Review: Ready Player One

March 29, 2018

Anyone who’s worth their weight in celluloid knows that Steven Speilberg is one of the greatest directors of all time.  His skill is not the only thing that makes him one of the greats; it’s his versatility too.  If it seems like Speilberg always has a lot of movies coming out, it’s because he does.  He’s recognized that his staying power in Hollywood isn’t just whether or not he can make an amazing movie, it’s whether or not that amazing movie can make a buttload of money and/or win a bunch of awards.  He’s mastered the “one for the studio; one for me” rule, which means that a director will make a big budget popcorn-chomper and then make a passion project that is smaller and makes less money.  In Speilberg’s case, the movies for him like Schindler’s List, Munich, Lincoln; and movie for the studio like Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, and now Ready Player One.

There is only one person on this planet that could have brought the Ernest Cline novel to life and that person is Steven Speilberg.  The book is a fairly decent and exciting story that is elevated intensely by pop culture and gaming references that flash as often and incessantly as a strobe light.  The book idolizes ‘80s culture and films which makes it pretty meta for someone like Speilberg to make it since so much of ‘80s cinema was defined by him.  That being said, he does a great job of not turning it into a giant ego stroke and spreads the love around evenly for other films.

Ready Player One stars Tye Sheridan (The Stanford Prison Experiment, X-Men: Apocalypse) as Wade Watts, the lovable nerdy hero who slays his way through the virtual world to try to win it all.  Olivia Cooke (Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl, Ouija) is his plucky love interest who is the ballsier of the two.  Both of them turn in adequate performances considering most of the film they're portrayed by their avatars which makes it difficult to decide if what you’re watching is quality acting or not.  However, Ben Mendelsohn (Rogue One, Darkest Hour) is pretty amazing as the slimy corporate kingpin that will stop at nothing to obtain ultimate financial power.  Oscar-winner Mark Rylance (Dunkirk, Bridge of Spies), however, gives the best performance of his career by playing the (probably) autistic inventor of the OASIS virtual world and creator of this final quest for power.

Any fan of the book will notice some major changes; some make sense and are for the best, some don’t and are some of the weakest points of the film.  Without giving too much away, one of the best things about it was removing the War Games segment from the book.  I know a lot of people enjoyed this but when you compare it to what it was replaced with, it’s insanely better.  Granted, the new challenge was created solely as a tribute to one of Speilberg’s favorite films but still, it’s awesomely effective.  One of the worst changes was setting the entire film in Columbus, OH.  I’m not saying that because I hate Columbus but because EVERYONE from the main character, to the evil corporation, to the supporting characters are all there.  The OASIS is a worldwide phenomena which makes it too convenient for everyone to be together.  I get that it makes the movie flow better but it’s pretty ridiculous.

Ready Player One will not be remembered as one of Speilberg’s best films but it is a damn good time.  As far as Hollywood realizing its role in the pop culture landscape and making a film about that goes, I can’t imagine it getting any better than this.  That being said, the references are gratuitous, constant, and obvious.  You could go through this movie, frame-by-frame for a year and still not get every reference but as fun as that is, it does get old by the time the 150-minute-long film is over.