Review - 'Ready Player One'
I've been known to like a movie for being dumb so long as it's fun, I mean, look no further than my affinity for the Fast and Furious franchise. But is it possible for a movie to be intelligent, dumb and also fun all at the same time? Yeah, and I think I've just seen one, it's called Ready Player One. This is a film that has some of the most innovative, acrobatic and just jaw-dropping sequences that I've ever seen, while also having a pretty poorly pieced together plot filled with nonsensical coincidences and then sprinkled with some good-to-clunky dialogue.
Directed by Stephen Spielberg and based off of the polarizing book of the same name (of which I have not read), Ready Player One introduces audiences to the OASIS; a virtual world where people can escape to from their mundane lives in the real world. When the OASIS is threatened by a hostile take-over from a corporation called IOI, the "High Five", a group leading a real-life rebellion through the OASIS in a virtual clan, must stop the corporation's CEO from gaining access to the company.
Much like a video game, Ready Player One is a film where anything can happen and generally without a logical explanation. So if you're expecting a film with a narrative that makes sense, you're likely not going to find it here. Instead, you will find one of the most viscerally fun experiences with remarkable action sequences tailor-made for the big screen and enhanced by a jumbo-sized bucket of buttery popcorn.
First off, this isn't a movie for everyone. The film makes heavy use of pop-culture references from the 70's up until today, and while not being well-versed in pop-culture doesn't mean you won't have a good time, you may feel a bit out-of-the-loop. What really makes Ready Player One a film for a specific audience, though, is how much of it actually takes place in a video game. From the trailers I sort of got the impression that this would be a 50/50 live-action to CGI virtual world film, where in actuality, the movie spends about 75% of its time in the OASIS. For me, that's good, because Stephen Spielberg's interpretation of 2045 Ohio is oh so boring and is populated by pretty dull characters. For others it might be a bit of a sensory overload. There is A LOT happening at all times in this movie, and it may be too much for people simply looking for a cut-and-dry adventure rooted in a tangible world.
That said, what Stephen Spielberg is able to accomplish without having the restraints of the real world holding him down is astonishing. There are three huge action sequences that populate the first, second and third act of this film and each one brings an exciting exuberance and creativity to the table. The race which has been seen in a all of the marketing material is an immensely exhilarating experience that, for me, took the cake. There's also a surprising sequence that will either offend of hit just the right note for many viewers...for me, well, it played me like a fiddle. Offended or not; you will not be able to deny the craft that went into conceiving all of the sequences in the movie.
Where Ready Player One stumbles a bit is with its messaging. The movie portrays the OASIS as this incredibly colorful and fun world where anything can happen, and juxtaposes it against the grey-hued, dilapidated slums of 2045 Ohio, and then tells us that we need to spend more time in the real world. This juxtaposition is further exacerbated by the film's lead, Ty Sheridan, who's virtual character, Parzival, is more compelling than his flesh-and-blood character, Wade (Yes, I know they're played by the same person, but still). Wade is honestly a pretty bland hero, and while the movie wants to make a case for why we as people need to spend more time in the real world, it really comes off as an advertisement for why the OASIS is so awesome.
The rest of the cast varies from good to completely hammy. Olivia Cooke does a great job as Art3mis/Samantha. She plays a spunky, capable hero who manages to find some decent chemistry with Sheridan. Lena Waithe does a fine job portraying two genders that are both the same character. Then there's Mark Rylance, who I at times loved and at other times, well, didn't. You'll have to see him to know what I mean, but it's a...hmm...daring performance? I guess that's a fair way to put it. Then we have Ben Mendelsohn, who is the very definition of a flat, mustache-twirling villain with not much else going on under the hood.
If you think Ready Player One might be for you, please see it in the theater. This is a movie that benefits strongly from the big-screen format and will likely lose some of its grandeur when it translates to the smaller screen. Spielberg knows his way around an action sequence and injects so much fun and creativity into nearly every single frame, even if some of the dramatic beats fall flat. This is a big popcorn movie that has some interesting underlying themes to think on, but mostly, it's just a massively fun, dopey time at the movies, and if that's all you're looking for what are you waiting for?