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Ready Player One – Movie Review

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Ready Player One – Movie Review

Rating: A (Fantastic)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

Steven Spielberg has always been a director with his finger on the current zeitgeist and a clear passion for what future possibilities can bring. It’s little surprise he would make a film like Ready Player One, which explores the potential of virtual reality technology. Spielberg immediately understands the appeal as well as the problems such an invention can bring. Adapting Ernest Cline’s novel, Ready Player One will certainly get attention for the multiple references and cameos that fly across the screen, but it’s the story, the characters and the stakes that make this a successful movie. This is the sort of blockbuster entertainment Spielberg has brought audiences for decades and there are still few directors like him.

Ready Player One doesn’t waste any time transporting us to the virtual world of the OASIS. Spielberg and his team of visual effects artists have created an elaborate and believable world, using already existing video game concepts and taking them to the next level. The various areas of this world are brilliantly designed and visually spectacular, making it believable that the citizens of 2045 would want to come back again and again. Between this film and The Adventures of Tintin, Spielberg has proven to be a director who understands how to properly use motion capture. Each avatar in the OASIS feels like the creation of the person controlling them, so there is never a wall between the audience and the characters. The film brilliantly shifts between the OASIS and the real world and production designer Adam Stockhausen allows them to feel distinct, particularly the slum town of “The Stacks” and the flashy corporate headquarters of a rival company.

The movie doesn’t just rely on the spectacle to draw us in, creating interesting characters worth following. Tye Sheridan brings a nerdy likeability to Wade Watts and he develops into more than just a pop-culture spouting machine. His chemistry with his virtual buddy Aech is strong, as is his growing friendship with Olivia Cooke’s Art3mis. Ben Mendelsohn is clearly having a great time playing a sneering CEO attempting control of the OASIS. It’s his scenes that recall Tron the most and for Ready Player One to deserve comparison with that visual effects landmark, it has definitely done something right. The proper stakes are established in the story and Spielberg fills it with action scenes that are both impressive set-pieces and play a role in pushing the characters forward. One sequence even works as a brilliantly constructed homage to one of Spielberg’s closest filmmaking friends.

Most importantly, that feel-good magic which has categorised many of Steven Spielberg’s films since the beginning of his career is evident. While it’s neat to see the likes of Sonic the Hedgehog and Chucky the Doll on screen, the heart comes not from the nostalgia, but rather the genuine emotions the characters feel towards each other. The OASIS is primarily a backdrop. It’s Wade and Art3mis and Aech we end up caring about the most. While Spielberg clearly reveres and understands the potential of virtual reality, he does turn a critical eye towards the faults of staring at a screen all day. He strikes that even balance, rather than being a finger wagging Luddite. Nicely tying everything together is a strong score by Alan Silvestri, who also throws in a few notes from Back to the Future for good measure.

It’s remarkable that through the over forty years Steven Spielberg has been telling stories, he remains one of today’s best directors. It’s clear he brings a lot of passion to each project he makes and is not afraid of tackling new topics and ideas. Ready Player One is another spectacular triumph, brimming with a joy and respect for the audience. The entire experience is like a giddy fanboy, showing you his favourite video game. Through this film, Spielberg has also understood how to make a video game movie without falling into the traps other movies that try to replicate that experience fall into. In many ways, this is a fitting double feature with Wreck-It Ralph in how both use classic references as a backdrop for stories that explore their appeal and why we keep coming back to the joystick.


Stefan Ellison

Stefan Ellison