Distributor: Warner Bros.
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writers: Ernest Cline (novel & screenplay) & Zak Penn (screenplay)
Starring: Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Mark Rylance, Simon Pegg, Lena Waithe, Philip Zao, Win Morisaki
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-fi
Rating: PG-13 – Sci-fi action violence, bloody images, some suggestive material, partial nudity and language
Okay. I admit it—I game. Naturally, I was in line to see Steven Spielberg’s take on a gamer flick. Would it be as cutting edge as War Games back in the day? Ready Player One looked like a buffet of virtual reality, complete with a hero and a contest for the keys to the OASIS, the immersive virtual universe where anyone can be anything. And while truly entertaining, the possibility of a cult classic ended up as just a feel-good watch.
Violence/Scary Images: There are very few games, console or online (even board games) where violence is excluded. Ready Player One is chock full of explosions, shoot-outs, and avatars that burst into virtual coins, but there is never any blood. There is a reference in the OASIS to a classic horror movie that includes a replaying of blood washing down a hallway. On the reality side of the movie, drones demolish the stacked mobile homes, and shots are fired in chase scenes. There’s also a scary visual of a beautiful woman who emaciates into an old hag.
Language/Crude Humor: The F-word is dropped once in the movie. S*** takes first place, with six or so uses, alongside H***. God’s name is used in vain three times and one avatar flies the middle finger.
Spiritual Content: There are magical OASIS artifacts that are activated/deactivated by spells chanted by the characters. The creator of the OASIS, Halliday, is celebrated as a god (little g) by those who study his clues in pursuit of the keys.
Sexual Content: Some OASIS avatars ooze sensuality, i.e. low-cut dresses and strategically placed fur. There’s a scene with a naked woman, seen only from the back, stepping from a bathtub. Wade wears a pressure sensitive suit (so he can feel what is being done in the OASIS to his avatar’s body) and is seduced/caressed…which lights up the crotch of his suit.
Drug/Alcohol References: Some avatars meet in a club, but no alcohol is seen/served.
Positive Content: Some friendships can start in a virtual space and carry into real life. It can be construed to say that this movie pushes the viewer to get out and enjoy the world more, which can be a positive view (except for those with airborne allergies).
MMORPG. Sounds like a punny acronym for a backward prom or some new hashtag. But massive multi online role-playing games have been around for decades, with its toddler stages in the 80’s. Atari and Commodore 64 paved the way for Ultima Online and World of Warcraft. In Ready Player One, the world seeks to escape the reality of a dismal Earth. They seek the OASIS, an immersive virtual reality. You can be anyone or anything you want to be. And who wouldn’t want to run to a world like this when you live in a multi-storied trailer park and sleep on the washing machine like Wade Watts.
Even a nobody can be a hero. And the creator of the OASIS wants someone to inherit his creation, so he hid clues inside. This way, no one can buy their way to the top, much to the chagrin of Sorrento, the owner of IOI, who is a power-hungry bureaucrat. More than anything, this film is a homage to the 80’s and online gaming. Even the poster begs a viewer to cue up Lloyd Dobler, the truest nobody who ever existed in film. All it takes are a few friends to find the keys to the OASIS before Sorrento can crash the party.
Tye Sheridan, who is cast as the main character Parzivel/Wade, already walked into the nerd realm through the X-Men franchise. Here, he takes on a vaguely familiar role: handsome, yet poor teen, who just wants to escape to the Oasis. Will he get the girl and the keys to the proverbial Wonka factory? Said girl, Art3mis/ Samantha, is played by Olivia Cooke, of Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl fame. Ben Mendelsohn ramps up the quintessential, cookie-cutter arch-nemesis Sorrento. The handful of supporting cast really lend weight on both the OASIS side and the real-life scenes. Mark Rylance plays Halliday, the recluse and deceased creator of the OASIS.
Ready Player One divides the screen between reality and the CGI driven OASIS. The CGI is flawless and captures the essence that most gamers dream of since current gaming lacks the full immersion. This film is so full of Easter eggs from the past years of online and console games, that you’ll get whiplash trying to keep up.
Waxing on nostalgia, the soundtrack for the movie is firmly planted in the 80’s—a tribute to the budding years of video games and a generation of some really good music. The soundtrack ranges from Prince to Oingo Boingo, and all the way to Billy Idol. Alan Silvestri scores the in-betweens, adding to his clutch of geekdom from Captain America and Lara Croft. The remixes (Willy Wonka!) only enhance the overall feeling of the melding the 80’s to the OASIS.
**SPOILERS** The ending fell short for me. I’ve played MMORPG for a long time and even I can echo Aech’s warning to Parzivel: “…you gotta be more careful about who you meet in the OASIS.” Outlandishly, all of the main characters happen to be upstanding and oppressed kids and live in the same area…of the globe. **END OF SPOILERS** Even from the get-go, the plot is fairly predictable. The film’s conclusion is a neatly bow-tied and the potential for greatness is lost. But it’s worth a view or two if only to see how many different cartoon, bands, or games you can spot in the flick.
The Bottom Line