Ready Player One

April 12, 2018 by  
Filed under Movies

Dystopian futures are a steady fixture of sci-fi films–particularly “thinking” films. “Ready Player One” is no “1984” though–unless it was an arcade game. But thinking isn’t really the point of “Ready Player One”, the new Steven Spielberg film that really tries to push the video game zeitgeist of this millennium into the forefront, with the idea that in the future we can change the world–virtually.

Based upon the novel by Ernest Cline, the film stars Tye Sheridan as Wade Watts, who lives in a run-down neighborhood called “The Stacks” in Columbus, OH. Not much backstory is given on this, and very little is known about Wade–except that his parents are dead and he’s living with his aunt–before we’re thrust into the OASIS, a virtual world of gaming and Second Life-like sandbox gameplay. Watts is known as Parzival in that world, and can change his “avatar” into anything he wants. Basically, OASIS is the world we all wish we could live in, while The Stacks is the reality that everyone wants to escape from.

Is there a statement about escaping reality for idealism? Not as such. But, Wade finds friendships in the OASIS that are unmatched in the real world, where it seems he has none. His gaggle of chums includes a big fix-it guy, Aech (Lena Waithe), Sho (Philip Zhou), and Daito (Win Morisaki). He also meets a famous female player, Art3mis (Olivia Cooke), whom he befriends and eventually becomes his love interest. These players aren’t just mulling around the OASIS, though–even though you can–there is a challenge that is posed to all players in the world for an ultimate goal: own the OASIS yourself.

James Halliday (Mark Rylance), co-creator of the program, has died, and left Easter Eggs behind as a way to win a game to become sole proprietor of the OASIS. Basically, just like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, you could be Charlie Bucket. The Easter Eggs are hidden within 3 individual challenges, each with their own puzzle to solve. One of them involves Halliday’s origins to creating OASIS and having a crush on a woman that he never chases in real life. This becomes a focal point of the story, in which Wade can relate to Halliday’s unrequited love. That woman becomes Halliday’s best friend’s wife, and the two of them fall out of friendship. The both of them created OASIS together. His name is Ogden Morrow (Simon Pegg, finally mastering an American accent), and Morrow continues to operate the OASIS after Halliday’s departure, and death.

We learn that Halliday was a very meek guy, but with big ideas. He wanted to pursue a life of love and adventure, but decided ultimately that gaming was his passion. Wade has a bit of self discovery while pursuing this story, and decides he won’t be like Halliday, and instead take a chance on things rather than squander them.

The villain in all of this is Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), a corporate mogul who owns Innovative Online Industries (IOI), that serves as a third party hardware support for OASIS. Also, Sorrento wants his own hand in the cookie jar, and own OASIS in totality. He dispatches a litany of indentured servants, known as Sixers (not the basketball team), who are supposed to help him complete the challenges and win the game. He finds that Wade and his gang are becoming a nuisance for him, so he tries to destroy them–even in real life.

Reality vs. virtuality is explored somewhat in this mess of a plot, that is far too deep for this 2 hour-and-some-change film. Certainly, I’m sure the book digs deeper at the dystopian reality vs. ideal virtual world. The movie tries to turn this into a blockbuster action flick, and all of those elements work fine–we are talking about Spielberg here. The romance between Wade and Art3mis is also cute and the friendship angle works great. But there always seems to be something missing–the film presents its own Easter Egg.

But it’s never found, and ultimately the final product is a sleek, somewhat entertaining film. It probably was better suited as a mini-series or short series to explore all of these other facets that are hinted at but never developed. Once the game is over, you still feel like something needs to be achieved.

My rating: :?