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Ready Player One is a sweetly nostalgic thrill ride that neatly encapsulates Spielberg's strengths while adding another solidly engrossing adventure to his filmography.
Ready Player One is a sweetly nostalgic thrill ride that neatly encapsulates Spielberg's strengths while adding another solidly engrossing adventure to his filmography.
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All Critics (378)
| Top Critics (48)
| Fresh (273)
| Rotten (105)
| DVD (1)
It is, despite Spielberg's claims, neither a purehearted popcorn flick nor a Paul Verhoevenesque subversion, but something uneasily in between, cowed by the idea of the fanboy demographic.
I saw the film in IMAX, and a week later I'm still waiting for the safe return of my optic nerves, but it was the meagre emotional charge that shocked me most.
Spielberg wants us to drop the techno-gadgets and join hands, but it's the VR world that really juices him. He's the ultimate fanboy making a movie about the need to move beyond being a fan.
So much of Ready Player One is assembled from the detritus of our past that it is less a film and more an overstuffed cultural recycling bin.
A blast of pure childlike amusement.
Life in the OASIS is exciting and wondrous to behold through your avatar's oversized anime eyes, but it doesn't mean much without some real-world stakes, and that's where the film stumbles, badly.
Ready Player One might not be Spielberg's worst film, but it is his most impersonal.
There's a touch of Spielbergian magic that transcends the choppy, patchwork narrative. It's very difficult not to have an immense amount of fun with Ready Player One in spite of its flaws.
Perhaps the most compelling thing Ready Player One and the OASIS provides is the glimpse at our inevitable future.
Despite its many issues, Ready Player One is still an enjoyable ride that ticks all the boxes of a big summer blockbuster.
The dazzling visual flurry on screen is both amazing and emotionally draining, often to the point of excess.... Ready Player One elevates itself beyond genre fodder.
Far from perfect but almost obnoxiously entertaining.
Despite its annoying excess of exposition, this exciting retro-futuristic salad of pop-culture references from the 1980s and 1990s is a wonderful return to form for Spielberg, who makes this a blast for cinephiles and gamers while also offering a welcome anti-neoliberal message.
This movie has been on the books for quite some time, quite some time indeed. Hell rights to the novel (by Ernest Cline) had been won via auction before the novel had even been released! (novel released in 2010). Its another novel which I had heard of in part here and there, mainly due to its nostalgic content, but I've never felt inclined to read it or look into it. But this project really started to gather steam when Spielberg got onboard to direct; that's when most people sat up and took notice.
The Plot: Yeah its generic, its you're typical 80's fantasy type plot line, but that is the whole point. Its the future of 2045 and almost everyone spends much of their time in a virtual world known as the Oasis. Its creator, the late James Halliday (Mark Rylance) put a contest inside his virtual world before he died. You must find three keys which will in turn unlock an easter egg. Whoever finds this easter egg will win ownership of the Oasis. With that we follow a teenager called Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) and his various virtual friends as they try to discover the keys to unlock the easter egg whilst trying to avoid the clutches of the evil Innovative Online Industries (IOI) company with the same objective.
OK so the absolute unadulterated lure or hook with this movie is of course the expansive collection of nostalgic characters, objects, vehicles, songs, toys, comics etc; all from a vast range of movies, books, anime, comics, and videogames. In short this movie uses and pays homage to popular pop culture from various decades spanning the 70's right
through to the early 00's. This alone was enough to secure the interest of many people (myself included) who may have not been up to speed on the original novel. The mere thought of seeing so many classic characters crossover in one movie was enough to make any nerdy geek cum in his pants.
But is that all this movie has?? It that the only shiny trinket that Spielberg can muster and dangle before you like some...shiny trinket, slathered in retro sauce. Well kinda...Essentially this movie sorta plays out like a [i]Where's Wally?[/i] for decades worth of pop culture. I constantly found myself merely looking out for various characters that I'd heard were in the film, characters that were rumoured to be in the film, or simply scouring each frame for hidden easter eggs. So much so that I pretty much forgot to pay much attention to the actual plot of the fecking movie. Now is this my fault? Well yes it is but alas the plot is so mundane and generic you really shouldn't worry about it. And that's the main problem here.
