In the year 2045, the world has become a dark and depressing place; thanks primarily to a deteriorating environment, and a population that has reached its breaking point. The world is in such a state of dystopian existence, that people prefer to live their lives immersed as avatars inside of virtual reality. The reality they’re living in, where they can be the people they want to be, and live the sort of lives they desire, is known as Oasis, which stands for Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation. The co-creator of the world’s virtual refuge, eccentric, James Halliday, portrayed by Oscar and multiple BAFTA winner, Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies), has died. He has left the rights to his creation to any individual who can win a three part quest, known as Anorak’s Quest. In order to win the quest, players need to hunt down three keys that are hidden inside of smaller quests. The player that can find the three keys, will discover Halliday’s final Easter egg, and ultimately win control of Oasis. Oasis is not only worth a tremendous amount in terms of its monetary value, but also the political power that is garnered by controlling it. (As an aside: The co-creator of Oasis, Ogden Morrow is played by BAFTA nominee, Simon Pegg (Star Trek: Beyond).
The action-packed, imaginative, and well-paced, “Ready Player One” is based on Ernest Cline’s best-selling science-fiction novel of the same name, which was published on August 16, 2011 by Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House. Furthermore, Cline co-wrote the screenplay for the film with Zak Penn (The Avengers). Firstly, for fans of the novel, who haven’t yet seen the movie, the film should be a pleasant surprise. The film does deviate from the novel in certain respects by leaving some of its heavier themes out, but it also adds scenes that were not in the novel, but should, nonetheless, entertain.
The main star of the film, who is vying for control of Oasis, is orphaned teenager, Wade Watts. He lives in a trailer park, in Columbus, Ohio, with his aunt Alice (Susan Lynch), and her boyfriend, Rick (Ralph Ineson). The likeable and talented, Wade, A.K.A. Parzival, is played by Tye Sheridan (X-Men: Apocalypse). He believes he has the knowledge and the knowhow to win the game, and is the only player, thus far, to have captured even one of Halliday’s three keys. Wade is joined by the astute Art3Mis, portrayed by Olivia Cooke (Bates Motel) and the strong, Aech, played by Emmy winner, Lena Waithe (Master of None). Additional members of the ‘High Five,’ the name of Wade’s group, are brothers’ Daito (Win Morisaki) and Sho (Philip Zhao). The ‘High Five’ members will have to compete against the likes of the villainous, CEO of Innovative Online Industries, Sorrento, a role acted by Emmy winner Ben Mendelsohn (Bloodline), and his main henchman, I-ROk (T.J. Miller). The battle between the different groups might be taking place in cyber space, but the end result of who wins, will have lasting implications.
There are a wealth of pop culture references in “Ready Player One,” two examples, are, the DeLorean from the film “Back to the Future,” and the T-Rex from “Jurassic Park.” The two that I mentioned, don’t even scratch the surface of the well known, numerous references that the viewer will see throughout the film. In fact, the film’s detractors, have taken issue with what they feel was an overabundance of pop culture references. The visual effects are nothing short of stunning. Credit must also be paid to the outstanding work done by two-time, Oscar winning cinematographer, Janusz Kaminski (Saving Private Ryan); one example, amongst several that stood out, was the race scene which takes place in the first part of the film. In addition to the score composed by Emmy winner, Alan Silvestri (Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey), which synchs up well with what is transpiring on screen, the soundtrack to the film features a number of pop songs, for example, “Faith” by George Michael, and “Hungry Like the Wolf” by Duran Duran.
“Ready Player One” premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival on March 11, 2018. The film was directed by two-time Oscar winner Steven Spielberg (Schindler’s List). Spielberg hasn’t directed a film of this type in quite some time, opting instead to utilize his talents to work on dramatic themed films such as “Lincoln” and “The Post,” so it was nice to see him return to his roots of well made, escapist fun. Parts action, adventure, and sci-fi, the film has a runtime of 140 minutes. While not everyone will like the film, that is clear based on several reviews I’ve read, for fans of Spielberg that were hungering for the director to make another highly entertaining, blockbuster film, this is a must see.