I’m finding it very hard to dislike Steven Spielberg. It seems that enjoying his repertoire is the equivalent to liking ice cream and laughing. It’s rare to find someone who doesn’t like either. His newest movie to come out is Ready Player One, based on Ernest Kline’s novel of the same name. It could have been a glorified computer graphic nightmare, full of nostalgia lacking any kind of substance. But in the hands of the man who made some of the most memorable and stunning movies, it turned out to be a heartfelt love letter for gamers and geeks alike. Insert credit for Ready Player One.
On paper, Ready Player One has a high concept, requiring at least a certain amount of knowledge in video gaming and online culture. Here we go. In the near future, video games have evolved from a pastime to a lifestyle. OASIS is the popular online gaming system and environment; it’s a free to use virtual reality device. Players can immerse themselves, physically and mentally, into a world where everything is possible. Hidden in this world of infinite possibilities lays an easter egg guarded by three locked gates. The first player to find the egg will inherit the shares and rights to the OASIS. Wade, our protagonist, is on a quest to find all three keys before IOI, an amoral corporation, gets to it first. The movie contains all the tropes of a classic hero’s journey: a young orphaned hero, a magical item, an evil empire, and a rag-tag bunch of misfits. It might be formulaic, but the classics work for a reason.
The problem, in many classic stories, lies with the characters becoming tired and clichéd. Ready Player One has the timid hero, tough love interest, cocky best friend, and the egotistical adult hungering for power. In the hands of some directors, they are uninspiring heaps of blandness. With Steven Spielberg, these cookie-cutter cutouts display such an array of emotions they cease to be one-dimensional. More importantly, the characters spoke and acted their age when it mattered. The ability to make kids real is one of Steven Spielberg’s strengths. I was able to relate to Wade, remembering my youth as a (much more) awkward geek craving any kind of attention and confidence.
I’m going to unapologetically praise Steven Spielberg again. He is an amazing visual storyteller. He is able to inspire audiences with his special effects masterpieces like Jurassic Park to the very realistic The Post. Ready Player One has been able to bring the sense of sublime I haven’t experienced in a while. He was able to showcase two completely different worlds, the OASIS and the real world, and make them stand out. The OASIS is completely computer generated, using motion capture performances and green screens to emphasize the heroes are in a video game. More importantly, the looks of the avatars don’t fall into the uncanny valley, making it easier to watch without feeling creeped out. The real world uses sets and green screens to present a unique dystopian future, that differentiates itself from all the others I’ve seen. Both worlds had their own voice and story to tell. The action was easy to follow, and is entertaining for audiences of all ages.
Steven Spielberg had a difficult task when it came to making a movie for all ages, and filling it with references from numerous decades. I went into this movie expecting everyone to shout out “Check out this reference!” The vast majority of the trailers didn’t help, they focused on all the cool things we’re familiar with from movies to video games and pop songs, without getting into the meat of the adventure. Thankfully, the final product focused on our real heroes and their story. Ready Player One only used references and nostalgia when it was appropriate. Instead of putting a lampshade on cultural icon, they’d put it on screen for a split second. If you blink, or heaven’s forbid, sneeze, you could miss potentially dozens of characters.
Ready Player One is an outstanding beautiful and whimsical film. It’s heartfelt cast of characters and fun story were engaging and memorable. You don’t need to read the book to appreciate the movie, it kept the same world and plotline, and made some necessary changes to easily adapt to the screen. I think the only reason you should avoid this movie is if you show know interest in video games and video game culture. When it comes to the movies, this is the best love-letter to geek culture I’ve seen in a while. Steven Spielberg knocked it out of the park yet again.