As soon as Ernest Cline’s novel, “Ready Player One”, was released in 2011, it flew off the shelves almost instantly, especially as it hit the sweet spot of ’80s nostalgia before “Stranger Things” came along. As soon as it was announced that there would be a movie adaptation of it, many waited in eager anticipation as there was so much that could be done with the source material as a movie. However, the hype for it became even bigger after Steven Spielberg decided to helm the movie, as many hoped that this would be the one that would allow him to get his “spark” back. Thankfully, the movie,although it has a lot of differences from the book, captures the main essence of what Cline wanted to convey; and is a fun science fiction adventure film that saw Spielberg return back to form.
“Ready Player One” was directed by Steven Spielberg; with a script written by the source material’s novelist, Ernest Cline, and Zak Penn; and with a glorious score by Alan Silvestri.
The movie starred Tye Sheridan as Wade Watts or Parzival, an Easter Egg Hunter or “Gunter”; Olivia Cooke as Samantha Cook or Art3mis, a famous Gunter; Lena Waithe as Aech or Helen Harris, Watt’s best friend; Win Morisaki as Toshiro Yoshiaki or Daito, another known Gunter; Philip Zhao as Akihide Karatsu or Sho, a Gunter who usually partners up with Daito; Ben Mendelsohn as Nolan Sorrento, the CEO of Innovative Online Industries (IOI), and who wants to take control of the virtual world of the OASIS; Mark Rylance as James Halliday, the deceased co-creator of the OASIS who, according to the book, has Asperger’s Syndrome; and Simon Pegg as Ogden “Og” Morrow, Halliday’s former best friend and co-creator of the OASIS.
The movie’s premise follows the same premise as the book. It is set in Columbus, Ohio in the dystopic future of 2045, where most people spend all their time in the virtual world of the OASIS, which was created by James Halliday and Ogden Morrow. People prefer to stay there as reality is a bleak and harsh place. The story follows Wade Watts, who is known as Parzival in the OASIS, a dedicated Easter Egg Hunter or “Gunter”, who is determined to win the Easter Egg prize in a treasure hunt game that Halliday set up after his death, so that he can have a better future. Whoever wins the game will not only be able to have complete control of the OASIS, but the future of the world as well. Together with his best friend Aech, and other newfound friends, Watts soon discovers that this game is bigger than him, and they have to work together to stop Nolan Sorrento, the CEO of a rival company, IOI, from taking control of the OASIS and the world.
This movie was definitely a fun-filled ride in which the nostalgic elements laced within it serve particular purposes and are not just there for fan service. This movie also saw a return to form for Spielberg, who was able to work his magic in this big budget movie full of heart and thrilling action sequences. Interestingly enough, by the end of the film, I was reminded of the Spielberg movies that I loved, like “E.T.” and the original “Indiana Jones” trilogy. Also, it is worth noting that even if the theater in which I watched the movie was only one fourth filled, as I watched on a Monday afternoon, and even if there were a lot of senior citizens there, the entire theater felt as if we were a full theater with all the loud reactions we had to the film. It has also been quite some time since I’ve watched a movie in which the audience was this responsive, so it was quite refreshing, and a clear sign that Spielberg is indeed back.
The movie and the book do have a lot of differences from each other, but I felt like all the essential plot beats were there, and it made sense that they changed the challenges due to copyright and time length issues. However, the changes did work for me, and I felt like it also added some depth to some of the characters as well.
However, this isn’t a perfect film, as I felt that there was one actress who could have done more as I know she’s capable of it, as sometimes there was more tell than show, that certain character background stories and build ups were too rushed, and the ending with the villains was anti-climactic but done in a very old fashioned movie kind of way.
Silvestri is a composer that has been on my radar for a long time, as he did compose the scores for the likes of “Back to the Future”, “The Avengers”, and “Captain America: The First Avenger”. While I’ve loved all of his scores, I’ve always felt that his best work was for “Back to the Future”, and his score for this movie is reminiscent of it and is my second best favorite score of his.
Sheridan was great as Watts/Parzival, and he had a great and easy chemistry with Olivia Cooke’s Samantha/Art3mis, who also impressed me with her acting. The other Gunters were great as well, with the limited material they were given, as I felt that they weren’t as well fleshed out as the other two. Mendelsohn definitely relished every moment he had onscreen as the perfect corporate antagonist; while Rylance and Pegg portrayed their characters as I thought Halliday and Morrow would be in the book.
