Ready Player One
Jacob Richardson | 11/04/2018
This is Spielberg back on peak form. The 80’s references come thick and fast, and the relationships transcend the limitations of the CGI forms they are contained within.
The year is 2045 and the world is obsessed with OASIS - a virtual reality game that has come to dominate the lives of the majority of the world’s populace, largely replacing normal human interaction. When the creator, Halliday (Mark Rylance), dies, he leaves behind an in-game treasure hunt; the first to track down all three keys will win not only control of the OASIS, but control of Halliday’s vast fortune. Poor Wade (Tye Sheridan) dreams of victory, and when he has a breakthrough, he teams up with the mysterious Art3mis (Olivia Cooke), Aech (Lena Waithe), Sho (Philip Zhao) and Daito (Win Morisaki) to finish the quest. Alas, he’s pursued by evil businessman Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn) and his in-game henchman, I-R0k (T.J. Miller).
Spielberg is one of the greatest directors of all time, so for a book that was termed “unfilmable”, it seems fitting that he is the go to guy. And with Ready Player One, he delivers in spades.
From the off, we are barraged with references; so much so that it is sometimes difficult to keep up! Everything 80’s (and a little bit either side) is for the picking, and it is absolutely glorious. At times, like in the final battle sequence, it is so jam packed as to be distracting, but at other times it forms the crux of a key scene, and it’s here that Spielberg (and undoubtedly the licensing team) have outdone themselves. Indeed, in a recreation of a classic horror film (we shan’t name names for want of keeping the surprise), the meta-references really stun.
Obviously, being set mainly in a VR world, there is a tremendous amount of CG, and sometimes it is certainly distracting. In particular, given the hyper-realism of the faces, combined with the absurdity of players being able to effectively choose whatever they want as a visage, the characters themselves can often be disconcerting to look at. Thankfully, though, Spielberg eschews an eternity in the OASIS in favour of exploring some of the now decrepit real world too. By mixing the two together, we get a happy balance of other-worldly CG and moments where we can relax into the film.
Mendelsohn is tremendous, bringing a real corporate mentality to his villainy that anyone who has worked in an office will recognise. Sheridan, too, is good - particularly towards the climax. Other standouts include T.J. Miller, whose sardonic wit shines through his character’s creepy visage with a running gag about his chronic neck pain. But the standout is Mark Rylance, who absolutely inhabits Halliday; he’s geeky, sneaky, and compassionate all in one, and an absolute joy to watch on screen.
As most Spielberg movies do, this hits all the familiar notes. But it’s such a beautifully realised vision, in such a beautifully realised world, that we don’t mind too much. Much like the references it crams into every visual and audio crevice, it’s familiar but welcome.
Ready Player One is the 80’s on steroids. Strap yourself in for the ride, because you’re about to be absolutely Spielberged.