Based on Ernest Cline‘s 2011 novel of the same name and directed by Steven Spielberg, Ready Player One is set in the year 2045 when people can escape their harsh reality in the OASIS, an immersive virtual world where you can go anywhere, do anything, and be anyone. When the creator of the game, James Halliday (Mark Rylance), dies, he releases a video in which he challenges all OASIS users to find his Easter Egg. Designed to find a worthy heir, this egg contains his immense fortune and control of the Oasis. When unlikely hero Wade Watts (Tye Shridane) conquers the first challenge of the reality-bending treasure hunt, he and his friends – including Samantha (Olivia Cooke) – are hurled into a fantastical universe of discovery and danger to save their world.
Ready Player One is an imaginative science fiction and engrossing adventure that has all the feels of a classic Spielberg film with the added touch of a vibrant and immersive future.
At its core, Ready Player One is about taking a break from the often mundaneness of everyday life and escaping into a world where you have total control with no limits, from changing your appearance to abandoning all responsibilities. As Tye Sheridan’s Wade puts on his VR headset to become the cooler and more daring Parzival, we take some time out to forget about what’s going in our lives to sit back and enjoy 140 minutes of this wonderful example of pure cinematic bliss.
The film’s premise, which set in a future world where a video game system is more exciting than real life, opens up a powerful yet subtle sense of relatability, as it is this sense of escapism that we watch films and play games for. It’s about finding a shared interest with others, whether they live next door or a whole world away. Like Samantha says, it makes no difference; what’s important is the sense of comradeship that these different worlds and characters bring with them And that’s what Ready Player One is a celebration of.
It’s old school but new school, looking back at some of the best things to come out of the past thirty years by looking towards the future, reminding us not to lose sight of what’s important: friendships, working together, equality, love, creating a better world for future generations, and not getting caught up in material things. It’s definitely not that deep, but there’s a lot behind this film that’s left open to its viewers’ interpretations.
More obviously, it is a brilliantly shot film with impeccable and refined effects of a world that has been created with diligent detail. The heavily CGI scenes blend with its live-action shots incredibly well. Often a film like this can feel so disconnected, but the transitions between the two worlds are excellent. It’s easy to see how what’s happening in the real world is affecting the world of the OASIS and vice versa, as they are explored simultaneously to build up a fast-paced and engaging adventure.
Most of all, Ready Player One will be recognised for its abundance of nostalgic nods to 80s and 90s pop culture, from songs to characters and cars, even to whole settings. Some may say that it’s too much, but I say that the film is a love letter to everything great about these eras, bringing together movie and game fans of the past and present, from the arcade dwellers to the handheld console gamers and the Kubrick masterpieces to the CGI blockbusters; there really is something for everyone.
But that’s not all that this film is about. When the nostalgia is taken away from it all, Ready Player One is a captivating sci-fi about eagerness, optimism, and taking chances. Tye Sheridan and Olivia Cooke take the story to winning levels with their brilliant performances, both in their live action and avatar roles, taking on Ben Mendelsohn’s thoroughly entertaining Sorrento as they fight for the greatest prize of all.
The story is a perfect one for Steven Spielberg and his cinematic vision, who seemed to be waiting for something like this to come back to him. In a real world, there would be plenty more nods to his own work, but a film like this is what he has dedicated his life to creating stories about. It may be more cliché compared to his earlier classics, but there’s still a lot of heart and inspiration behind it, and that’s exactly what Ernest Cline’s novel needed.
So take some time to escape for yourself by sitting back and enjoying the nostalgic and pleasing ride that is Ready Player One.