Thursday, 23 August 2018

Ready Player One ★★★★☆

‘Ready Player One’ is, believe it or not, Steven Spielberg’s 31st feature film that he has directed and, despite being a full 44 years after his first feature film directing role, hasn’t lost any of the magic that he’s so well known for. The film itself is based on the bestselling book of the same name by Ernest Cline.

Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) lives in the year 2045, in a very different Oklahoma to the one the world currently knows. Reality is no longer a positive one, but the invention of a virtual reality experience known as the OASIS by the eccentric James Halliday (Mark Rylance) has allowed people to escape their everyday lives and instead play out the lives they want. When Halliday dies, he leaves behind a video that is played to the entire population, promising the ownership of the OASIS to whoever can find his hidden Easter egg within the simulation before everyone else. Wade, like everyone else, decides to take the challenge on alongside his best friends and Art3mis (Olivia Cooke), a well-known player who is determined to stop the evil corporation IOI from winning the rights to the OASIS and changing the world for the worse.

For any gamers, film watchers, or popular culture enthusiasts out there, ‘Ready Player One’ is a dream come true, namely because of the ridiculous amount of Easter eggs and references that it’s filled with. This is an issue in some ways, as if you don’t have that prior knowledge then a lot of these will go over your head. Despite its excellent CGI, storytelling, and general plot, a lot of people might find they don’t enjoy it purely because of the content. Of course, the gaming and film community is massive, so it’s not particularly niche and explains why it still made $582m. 

Your view on virtual reality will also affect your concept of the film – some may see it as exciting and fun, whereas others might get a more dystopian feel. It focuses on quite a few issues surrounding gaming and VR at the moment such as addiction, micro-transactions, and gender inequality, but also reminds the viewer that these can be fixed and that the gaming world is full of loads of positive things, from tight-knit communities to creative expression (and the obvious element of fun).  It’s also interesting how it highlights the role of VR within reality and shows real-life consequences to actions taken in the OASIS.

There was just so much that I loved about the film, from the clever storytelling, focusing on a David & Goliath style underdog story, to the fast-paced and energetic action scenes that it definitely wasn’t short of. The pacing was good as well, although at 2hr 19min it’s quite a long one. The characters are mostly likeable and relatable (in particular Wade’s group of online friends), but I did feel the romance subplot was a tad forced and predictable – had it been removed it wouldn’t have taken away from the overall message. The writers also could have been more inventive than using protagonist narration, which gets the point across but wasn’t really necessary.

Despite a couple of flaws, ‘Ready Player One’ is an engaging and all-encompassing watch that cleverly replicates its own subject matter and makes you feel more like a player than a spectator. Gamers and cinephiles – this ones for you.

Hannah Read

Ready Player One at CeX

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