Are you ready for a genuinely fun time at a movie theater? Looking for something that doesn’t require anything of you other than that you relax, tune out the world, and just enjoy what’s on the screen? Ready Player One perfectly fits the bill and lives up to the high expectations established following its premiere screening at SXSW. Ready Player One is a two-hour joyful pop culture celebration, a non-stop but not exhausting visual extravaganza that feels fresh and old-school at the same time.
Steven Spielberg taps into something incredibly special with this feature film adaptation of Ernest Cline’s popular novel. The PG-13 action adventure sprinkles so many pop culture references throughout its 140 minute running time that it’s impossible to catch them all in one viewing. In fact, one of the most enjoyable elements of watching it in a packed theater is hearing members of the audience react to recognizable characters/creatures when they pop up unexpectedly.
The film is set in 2045 and puts forth a future in which everyone escapes from the real world’s problems of poverty and overpopulation by entering the OASIS, a virtual world where you can be anyone and do anything. Wade Watts/Parzival (Tye Sheridan) and his friends (who he hasn’t met in the real world) are obsessed with winning a contest set up by OASIS creator James Halliday (Mark Rylance). Prior to his death, Halliday created a treasure hunt within OASIS in which participants must search for three hidden keys. Whoever wins the challenge will be rewarded with control over Halliday’s fortune and over the OASIS.
Wade cruises the OASIS in a Back to the Future DeLorean. There are multiple references to John Hughes and Robert Zemeckis, and even a T-Rex from Spielberg’s Jurassic Park shows up in all its CGI glory. King Kong, a gremlin (or maybe two), and characters from popular video games (including HALO) are part of what can only be described as a cinematic geekfest. Plus, The Shining is well represented in one of the film’s most memorable scenes. What’s crazy is that when the film’s over, you’ll forget at least half of who you recognized and your memories won’t match your movie date’s.
Tye Sheridan does a terrific job of leading the talented cast that includes Mark Rylance, Olivia Cooke as Art3mis/Samantha, Lena Waithe as Aech/Helen, Philip Zhao as Sho, Win Morisaki as Daito, Simon Pegg as Ogden Morrow, and TJ Miller as I-R0k. Ben Mendelsohn handles the role of Sorrento, the film’s main villain, and refrains from playing him as mustache-twirling bad guy which he easily could have been given the exaggerated sci-fi world in which the character exists.
Ready Player One’s like waking up on Christmas morning to find all your favorite toys from years gone by, many of which you’d all but forgotten, gathered together and just waiting to be played with. It’s amazing that Ready Player One is able to play to all age groups and both sexes. Not all references and characters will mean something to every audience member, but it doesn’t matter because if you don’t catch something others in the audience are reacting to, the next scene will probably include something relatable to your age group.
There’s a surprising amount of heart to Ready Player One, but the film doesn’t hit you over the head with its message. Instead, it’s more concerned with entertaining the audience and keeps the story on a more surface level as far as character development’s concerned. It doesn’t really delve into why the OASIS exists and why it’s become so important to the Earth’s population.
Despite the fact the story is all fluff and no filling, Ready Player One is the kind of pure popcorn entertainment we need in this crazy world. Escapism at its best, Ready Player One is fine family entertainment and a film that deserves to be seen with your fellow geeks on a gigantic screen.
Release Date: March 29, 2018
Running Time: 140 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action violence, bloody images, some suggestive material, partial nudity and language