Oddly, this review has been a tough one gestating.
Ready Player One is kind of a hard film to analyse. I loved it at first sight and was happy that director Steven Spielberg is back doing what I feel he does best, what brought him to the party in the first place. But it took a few days for my brain to calm down enough to actually be able to put thought to word and formulate something coherent. Conceptually, the film is a mixture of things, all different but adding up to a totally satisfying whole that although somewhat derivative, is in itself original. It’s something we haven’t seen before, based on a lot of stuff we have. It reminded me in that sense pretty of the appeal of Star Wars to me back in the seventies. That was a mixture of a Western, a war film, a samurai movie and so on, all wrapped up in one concept with so much more to see. The total was more than the sum of the parts. Same thing here. Ready Player One is a quest, a fantasy, a tech film all wrapped up in one joyous parcel, again with so much more to see.
Let’s deal with the plot first.
It’s the year 2045. Most people chose to escape from the harsh reality of their day to day existence by entering the virtual reality of The Oasis, which is an immersive online world, pretty much like the internet on steroids, which is used for education, business, commerce and leisure.
When the creator of The Oasis dies, he sets a quest where the discovery of three clues within The Oasis will lead the victor to the ultimate Easter egg – ownership and total control of The Oasis.
Many hunters have tried, but none have even got as far as the first stage. I.O.I. are the company who manufacture most of the VR equipment used to access The Oasis, they have an army of indentured players working full time to beat the puzzle and gain control of The Oasis.
Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) is a gamer who has studied the Oasis creator for years, and in his avatar guise of Parzival undertakes the quest, with the seemingly limitless resources and army of I.O.I. following his every step. With a ragtag bunch of friends and allies, Parzival is on a mission, encountering a staggering amount of threats and pop culture references along the way.
And that’s pretty much all the plot I’m going to reveal. But the plot is actually only one facet of the film. In fact, to use Alfred Hitchcock’s famous word, the plot is little more than a McGuffin. A McGuffin is a plot device that isn’t necessarily the plot itself that is used to get the characters where they need to be. The best example is the stolen money in Psycho. That element of the script is just there to get Marion Crane to the Bates Motel so that Norman can kill her and the real story can begin.
For me, at least, the real appeal of the film isn’t the quest, which I’ve seen in countless dozens of films before – but in the journey and what we see, hear and encounter along the way. The quest really is nothing new. It’s a great story, but not that original. What IS original is the world that the author Ernest Cline has created, and that Steven Spielberg has brought to life. The quest is just an excuse to explore The Oasis, and The Oasis is just a means of getting as many cameo appearances of pop culture characters from the thirties onward as can possibly be fit on the screen.
Despite the film sounding like something out of TRON with its setting inside a computer program, it really isn’t. Surprisingly, there wasn’t a single reference to TRON that I could see in the whole film.
But everything that I actually did see just completely blew me away. It’s a kaleidoscope of just about everything I have loved in films and television for all the years I’ve spent in front of one screen or another. It truly is a film that needs to be seen more than once, because there’s no way it can all be taken in at once.
Where else can you see a road race where the participants include the Back to the Future DeLorean, the Mad Max V8 interceptor and the 1966 Batmobile – all trying to avoid an encounter with King Kong? Or a titanic fight between the Iron Giant and Mecha Godzilla? Or a vital scene set within Kubrick’s Overlook Hotel from The Shining? But this isn’t even scratching the surface of what’s here to be joyously discovered. One of my highlights was hearing the sound of a Martian war machine from the 1953 War of the Worlds before it came into sight. For the two hour ten minute running time, I was not only absorbed with the story, but also with the world of The Oasis that the bulk of the film is set in.
What Spielberg has pulled off here is a remarkable achievement. He has made the ultimate geek movie that will be essential viewing for decades to come. It won’t be an Oscar winner, but it’s one huge crowd pleaser.
Copyright © 2010 - 2018 Robin Pierce. All Rights reserved.