In between looking for all your fave heroes and heroines from various franchises, in the background there is a rather boring plot revolving Wade Watts trying to find these three keys by decoding and deciphering various clues hidden within the Oasis. Yeah it is kinda dull to be honest, its even worse with the live action scenes that are not in the Oasis. But I do understand that aspect of it. The Oasis is supposed to be this realm people escape to for fun. The real world is obviously depressing, boring, difficult etc...So yeah I get that but it still didn't help me in liking this overall. Also didn't help that the real world in this movie looked weird. Like everyone was living in a giant junkyard or something, eh? Yeah poor I get it, but giant junkyards? What is this a tacky 90's videogame adaptation?
Anyway Watts is assisted by some other players which all have their own avatars just as Watts does. These generally look like your standard videogame type creations. Big muscles, bionic body parts, tight outfits, and huge weapons. Said clues seemed almost impossible to fathom out in my opinion as all were personal to Halliday; and even with dipping into his personal files it still came across as utterly unbelievable that the protagonists managed to work them out. At the same time the entire notion that no one has ever managed to work anything out until Watts comes along is just too convenient for me. I know I just said they seemed hard to work out but surely someone could of done at least one. Its almost feels like Watts and his mates are the only people actually looking properly and even when they do uncover secrets still no one else manages it.
This also leads me to some parts of the movie such as Watts winning the vehicle race after discovering a cheat. A cheat?? That kinda felt...well like cheating. I know its a hidden secret but again it also came across as so flippin' hard to uncover (because the clues seemed so obscure, to me at least) I still can't believe Watts even managed to find it. He got it from watching that archive video of Halliday...which apparently no one else has ever thought of ever doing. Kind of like 'The Shining' sequences (in the book it was 'Blade Runner') where yet again absolutely no one has apparently ventured or tried to uncover anything despite how suspiciously key laden that area might appear.
Now whilst all this is going on there is the rather predictable and cliched evil company that is chasing after Watts and co, after the same prize. These guys generally exist to give the good guys something to eliminate in the videogame world during the movies set pieces. A never ending stream of avatars to take out at various stages. They are led by Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn) who is (along with IOI) the most stereotypical corporate slimeball villain ever. He looks devious and untrustworthy and by golly he is devious and untrustworthy, in case you don't pick it up in the first five minutes.
I also didn't get how IOI are able to imprison people and use them as virtual slaves in this reality; because it doesn't come across as particularly backwards in that sense outside of their walls. There are police and they do arrest Sorrento at the end so...how come IOI had this massive slavery thing going on? And I did have to giggle at the moment where Watts finally meets Halliday (dead?) and almost accidentally erases the entire Oasis because of a large red uncovered button. Like what the hell was that about? Was that supposed to be a joke because it came across as simply dumb.
The first action sequence we get is the [i]Wacky Racers[/i] type event with all sorts of classic motors on display. Its a wickedly cool idea I'm sure many people have played out in their minds before but here is merely came across to me as a mass of indecipherable CGI. Again I was mainly too focused on trying to see what easter eggs lay in the background as the DeLorean DMC-12 thundered around the urban track (why didn't he just use the fly mode?). Twas certainly cool to see all these vehicles charging around (who remembers the Bigfoot monster truck??) but it was also [b]so[/b] chaotic it was hard to follow. Naturally things got even more chaotic and CGI laden when we reached the big final showdown between IOI and a legion of Oasis gamers. Holly Spectrum talk about a retro clash of the titans. If you ever wanted to see [i]The Iron Giant[/i] take on various other franchise characters such as [i]MechaGodzilla[/i] or [i]Gundam[/i], well I guess its your birthday.
But in all honesty, is that all this is??? Just a middle aged retro collectors wet dream of seeing all his shelf 'collectables' (toys) fighting each other in a massive cinematic version of a sprawling videogame beat 'em up ([i]Marvel vs. Capcom[/i]). Yes it all looks great and yes it is very cool to see all these different characters and franchises clash and mix but I just can't get past that aspect of it. That is [b]literally[/b] all there is to this movie because the rest is boring as hell. And are you telling me that this virtual world would have a power-up/pick-up weapon that could effectively kill every single player in the entire virtual world wiping their records?? Why would that be included?? Why??!! Surely that just screams problems.
Essentially this is a love letter of sorts to various decades gone by, but mainly the 80's. Its probably the closest I will ever come to one movie encompassing everything I have grown up with to this point. A cinematic archive of pop culture I (and many others) have slowly grown old with since my birth back in 1978. I appreciate it, I appreciate everything about this movie and I must thank all involved for bringing it to the big screen. But nevertheless the film was ultimately a bit of an anti-climax for me. It seemed to promise so much but in my eyes failed to deliver overall. What is there left for me to say? Well at least, thanks for the memories.