All in all, “Ready Player One” is a fantastic Spielberg film that brings him back to form. It does have its flaws, but it is a fun and nostalgic ride, and a love letter to the ’80s and geeks everywhere, that should definitely be watched on the big screen, or on IMAX, if you can.
Now, you know the drill, from here on out, there will be spoilers!
As I mentioned earlier, I did feel that Spielberg is back to form with this particular movie, and I do hope that this will continue with his future movies going forward. I felt that the magic he had in his previous films was very much felt here despite all the CGI that was involved in the film- from the tone, the big action sequences, to the heart, all the way down to the villains. It had a Spielberg like quality to it, and honestly, no one quite does adventure movies like Spielberg does. Another thing that I loved about this movie is that it felt like a huge roller coaster ride, and it was able to fully engage its audience so much so that even though the movie theater I was in was only a fourth full, the reactions were so loud that it felt like I was in a full theater.
The action sequences were well done, all the way from the race at the beginning, all the way down to the wonderful big showdown with all of the citizens of the OASIS charging at the IOI minions and Sorrento.
As the novel itself is based on pure nostalgia, the movie also worked the same way. And just like the book, the nostalgic elements weren’t just there for pure fan service, but served particular purposes. King Kong was a huge obstacle in the race challenge, they swapped “War Games” and “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” for “The Shining” for that immersive movie experience bit, the use of the Atari game “Adventure”, Akira’s iconic bike, a replica of the Iron Giant that was used by Aech in the final battle, the customized DeLorean that Parzival favors to use as a vehicle of choice, among others. Of course, there were other pop-culture references galore in the background, but I wasn’t able to pinpoint and pick out all of them. Oh, and let us not forget Daito coming into the fight during that final big battle sequence using a Gundam, which was complete with the trademark glint of steel that is usually found in mecha anime when their respective pilots suit up. (To be honest, I was really looking forward to seeing Voltron truly being used, but I am very happy with what I got and saw).
There were many differences between the movie and the book, but unlike other adaptations, aside from the fact that the movie was co-written by Cline himself, I was alright with the changes. There were some things that I do wish had been translated better in the movie, and there were also some changes that I wish did happen in the book.
For example, Watt’s dysfunctional home life wasn’t really shown that much in the movie whereas it was clearly illustrated in the book. I liked the fact that they gave Art3mis or Samantha more motivation to want to win Easter Egg Hunt in the movie, which, I felt, gave her more depth of character. However, I do wish that they did build up Watt’s cybercrush on Art3mis like they did in the book. Daito, Sho, and Aech also felt a little bit short changed, as not much was done to delve into their characters. Sorrento was also given more backstory, which I felt was well done.
Regarding the changes for the challenges in the book versus the movie, as much as I would have wanted to see the challenges in the book, I do understand that it would be hard to do it in the movie, so they went with the next best thing, have them do particular game challenges for each part of the game. This also allowed them to compress the main plot beats of the entire book into the movie. I also like that they chose “The Shining” as the immersive movie for the second challenge, because it got a lot of good reactions from the audience due to the nature of the movie. I would have loved to see “War Games”, but I’m pretty sure that it wouldn’t get the big reactions “The Shining” lends itself towards.
It’s also pretty believable that something like the OASIS could happen in the near future, as we already do have prototypes abound for this type of thing.
I also like how the movie emphasized more on the fact that aside from being a fun adventure hunt, in a way, the entire story allows you to also get to know James Halliday without him actually being there.
The movie has a strong message that is very relevant- that no matter how harsh reality is, there is some beauty in experiencing things in the real world versus the virtual world, as the virtual world is not real at all. In an age where social media, online games, and augmented reality is rampant, this message does remind us to put down our phones and game consoles for a while, and live in the real world, where actual real connections do happen.
What did you think of “Ready Player One”? Do you think Spielberg is back to form? What other Easter Eggs and pop-culture references were you able to pick out in the movie? What did you like or not like about it? Let me know what you think in the comments below!
Image Source: Official Ready Player One Facebook Page