character really ties the film back to its roots in the gaming ages of old.
“Ready Player One” is a movie that captures the term “fun.” It’s exciting and full of explosions, video game characters and easily overlooked plot holes. If you want to turn your brain off for a crisp 140 minutes, I could not recommend this movie more. For anyone wanting a more deep and engaging experience, move on.