Since the time of “Minority Report”, “Saving Private Ryan”, “Indiana Jones” and “E.T.” audiences have been clamoring for director Stephen Spielberg to get back to creating visually striking blockbusters. Well, he heard the masses loud and clear; thus we get “Ready Player One.”
Based on the novel of the same name, “Ready Player One” is set in 2045 where Columbus, Ohio is the nation’s largest city and has fallen into a slum-like ruin. Wade Watts (Tyler Sheridan, “Tree of Life”) feels he can escape the real world for the virtual world known as the OASIS, an immersive, fantasy world that adults and children alike have flocked to in order to get out of their everyday lives.
The OASIS was created by the introverted Halliday (Mark Rylance, “Bridge of Spies”) and has become the #1 industry in America worth a half a trillion dollars. Halliday has since passed away and now players, equipped with their virtual reality headsets, are on a quest to find three keys that will gain them access to Haliday’s entire empire in a sort of Willy Wonka-esque mission.
We learn that Halliday has an affinity for 1980s pop culture, so when he created the OASIS he filled the game with Easter Eggs. Video gamers know Easter Eggs as “hidden gems” found throughout games to give the player an added bonus for finding each one.
With the Easter Eggs premise laid (!), Spielberg not only winks at the audience, but punches them in the face with 1980s references. From the soundtracks and the old-school Pizza Hut product placement to video game references and many “Back to the Future” jokes, it is impossible to catch them all in just one viewing.
But is this all “Ready Player One” has going for it? Kind of. For 90 minutes, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. My eyes would light up when I caught a reference or saw something visually striking. The CGI in the OASIS is magical, but the real world is dreary and uninteresting.
These characters are more interesting inside the game than out. Wade, known in the OASIS as Parzival, is a fast talking, extroverted individual but becomes frail when being confronted with speaking to a girl. This girl is Samatha, or Art3mis in the OASIS, who claims not to be who she is in the game. Samantha’s in-game character is the most interesting in the entire film, but she is an uninteresting human once we meet her.
In 2018, we understand the influence the internet, video games and social media has on the world. I believe this movie is attempting to speak out on the positives and negatives of the virtual world. It does not go far enough in what it sets out to do. The virtual world is amazing, no wonder why these people do not want to live normally.
If you are not a pop culture “geek” or gamer, you may have troubles understanding the premise or even truly enjoying what you’re watching. But I am a gamer and found much of it enjoyable, even with an overlong run time. It may not be for everyone, but the niche crowd it appeals to will love it. Especially if you love “The Shining” like I do, there are five minutes in “Ready Player One” that will be worth the entire film.