This 2018 American science fiction adventure film, based on Ernest Cline's 2011 novel of the same name is directed by Steven Spielberg and stars Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Lena Waithe, Hannah John-Kamen, Simon Pegg and Mark Rylance.
In the year 2045, Earth has become a mostly dysfunctional dystopia. Most of the population live in slum-like cities. 18 year old Wade Watts (Sheridan) lives in such a city in Ohio. Like millions of others around the world, to help escape his daily grind, Wade often visits a virtual reality hub called the OASIS.
The OASIS allows anyone to be anything; they can educate, entertain, socialise and play. When the creator of OASIS, James Halliday (Rylance) reveals a hidden Easter Egg within the world that will grant whomever finds it ownership of OASIS itself, Watts and many others set out to find the clues to locate the Egg.
But the CEO of OASIS, Nolan Sorrento (Mendelsohn), wants the Egg for himself and his greedy corporate gain and having total control. Wade and fellow players Samantha (Cook), Helen (Waite), Zhou (Philip Zhao) and Toshiro (Win Morisaki) set out to defeat Sorrento and his virtual army to save the OASIS for future generations…
For a 32 year old like myself, who was brought up within a large bubble of pop-culture from the late 80s and 90s, discovering much more of the glorious decades as I grew up, this film was a joy to see. Not just a film that has pointless cameos, nods to nostalgia and also in-jokes, but one that uses the common ground of what pop-culture is in society and makes a fun, frantic and relevant story that I could escape into.
Director Steven Spielberg has given us heart-warming and heart-rending movies which require lots of emotional investment, attention and focus. Here, he does the same with ‘Ready Player One’ but remembers how much enjoyment the subject matter can give, and he gives it to us in spades. Let loose with your imagination; strap in, and have FUN.
Yet there is so much I could relate to in this, as an audience member who has subscribed to the RP world, where you do hide behind characters your create because they help you escape and hide your insecurities. The fact you can be anyone, do anything and enjoy a world without restraint was so familiar to me, and take away the “bad guys” pushing this story along, I saw lots of myself and fellow on-line communities here. Spielberg addresses a certain generation and a certain audience just as he does with horror, or drama, or action. This is for sci-fi fantasy fans and those who have ventured into a world not too different from OASIS. How much of yourself do you lose when acting as someone else? Where does the line get drawn? How does it affect who you are in reality…and when do you choose reality over fiction?
It certainly made me think about things, but there was never time to dwell during this feast for the eyes and mind. Yes the story has no large real-world implications and there is very little threat to mankind but, you know what, this reminded me of films when we didn’t NEED there to be any of that. Why do we need to be constantly linking movies to real world events, or seeing the hidden message that ripples out to modern society? Spielberg touches just enough of that without sacrificing the literally out of this world thrill-ride. The humour sharp, the action is a spectacle and the pathos is there just enough to make what our characters do relatable.
I’m not going to go on about the nostalgic nods, but all I will say is each time a little moment came up I remembered from my childhood or the present, I smiled and felt warm inside. It was actually enjoyable to have flash-backs to moments in my life I first saw a DeLorean race across a screen, or played a pixelated video game, or tried to battle fantastical beasts and monsters in co-op mode with my friends to save a galaxy across the internet. Each tip of the hat made sense, and nothing deviated from the story, and being it was set in a virtual world literally fuelled by the love of pop-culture from the past, why the hell would it not be there?
Enjoy a hoist of likeable characters and actors, from Tye Sheridan and Olivia Cooke as our avatar heroes to the Krennic-esque Ben Mendelsohn and Hannah John-Kamen as our ruthless CEO suits out for money and control. There is very little “real world” violence in the film, and it’s nice to see that this is a family friendly movie that doesn’t resort to brutality or explicit mature content. Spielberg creates a piece where one of the bad guys gets led away in handcuffs, but not before being punched in the face by their colleague. Nobody needs to be blown up or shot in the head or cut in two to end a journey. It’s safe, family friendly stuff and it’s a pleasure to see it back on the big screen.
If the OASIS existed today, you bet your life you’d be hearing Duran Duran songs or role-playing out with BatMan or King Kong across lava worlds or sandy beaches. If you look for faults in this, sure you’re going to find them and make reason to find them and call them faults.
My advice? Don’t.
Yes it’s different to the book but you can’t blame legal hurdles preventing Spielberg from being totally faithful. The losses are compensated by the gains we get. It’s fluff, but it’s enjoyable, harmless, grin-inducing fluff. And that is never a bad thing for a trip to the movies.
Just enjoy it.