Video game movies are always a hit or miss. The latest Tomb Raider movie was such a trainwreck in my opinion that I refused to even review it or talk about it on GameZone which left me with very little hope for Stephen Spielberg's Ready Player One. Well, I had to eat my words as it could be the best video game movie ever made. It manages to deliver heartwarming messages while filling it with so many easter eggs and pop culture references that you would have to watch the movie a few times to fully grasp the sheer amount of detail in it all. Ready Player One surpassed everything we have experienced about movies based on video games and that is probably due to it being so expanded across the culture.
Ready Player One is based on a 2011 novel of the same name. I have never read the book before but I hear from friends that the film adaption is very different from it. So if you have read the book then this would be a good watch too. The film is set in 2045 where humanity no longer lives in reality. Sure, they have houses and oxygen to breath but the world has turned to rubbish and to escape from it all they now log into an online virtual world called The Oasis. This VR world goes beyond anything we as gamers have ever experienced before. Think about every single game and its story, assets and design being combined together to make up a gigantic universe of everything. That is the Oasis, an infinite universe where players live their second lives and are able to be who they want, look as they feel, and bathe in this infinite digital realm and everything it has to offer.
The Oasis was created by the late James Halliday (Mark Rylance). James hid three keys away somewhere in the game before his passing and the player to find them by solving the puzzles would inherit the Easter Egg and the entire Oasis simulation and brand. Because of this, a well-funded military company called IOI was formed to create master players that would search for the keys in the game. They have had no luck since.
The movie picks up on the story of Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) who is an average player in the Oasis with a dream to find the keys, inherit all the money from the system and buy a mansion with everything he could ever dream of. Ready Player One, in theory, stars double the cast. We have the actors who play a real part in the real world and their avatars that we spend much of the movie following. Wade Watts' avatar is Parzival and his partner in crime
The whole movie plays out like a typical action adventure. There is a touch of romance in it but in general, it is pure eye candy as the CG work is gorgeous. Everything in the Oasis is detailed to the tee and the sheer amount of attention to detail in each scene has to be seen to be believed. Every so often the movie takes you to a social hub where dozens of gaming characters are walking by and you could probably sit there for hours picking up all the well-known characters from the games we all love and play right from the first Mario Bros all the way to Battleborne and Halo. The action scenes are littered with pop-culture references and Steven Spielberg really put a lot of detail in making sure that the Oasis looks and feels like a combination of everything. It is delivered in a gorgeous package for you to feast on.
Throughout Wade's journey to find these three keys the group of players made up of different avatars travel to various locations and one particular one stood out for me. Halfway through the film, there is a large emphasis on the Shining. You see, in order to find these keys the group need to discover what Jame Halliday loved the most and decipher his view of the world and the Oasis in general. The movie layers the plot with a large emphasis on “why we game” and I personally took home a personal message about it. James believes that the true intention of Oasis was no longer the focus and the group of Easter Egg-hunting avatars need to read into his video diaries to discover a more emotional side to the creator.
The Shining and all the locations and objects that lead up to the key all play a big role in the film's hidden agenda. There's is a lot to digest but viewers will at first see a big online world of awesome things and then realize that there is much more to gaming and that is the most important message I took away from the film.
IOI, the military organization, has other plans for the prize as they want to gather these three keys for themselves and gain full access to Oasis. Of course, they make up much of the film's darker twists and turns as they cause havoc for Wade and his party who are running from them while trying to hunt for the objects that they want. The way that Steven Spielberg merged reality with this digital realm went way above my expectations and often I questioned the limits to the Oasis' potential as it comes to life in so many ways.
IOI and the Avatars are thrown so many curveballs which are so well thought of. One particular moment was when Sorrento, the leader of IOI believes that he logs out of the Oasis but meanwhile Aech and Wade just created a virtual room that was a one-to-one replica of his office to trick him. This sort of trickery and scene would not be possible in any other film so the way Ready Player One makes use of all its resources to create something so fresh was great to see in action.
My only issue with the film is that there is often a lot happening and fast too. The entire experience is gorgeous to look at but the plot races through moment which it could focus a bit more on and other drawn-out scenes could have been snipped. Other plot holes include scenes that really have no meaning to the goal of the current chapter rather they are there to act as fluff. While still good to watch, I wondered why they would include some of them?
I think the most important takeaway from Ready Player One was how it managed to stay honest without it relying on gimmicks and cliche gaming connotations. Its characters are great to get to know and they throw some humour at you that I welcomed with open arms, and you never know what you are going to get next from them in this digital world or everything.
Ready Player One's message overall was very much what we deal with as gamers. We are put into boxes, chased around by corporate companies, and with all these leagues and emphasis on competitive gaming, we forget about the true nature of the medium. We need to take a step back and remember why we play games and the people we have met through it. That to me was something no film has taught me and that is why I believe that everyone should give this a watch. Ready Player One is filled with gorgeous set pieces, easter eggs and gaming references for you to digest days after viewing it, and a heart-warming message that relates to every gamer out there.