‘Ready Player One’ Review: A Nostalgia-Fueled Thrill Ride

Ready Player One Movie Tye SheridanIn the bleak not too distant future of Ready Player One, the people of Earth have retreated into the virtual reality world of the Oasis where they can do whatever they want to do and be whoever they want to be. When James Halliday (Mark Rylance), the creator of the Oasis, passes away, he reveals to the world that he has left behind an Easter Egg hidden somewhere inside the virtual world. Whoever finds the Egg is rewarded his vast fortune, as well as control over the Oasis itself. The hunt is on!

Ernest Cline’s bestselling novel Ready Player One has become one of my favorites in recent years, so much so that I was thrilled to learn a couple of years back that the legendary Steven Spielberg would be returning to the type of massive blockbuster that the director made his name on with the feature film version. So, has Spielberg done it once again or do we have another Kingdom of the Crystal Skull situation on our hands? Read on to find out…

As is the case with the book, the thing about Ready Player One that jumps out straight away is the heavy dose of ’80s pop culture nostalgia. Never before has there been a film so jam-packed with just about conceivable pop culture icon that one can squeeze into a two-and-a-half-hour film. Everywhere you look in this film, there are cameos and references to scope out: the DeLorean from Back to the Future, the Iron Giant, the T-Rex from Jurassic Park, King Kong, Batman, Freddy Krueger, Chucky, the Spartans from Halo, characters from Overwatch and so many, many more. Honestly, it can become a bit overwhelming if you allow it to, but what I found the best course of action to be was to just enjoy the journey on the first watch and reserve the Easter Egg-hunting for subsequent re-watches. I cannot wait to own this film so that I can scour through it frame by frame to see who else I can spot.

Nostalgia aside, though, there is still plenty more to love in Ready Player One. A very important aspect to the film’s charm is its cast, led by Tye Sheridan as Wade Watts, a.k.a. Parzival. Sheridan makes for a great protagonist, but his greatest strengths mostly only come into play inside the Oasis, which granted, is where most of the film takes place. Going into the film, I was a bit concerned that with most of the film taking place in a VR world, the CG would get a bit overwhelming, but I was relieved to discover that this was not an issue. The visuals were outstanding and the performance-capture technology helped in allowing Sheridan and the rest of the cast to bring their characters to life in a fully-realized way.

Ready Player One

Continuing on with the cast, I loved Olivia Cooke (a young actress who I have become quite the fan of since first seeing her on Bates Motel) as Art3mis. She plays her part perfectly, as do the other actors playing her and Parzival’s fellow “Gunters” (Egg Hunters), including Lena Waithe, Win Morisaki and Philip Zhao. As always, Ben Mendelsohn plays a believable villain as Nolan Sorrento, the sinister head of operations for IOI (Innovative Online Industries), the evil corporation that wants to take control of the Oasis, as they see a profit to be made that Halliday simply left lying on the table. I am also a massive fan of Simon Pegg, so I loved seeing him in the film as Ogden Morrow, Halliday’s former business partner. And finally, there’s Halliday himself. At first, I wasn’t quite sure how to feel about Mark Rylance’s peculiar performance as the game designer, but as the film went on, the character’s quirky charm really grew on me.

When comparing a film adaptation to its source material, more often than not, a film can never quite manage to live up to the novel, and in the case of Ready Player One, an incredibly dense novel at that. As such a big fan of the book, there were a couple of moments, both big and small, that didn’t quite have the same weight as they did in the novel, and while I found one or two of these instances a bit disappointing, overall, I thought the story itself worked just fine. Alongside screenwriter Zak Penn (The Avengers, The Incredible Hulk), novelist Ernest Cline did a great job of adapting his own work to the screen in a way that condensed the book’s incredibly intricate plot into a more concise feature-length runtime (even if the two-hour-and-twenty-minute runtime was a bit lengthy). I felt like the writers made sure to encorporate just the right things from the book that would feel amiss if left out, and any added elements that didn’t originate in the book felt right at home in the film. The book and film are two completely different beasts, but I am happy to report that I walked away thoroughly enjoying both. To me, the film is like a really great cover song.

Simply put, Ready Player One was an absolute blast for a geek like me. It’s just so much fun. It may not be Spielberg’s best (which is quite the feat in and of itself), but it is easily the director’s most entertaining film in years. It’s nice to know the man still has something like this in him after all these years.

Score: 8.5/10

10 Characters Batman Has Surprisingly Beaten

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The Hulk BatmanEveryone knows Batman is a sharp fighter, but at the end of the day he is human. Even the most impressive human has their limits, but the Caped Crusader seems to always find a way to come out on top. Whether he is fighting with the Justice League or alone, Bruce Wayne knows how to think on his toes and succeed in any situation.

He may normally fight villains, but Batman has taken down a fair share of heroes over the years as well. The Justice League may be full of mighty heroes, but it’s the Caped Crusader who is the most dangerous individual on the team.

Hit Next to learn more about 10 characters Batman has surprisingly defeated.

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Jeff Grantz

Jeff Grantz

Jeff Grantz is an Atlanta-based writer, filmmaker and host of The Amazing Nerdiverse Podcast (on iTunes and YouTube).