Breanna Brink, Staff Writer
Nearly automatically, “Ready Player One” was advertising itself with the nostalgic music and wild visuals ready to engage with viewers. Adapted from the novel by Ernest Cline, the film takes what works while cutting out the things that make it harder to consume. The first trailer teased the viewer with a towering iron giant, a DeLorean swirling through fall leaves, and a call to a virtual reality that could be our future. This movie approaches the source material as a guideline, and adapts itself to be a palatable, reference filled romp, with portrayals that come eerily close to reality, and some that are so outrageously fabricated it can only be seen as entertaining. “Ready Player One” is not flawless, but it is undeniably fun to watch. While it comes from a divisive novel, fans seem split on whether or not it should be celebrated in an increasingly nit-picky world. I would have to say I found very little offensive about the film, which is a strength in its own right.
In the summary provided by IMDb, we see that “in the year 2045, the world has been gripped by an energy crisis from the depletion of fossil fuels and the consequences of global warming, and overpopulation, causing widespread social problems and economic stagnation. To escape the decline their world is facing, people turn to the OASIS, a virtual reality simulator accessible by players using visors and haptic technology such as gloves.”
The idea of escaping from the real world is always an argument people use in both favor and fault of video games, and this film addresses both alternatives. “It functions both as an MMORPG and as a virtual society, with its currency being the most stable in the real world. It was created by James Halliday who, when he died, had announced in his will to the public that he had left an Easter egg inside OASIS, and the first person to find it would inherit his entire fortune and the corporation.” The movie picks up here, following the life of Wade Watts, portrayed by Tye Sheridan, and his team called High-5, five years after Halliday’s death and the discovery of the first key.
The film is not over stimulating with its visuals, and blends the OASIS into a viewing wonder. Creativity gathered together with individual avatars, each one betraying something about their personality. It says a lot when your main antagonist has the avatar of a Clark Kent-esque cartoon character and how he feels about himself, versus our female leads, played by Olivia Cooke, a porcupine like femme fatal body. The cast is well played, diverse to an extent, and even with an LGBT character canonically running along with the main cast, though I won’t say who for spoiler reasons. Our two older characters play just as important roles as Wade himself does. Halliday, portrayed by Mark Rylance, is a scruffy but endearing elderly man. He carries an awkwardness that indicates he might be somewhere on the spectrum, but seems purposefully vague and inoffensive about this portrayal. He wishes to keep the OASIS open to everyone, both as an escape and a way to make friends. He is quoted saying “I never felt at home in the real world, so I made the OASIS.” This is something many people can relate to. Sorrento, played by Ben Mendelsohn, is a cliché but charismatic villain who doesn’t even enjoy video games himself. The characters are all archetypes, but they are still necessarily allegorical.
Tasha Robinson from The Verge stated “It’s still a visual festival of ‘80s culture that sometimes hinges significant jokes on the assumption that the audience knows the filmography of Robert Zemeckis, or will chortle over a reference to ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail.’ But the film improves significantly on the book by prioritizing the story over the signifiers. The hardcore pop-culture crowd that is this movie’s ultimate intended audience will have plenty to pour over and pick apart in this film. But the story moves briskly enough, and with enough giant-sized, screen-friendly excitement, that it doesn’t feel like it’s aimed solely and specifically at them.” This couldn’t be more accurate. As a film and video game fan, it is quite enjoyable to point out references, or laugh over a squad of Halo character Master Chiefs running into battle together. Spielberg truly pays homage to several of his deceased friends, such as Kubrick and Hughes. If you don’t get one reference, you are sure to get three more, and the film tries very hard not to leave anyone out.
Despite initial backlash from some aggressive groups considering anything about video games to be controversial, the film has been a passion project for many people, and it is obvious the writers and director cared deeply for the source material present within the film. As A. O. Scott from the New York Times said confidently, “‘Ready Player One’ is far from a masterpiece, but as the fanboys say, it’s canon.”