Movie Review: READY PLAYER ONE (2018) – A fun ride that lacks the emotional depth of a Spielberg movie

Published by Shah Shahid on

Steven Spielberg’s return to blockbuster genre fiction comes in Ready Player One, and it’s definitely an enjoyable movie, albeit without the emotional development that one comes to expect from a Spielberg film.

Rating: ★★★ (/5)

Buy the book from Amazon

Ready Player One, based on the book of the same name by Ernest Cline, is a massive pop culture driven story that’s like the best love letter to fanboys all over. The story is populated heavily by other fictional works, stories, films, and pop culture phenomena that are not only there for shock value, but actually factor into the story as well.

Ready Player One’s setting is that of a massive multiplayer universe that exists not in a game on a disc to be played on a console, but is almost an exaggeration of being an alternative for real life. itself. In 2045, society is mostly fledgling middle class, and an escape into a massive virtual reality world known as The Oasis, as fictional avatars of themselves, is people’s only relief from the rigour of their everyday real lives.

The problem is that people can leverage real world cash and assets to spend on Oasis upgrades to create a better virtual version of themselves. Some go too far, and end up being in debt, which is then collectively bought out by a company known as IOI, who then force people to work in the Oasis to pay off their debts.

Tye Sheridan as Wade Watts in Ready Player One

The story accelerates when one of these middle class citizens, Wade, (Tye Sheridan) whose second life in the Oasis provides him with friends and purpose not found in his real life, ends up winning a contest which could be the answer to all his prayers.

When the creator of the Oasis passed away, he created a hunt for 3 keys which, if won, will allow the winner to take over his stocks in the Oasis company, as well become rich beyond their dreams as the owner of the Oasis. Users have been trying to fin for years, as well IOI, and Wade’s win kicks off a massive adventure that sees him tries to risk it all, and finding a higher purpose to his being.

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Ready Player One is very much an adventure, and is a pretty enjoyable ride. The Oasis provides director Steven Spielberg to include characters and objects from all manner of film, TV  and gaming mediums. Wade’s car in the Oasis is the DeLorean from Back To The Future films. Characters from DC Comics and Street Fighter can be seen littered through out, as well as dinosaurs and even King Kong himself.

It’s a movie full of ‘look over there!’s and ‘look at that!’s, but none of it takes away from the story. Spielberg is careful to not make the movie an extended list of fictional character cameos. The action set pieces are exciting and keep you on the edge of your seat. The over all story even moves at a brisk enough pace that it doesn’t feel slow or dragging at any points.

My biggest issue with Ready Player One would be the character development. While majority of the movie plays in the Oasis, which is all CGI, the story starts off in the real world, where the ultimate stakes are established. Given that, the character development of the main character of Wade, never feels fully realized enough to connect to.

A scene from Ready Player One featuring multiple film, tv and video game characters.

Sheridan is a young actor who was impressive in X-Men: Apocalypse, but having to show range of emotion in Ready Player One felt difficult for him. I related and connected more to his entirely CGI avatar of Parzival, than Wade, the person. There aren’t nearly enough moments for us to care about Wade’s life, than would usually be connected to a Steven Spielberg movie.

Olivia Cooke steals the show in my opinion as Samantha, the charming love interest of Wade’s. The other characters who are the most interesting, get the least screen time. Mark Rylance as the deceased owner of the Oasis and the architect of the hunt, is sweet and charming in his role of a typically meek tech guy. T. J. Miller voices a virtual character which is meant to be comic relief, but falls flat. Lena Waithe shows up and doesn’t nearly have as much screen time as she deserved in the film.

For a movie whose posters boasted of multiple characters, almost like an ensemble, the movie fails to properly introduce us to, or make us care about these characters too much. Screenwriter Zak Penn is able to adapt Cline’s ambitious movie into a decent screenplay, with the help of Cline himself, but doesn’t provide enough stakes for the audience to invest in the plot of the movie.

Besides the threat of Ben Mendelsohn’s corporate executive villain using the Oasis to pump it full of annoying internet pop-up ads, and make the world financial worse than it is, the real world implications of the bad guys winning is poorly set up.

The majority of the film occurring in the virtual world also creates a problem, as the stakes of ‘everyone losing their time and effort, don’t seem enough for an audience to fully invest in the story. Amazing action sequences with jaw dropping sequences and explosions feel less impressive if no one is ever in any actual physical danger. (see: The Matrix)

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Ready Player One is a fun and enjoyable movie that’s great to watch and a fun experience for the whole family, but at a deeper level, it feels superficial with characters that we’re forced to root for, without really ever connecting to.

Ready Player One is in theatres now.

Shah Shahid

Entertainment Writer | Film & TV Critic | Bollywood Blogger | Host of Split Screen Podcast | Proud Geek Girl Dad


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