(The Zemeckis Cube: Essentially a Rubix Cube allowing time travel. When activated a few musical notes from 'Back to the Future' play. A mishap of retro knowledge in 2045, but oh so cool)
A decent outreach of the old tech to the up-and-coming ones, much as television once eclipsed movies, this is a scenario that imagines a future wherein people of mostly dire financial straits spend their time online in a fantastic inner/internet world. There's some take-over-the-world bad guy distraction, of course, but most of the tale involves where its imagined coming tech will take us. To spice things up there are only a million and one tips-of-the-hat to well known cultural icons and recognizing them becomes part of this experience: can you catch them all? Underneath all the shiny stuff is Spielburg, natch.
When Jaws was released in 1975, it done so well at the box-office that it was the first film to become, what we now know as, the "blockbuster". Having been responsible for this, it still looks like Steven Spielberg (at the ripe age of 71) isn't in any mood to change that as Ready Player One - his 33rd film - is still an example of the big brand of entertainment that he's now synonymous with. That said, he hasn't been delivering that many of these types of films for quite some time now, choosing instead to focus on more dramatic material but I'm happy to say that he's still possesses that childlike imagination and adventurous touch.
Plot: In the year 2045, a virtual reality system called the Oasis is an immersive world that allows people to escape their harsh reality and be or do anything the want - the only limits are your own imagination. The Oasis creator James Halliday (Mark Rylance) decides to leave a message for all its users before he dies. He creates an Easter egg within the game and anyone who finds it will inherit his immense fortune and gain complete control of the Oasis itself. Naturally, everyone sets out to complete the challenge but unlikely hero Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) finds himself at the forefront of the hunt.
It's fair to say that Spielberg has been (and still is) one of the most influential filmmakers in history. So many of his films have entered popular culture making him the perfect director to adapt Ernest Cline's nostalgic novel Ready Player One, which works primarily on delving into the very pop-culture that Spielberg himself has helped shape. In Cline's book, Spielberg is heavily mentioned but to give the director his due he has decided, for the most part, to omit his contributions when adapting it for the screen. Despite this, however, you really can't have a film that relies on pop-culture references without Spielberg being mentioned and he does throw in the odd welcome nod to himself.
It's not just Spielberg on show here, though, as theres an abundance of nostalgia for anyone that grew up in the 80's and 90's and has even a passing knowledge of the rise of video games and such classic films as Saturday Night Fever, King Kong and Spielberg's own Jurassic Park. Most surprisingly of all, however, is the influence of The Shining. There's a sequence here that may offend the die hard fans of Kubrick's horror masterpiece but, personally, I was astounded at how well Spielberg uses scenes from that film to transport his own characters into; room 237 is explored again and we get to see the creepy twins in the hallway as well as the river of blood that floods from the elevator. Witnessing this with Spielberg's digitally enhanced characters shows how far technology can go in the movies and this is only one example. We also get to see Back to the Future's Deloreon back in action and fans of The Iron Giant will rejoice in that animated character being brought to life. To put it simply, the film is practically one big homage or nostalgic trip to films of the past and Spielberg wrings it out for all it's worth. Some may say that the central storyline suffers as a result of the CGI and I wouldn't argue with that but this is a film that wouldn't even have been possible 20 years ago and the imagination involved here is so intoxicating and reminiscent that I didn't care about the narrative taking a backseat. I was just happy getting swept along for the ride.
As visual spectacles go, this is a truly astounding piece of work as Spielberg captures the allure and breakneck pace of a video game world - with an astonishingly exciting race in the film's opening - and transports us into this virtual reality with ease. In fact, the CGI moments are so good that it can sometime leave the scenes in the real world somewhat flat and doesn't allow the actors to fully embrace their roles. That said, Tye Sheridan is a serviceable lead and Ben Mendelsohn delivers his usual reliability in the villain role but the other actors don't make much of an impact and this is most apparent in the final third when they're relied upon more. It's around this point that film loses touch with its pace and feels a little overlong and, as entertaining as it is overall, it could've benefited from a little trim. I also wonder whether the film will appeal to our current generation of kids when there's a lot of references that will inevitably go over their heads. In essence, this film has a target audience and it's most definitely for those who grew up in the 80's and 90's and those that experienced the rise of gaming before virtual reality was even a thing.
An intoxicating doze of nostalgia and a wonderful piece of escapism from Spielberg. The inventor of the blockbuster can still produce the goods and he proves it with his most entertaining movie for some time. Minor flaws aside, this is a true cinematic experience and one that made me feel like a child again - a skill that Spielberg has always excelled at.
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