Steven Spielberg brings Ernest Cline's famous novel to life in his first action-adventure movie since 2011's The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn. In 2045 the world has become a desolate, overcrowded place. Many try to escape this reality by entering in to the OASIS, a virtual world where pretty much anything is possible...including climbing Mount Everest with Batman. Before he died, the creator of the OASIS - James Halliday (Mark Rylance) - hid three keys within the world. The first person to collect all three keys and unlock the hidden Easter Egg wins ownership of the OASIS and Halliday's considerable fortune. "Gunters" or Egg Hunters like Parzival (Tye Sheridan) and Art3mis (Olivia Cooke) all have their own reasons for devoting their lives to solving their puzzle. But they're not the only ones searching for the keys to the kingdom, Nolan Sorrento (Ben Medelsohn), CEO of Innovative Online Industries (IOI) has dedicated vast company resources and his own private army to achieving his goal of fully monetising the OASIS. As Sherlock Holmes would say; "The game is afoot!"
Before I get into this review I should point out that I haven't read the book. I know, I know, please calm down. It's one of many books I have yet to read, and when I heard about the movie adaptation I decided to wait, in order to view it with fresh eyes. And as far as I'm concerned it was the right choice, because Ready Player One blew me away! This is Spielberg at his best, at the helm of an action-adventure movie at the cutting edge of filmmaking technology...and what an adventure it is.
Ready Player One falls somewhere between The Matrix and Avatar, with more pop culture references than you can count filling the gaps. And you will lose count, so much so I'm not going to list any of them here. You need to go see this movie and spot them yourself. But to put it in perspective, it took Spielberg and producer Kristie Macosko Krieger several years to secure the rights to the copyrighted material featured in the movie. And Spielberg seems to think that adds up to about 80% of what they wanted.
As you can imagine, the visuals are incredible, and I'm not just talking about the OASIS. Shooting in the UK, Spielberg and co. have recreated the streets of Columbus, Ohio circa 2045. The Stacks look amazing, like a dystopian trailer park nightmare from hell. And the fact that they actually built them only amplifies this contrast between the real world and the virtual. The look of the OASIS is nothing short of fantastic! It's meant to be a place where anything is possible, and it certainly looks it. A perfect example of this is the race scene, set in New York, the city literally unfolds in front of the drivers while King Kong and the Tyrannosaurus Rex from Jurassic Park try to tear it and the drivers apart.
As with all movie adaptations, changes have been made to the story. Something that works in a book doesn't necessarily translate to the big screen. For example; Halliday's journal has been replaced with a virtual library within the OASIS that houses recreations of many of his memories, a place where "Gunters" can hunt for clues to solve the puzzles that'll unlock the Easter Egg. Rights issues prevented the use of certain parts of the book, Spielberg also removed most of the references to his own work in order to avoid accusations of vanity. Although Cline felt it was more to do with the criticism Spielberg received for '1941' which spoofed both Jaws and Duel. The important thing is that the spirit of the book - this love for pop culture - has survived the move from page to screen, in fact it's very much alive!
Spielberg has once again demonstrated his ability to elicit a great performance out of just about anybody. The movie has been criticised for the lack of character arc which I personally think is a bit unfair. Tye Sheridan's naive Wade Watts (AKA Parzival) definitely has the most growing up to do, and most of the characters seem to learn something over the course of the movie. However, I did feel that the romance between two of the characters while not forced seemed to just switch on rather than build. Mendelsohn is on par with his Rogue One performance as the big bad company man and Hannah John-Kamen is perfectly detestable as his right hand woman. Now this may be controversial to say, but the one to watch out for is T.J. Miller's performance as the bounty hunter "I-R0k", he has the look of a comic book bad guy and the personality of an uber geek. Miller steals every scene he is in and is nothing short of hilarious throughout.
When describing this story the phrase "culturally relevant" springs to mind, it's almost a wake-up call because the future we see in Ready Player One is very believable. It's easy to see us living this way in a few decades, using a virtual world to escape our reality. There are some who do it now. In a world of social media, smart phones and online multiplayer games this is telling us to once in a while put them down and go outside. It's not encouraging us to give anything up (it can't), just that we shouldn't enjoy these things at the expense of our world.
Ernest Cline's pop culture phenomenon has been brought to the big screen in the grandiose fashion it deserves. Ready Player One is everything you've come to expect of a Steven Spielberg movie. It's action-packed, funny, visually stunning, it's got a great story that's relevant to modern society. But most important of all, it's an adventure, and one you'll want to experience again and again. Now where did I put that book?
What did you think of Ready Player One? And how many pop culture references did you count? Let us know by leaving a comment below or find us on Facebook and Twitter.