ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - “Ready Player One” brings back the fun Steven Spielberg with an old-fashioned, effects-laden adventure where the world is often more important than its characters. Still, this world is guaranteed to entertain fans of nostalgia both young and old, even if the older crowd will find the basic plot formulaic and predictable.
Image Credit: Warner Bros. / MGN
The film is sort of like how “Tron” was back in 1982 if you replaced the made-up characters and environments with those of actual pop cultural icons. The future setting of the film is so displeasing that the majority of the population has chosen to enjoy their time inside the OASIS, a virtual reality video game where you can basically do anything or be anything. The socially awkward creator of this game James Halliday, now deceased, has left a three-step challenge that if completed, will grant the victor access to control the OASIS. The story follows Wade Watts and his friends on a quest to complete the challenge before an evil corporation that is bent on seizing control of the OASIS through the completion of the challenges and turning it into what would essentially be a pop-up ad heaven (or hell, depending on your perspective).
“Ready Player One” is a great visual experience first and foremost. The use of nostalgia feels more as a means to be realistic rather than a means to capitalize on one’s childhood. There are plenty of moments that are just there to be pointed out as Easter eggs, but it never distracts from the core story. The adventure inside the OASIS is fun and immersive in the classic Spielberg sense with the balance of seriousness and humor being on point. The film also does manage to throw in good messages and satire about society being obsessed with trying to escape the real world, often at the consequence of losing touch with the things of true value in the real world. The best example of this is the idea of teenagers developing a “relationship” online despite never actually seeing each other face to face. As one character says, “You only see and hear what I want you to.” The message is also pushed via Halliday who chose to devote so much time to his own pop culture safe space, that he lost a close friend and a chance for love in the process. So in a sense, pop culture does serve an actual purpose. Still, purpose or not, it is very gitty to see so much on screen at once. I particularly jumped onto the fanboy train once the heroes entered the second stage of the challenge, which involves navigating a certain popular horror film which I shall not reveal.
This is definitely a film for kids, who will likely walk away with this ironically becoming a nostalgic part of their own childhoods. Adults will also have a lot of fun, but as an adult, I can’t help but notice some things. For one, there really isn’t much to the core plot. Outside the OASIS, things are pretty basic. The human characters are mostly just base level and, oddly enough, are overshadowed by the colorful avatar counterparts. The plot of an evil corporation, an underground resistance, and the inevitable revolution of little people vs elites has been done time and time before and sadly the film does nothing to mix up that narrative. The story goes pretty much where you expect outside of the visual package that is unique to “Ready Player One’s” style. The characters aren’t bad and all the actors are great, but only two really walk away with memorable depth: Watts’s love interest Art3mis and OASIS creator James Halliday. Also, the exposition was very heavy at the beginning of the film. While some was necessary, there did come a point where I felt the voiceover narration from Watts was going overboard.
Most of this is just nitpicking as none of that ruins the overall fun factor of the picture. The world of the OASIS is worth price of admission and some good, timely messages do manage to speak through without feeling overly preachy or political. The fact that the nostalgia feels like it has an artistic purpose really impressed me, but I can’t deny I will likely indulge into more viewings just to find all the pop culture Easter eggs I likely missed...for fanboy satisfaction.
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