I may take a hit by admitting this, but I have never actually read the novel Ready Player One, I know I know, it’s a huge glowing red weak spot on my geek cred. But it also puts me in a unique position as someone who loves the subject matter but won’t be comparing it to the book. For better or worse, that affords me the opportunity to review Ready Player One as a movie rather than a movie adaptation, so you can expect an unbiased review from yours truly.
Ready Player One is set in 2045, a time when over population, global warming and dwindling resources have forced ordinary people in to trailer park tenements called stacks. With nothing to look forward to, most people escape into a virtual world called “OASIS”, a place where you can be anyone, or anything, (an eerie glimpse into our future after that wanker Trump starts another world war).(Make America habitable again!)
After the death of OASIS’ creator, James Halliday, an in-game puzzle called “Anorak’s Quest” is revealed. This puzzle promises the first person to solve it full ownership of OASIS and mad stacks of cash, naturally everyone and their virtual dog wants this prize. A community of Egg Hunters or “Gunters” is born with the intent of solving the puzzle and winning the prize. But of course, it’s not just gamers who want the keys to the kingdom, a cartoonishly evil Corporation called IOI, want to win so they can sell ads, DLC and microtransactions. Fuck! Isn’t it great WE don’t have to worry about that in the real world!
The plot centres around a young Gunter named Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), just one of the many people who enters OASIS to escape reality and solve Anorak’s Quest, but this being a story based on a young adult book, it isn’t long before Wade is embroiled in a resistance to overthrow some arsehole. As plots go it’s rather safe, but I have always believed that there is merit to telling a familiar story well, but as I don’t wish to spoil, we won’t go into any more detail.(Wonder what he’s reaching for there….)
The characters in this movie can be a little one dimensional, if you have seen Hunger Games, Maze Runner or really any movie based on teens over throwing a government you will find them strangely familiar. They never really grow beyond the trope they embody, while each of them has their own reasons for participating in the hunt, they never really get the fleshing out they deserve.You have the main character who is fighting for a better life, the kick ass female lead who is out for justice, three comedy sidekicks and villains whose own dickishness works against their own best interests. Again, this isn’t a bad thing, sometimes simpler is better, but I feel a little more definition couldn’t have hurt.
One thing that this movie has going for it is its aesthetics, such as the stark contrast between the mundane real world and the fantastical setting of the virtual world. It is amazing, the real world had this bleakness to it, colours appear washed out, there’s almost no plant life and despite being dangerously overpopulated it feels devoid of life. And then when we get to the OASIS it is the polar opposite, it is bright and vibrant, and brimming with life, people are playing, dancing and gaming it just feels alive.
The CGI is on point as well, considering that around 70% of the movie is based in virtual reality it damn well better be. But it is always a concern of mine when a movie like this comes out, I worry they will end up over doing it to the point of meaninglessness “Michael Baying” it, if you will. But thankfully that is not the case here, everything is well designed and colourful. Each of the in-game areas are visually distinctive from the last, and the character design is beautifully unique.
I did have a few issues with it though, like how they used nostalgia to wallpaper over some of the cracks. It seemed that anytime the story was slowing down they pulled out a toy, character or reference and said, “look at this”, like a parent trying to distract a child with car keys. In fact, there is a point when the main character is literally pulling action figures out of a box and just naming them, for no reason.
Or the fact that there doesn’t seem to be any police around to stop the evil mega corporation from committing acts of terrorism, kidnapping kids or attempting to murder them in the streets.
I left the cinema wondering if I enjoyed Ready Player One because of its own merits or was I simply viewing it through the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia. But then it hit me, what does it matter why, the point is I did enjoy it. Stunning visuals, an entertaining all be it simplistic plot, topped off with a thick layer of nostalgia that will whisk you back to your childhood, Ready Player One will leave you grinning from ear to ear.