READY PLAYER ONE
*** out of five stars
Cinematic legend Steven Spielberg takes us to a pop culture-saturated virtual reality world of the future in Ready Player One, based on the best-selling novel of the same name.
In 2045, Earth has become desolate and barren. Small wonder, then, that the majority of the population take refuge in the digital world of the OASIS. And it turns out that the late co-creator of OASIS, James Halliday (played by Mark Rylance), has hidden an Easter egg inside the realm, and whoever finds three hidden keys will get it and ownership of the entire VR world.
Two different forces are both hell-bent on finding all keys and winning the egg. One side is the "High Five,” a group of ragtag Gunters (short for "egg hunters"), led by Wade Watts/Parzival (Tye Sheridan). The other side is the ruthless corporation Innovative Online Industries (IOI), helmed by CEO Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn). While staying one step ahead of IOI, Wade slowly begins to fall in love with fellow "High Five" member Samantha Cook/Art3mis (Olivia Cooke).
Ready Player One, above all else, is a gorgeous movie. Since it primarily takes place in the digital world of a giant VR game, it can present extraordinary sights without having to worry about realism. The film definitely has replay value. So many pop culture icons make blink-and-you'll-miss-them appearances, it almost overwhelms the senses. Perhaps the most visually interesting moment, and best use of cultural references, comes when the "High Five" enter a world based on Stanley Kubrick's film adaptation of The Shining.
The film's plot and characters fall comparatively flat, unfortunately. Many of the themes and ideas displayed here are interesting but done better in prior works. The conceit of a geeky young man living in a game world and dealing with romance was handled superbly in the Scott Pilgrim graphic novels and movie. The Lego Movie already gave audiences a battle between pop culture-influenced underdogs and authoritarian villains, without any pretense. The characters in Ready Player One are likable enough to hold audiences' interest but are uninspired.
Ready Player One is mostly worth seeing for Spielberg fans, action movie thrill seekers and movie in-joke Easter egg hunters (pun intended). Those looking for a deeper story should probably move along. In any case, most of you should wait for the home video release, so you'll be able to see every nook and cranny of the OASIS.