Ready Player One movie review
There’s a distinct lack of Steven Spielberg in Ready Player One, which is a surprise given that it mines a period where he was king of pop culture. And yet this film is also pure Spielberg. How could a movie set in “a place where the limits of reality are your own imagination” not be? Wade (Tye Sheridan) even looks a little like the younger filmmaker.
Kicking off with Van Halen’s Jump sets the tone, as its feel good beat resonates among the downbeat, trailer-trash world of “the stacks” – a future ghetto for the disenfranchised. As a lengthy intro exposition informs us (don’t worry, this necessary info dump tells you everything you need to know), the Oasis is now the go-to place for anyone who needs to escape the depression of the real world.
In the Oasis, you can look like anyone and do anything. Since its creator, James Donovan Halliday (Mark Rylance), grew up playing ’70s game consoles and ’80s movies, those influences dominate the system. Particularly because the dying Halliday left three secrets hidden in the world, and knowing him is the key to unlocking where they are. Unlock them all and you’ll gain control of the system.
The downfall of most video game movies is that they feel like you’re passively watching a game play out, when you’d rather be flexing those thumbs and taking control of the action. Throw in the multitude of references on offer here – which fly by faster than the Millennium Falcon on the Kessel run – and Ready Player One could be all style over substance. It’s delightful to report that neither of those things is the case.
The references (none of which we’ll spoil here, because some of them are incredible) either flash by as amazing background blink-and-you’ll-miss-’em moments or serve the story in fantastic ways. There’s one from the 1981 film Excalibur that almost made us spray our popcorn, it was so geeky. Sitting next to this is some Black Mirror-style techno angst, and a little real-world danger to bring the actors into play alongside their avatars.
We were willing to sit through the end credits to see if a film so obsessed with Easter eggs had a few of its own, but a fire alarm at the end of the screening sent us to the street. So we’ll be scouring that DVD and Blu-ray for some hidden extras when it comes out, looking for more from Halliday – and his real-world equivalent, Spielberg. We can’t wait.
Release: 28 March 2018 (3D), 29 March 2018 (general release)
From: Warner Bros.
Format: Theatrical Release
Age Rating: 12A