If you’ve been digging through Ready Player One reviews, you may have seen a lot of love and hate for this movie in the comment sections. Some decry it for being obnoxiously smug while others are raving about how faithful it is to the source material.
Whether you’re a lover or a hater of the prospect of Ready Player One, you probably have some questions, so allow me to answer them outright.
Is this movie as obnoxious with its pop culture references as the book is? No. Now that we’re in a visual medium, the excruciating lists and drawn-out explanations from the book are mostly gone. The characters do take turns explaining certain references, however.
Speaking of the book, does this stray far from it? Yes and no. The main characters are here, as is the overarching plot. But there have been a couple of changes here and there; the two best sequences that everyone will be talking about aren’t even in the book.
Does my favourite videogame / movie / music make an appearance? Maybe. Probably. If you’re even asking the question you should pay to see it in theatres, which is what we’re going to recommend.
Okay, let’s get to the review.
Ready Player One takes place in the near future where everything’s gone to hell and most people escape their terrible reality for the limitless possibilities of the OASIS – a virtual reality MMO whose importance is fast outstripping that of the real world.
It’s creator, Halliday (Mark Rylance), leaves his fortune and control of OASIS to anyone who can solve his game to find an Easter Egg he released when he died.
Anyway you cut it, this is just another young adult novel-esque dystopian plot where the teenagers need to save the world. The conceit here is that every character and every scene is littered with pop culture you either loved as a child, or continue to love right now.
Here you get to see the DeLorean race against the bike from Akira while wrecking balls swing into frame, King Kong is destroying the environment, and Rush is playing in the background.
Because of this the CGI in this film needed to be perfect, and it almost is. The filmmakers were very clever here, going for a great mix of live action and something more akin to a game with really good graphics – you know it’s all done on a computer, but it’s done so well that you almost always overlook the times when it seems unbelievable.
We won’t get into the true spectacle set pieces of this movie, as they’re the main draw and the most satisfying surprises. Watch the trailers on this page for snippets, but know that they don’t do the full movie on a giant screen justice.
The best parts, however, seem stymied before they’re allowed to fully developer, which probably contributes to this movie’s overall rushed feel – it easily could have been an hour longer. More than that, it feels like a failure of imagination.
There were thousands of beloved characters and properties on offer, but they were never bashed together like they could have been.
It’s a good thing the film isn’t short on spectacle because most of the performances in it are perfunctory at best. We’re a bit sad to see yet another movie were every performance feels completely adequate and safe, not to mention predictable.
The lone standout for quality is the aforementioned Rylance. The character of Halliday is one of extreme social ineptitude, and Rylance made it work so well without ever veering into parody. When he takes on the form of his avatar – the all-powerful wizard Anorak – he also changes up his performance to match.
On the other end of the scale was big bad Nolan Sorrento played by Ben Mendelsohn. He was never threatening and was a bit of a bumbling idiot, but we feel that was more due to the script than the actor.
Oh, and T.J. Miller is in here as a random “evil” character. He serves no purpose and varies from being annoying to nonexistent. We love you, T.J., stop taking these bad voice acting roles.
The only area that’s lacking more than the acting is the music. Again, we’re sure access to the world’s most popular music was available – and it is used sparsely here – but we fully expected a soundtrack full of memorable songs.
This movie has a very simple premise at its core and you’ll only dislike it if you’re a contrarian who gets their joy from hating what brings joy to others. You may also just not like the type of references used, or find that the uninspired script and acting is not accounted for with the visuals.
Ready Player One neither a masterpiece, nor an instant classic. Its likely to find a legacy after its DVD release as numerous videos about its references are likely to pop up on YouTube.
That being said, it’s an absolute blast to watch in theatres and a solid contender for the “must see on the biggest screen possible” list.