Ready Player One is the best film based around video games since Wreck it Ralph and I couldn’t be happier. While pop culture in general is highly prevalent in this movie, video games are at the fore front. With the premise of the film being about the Oasis, essentially upgraded virtual reality gaming, the focus on gaming is clear. Much of the story is positioned around retro gaming such as The Atari and the creator of the Oasis revolved his life around games and creating an escape from reality.
The set pieces and too many to count pop culture references were spot on. Near the beginning of the film the bar is set high for what we can expect in terms of set pieces. As seen in the trailers we get to see King Kong, Iron Giant, Spartans, and more. We see several DC characters and many others are referenced. It’s not surprising considering it’s a WB property and they wouldn’t need to pay to put their content in the movie. Even still there are many references to non WB entities. A popular Sci-fi franchise from 30 years ago is referenced, Star Trek gets easter eggs, classic horror films are referenced and characters shown, classic music, and much more. There are far too many to count and much of it from the 1980’s. It is interesting to see the trend in 80’s related content (The Goldbergs, Stranger Things) and I loved it. There is so much great history and so many pop culture icons to be enjoyed.
Every protagonist in the movie is a big nerd which made it highly relate-able. Tye Sheridan (Wade) and Olivia Cooke (Samantha) had great chemistry and played their parts perfectly. As a gamer, comic reader, sci-fi fan, fantasy lover and more there was a lot to be digested. Wade and Samantha, for instance, are able to cite pop culture references from the top of their heads and do so constantly throughout the film. It is clear that the Oasis and pop culture have shaped their lives and made them who they are. There is a particularly enjoyable moment where another character is pretending to like pop culture to get on Wade’s good side and it is obvious that he has no idea what he is talking about. Imagine a middle aged man trying to be “cool” to a teenager and how ridiculous they look. It was a great moment that added to the overall theme of the movie.
As far as villains go, Ben Mendelsohn (Sorrento) does a fine job but the writing isn’t particularly strong. His motivation is generic (wealth and power) and his development pretty non existent. He’s pretty much just a power hungry businessman willing to do whatever it takes to control the Oasis and therefore become even richer than he already is. Of additional concern with the villain is the organization known as IOI and how much they get away with. They do a bit in the real world to cause trouble and the police are no where to be found. The film explains that this is a future world that isn’t as civilized as our current day society but it is still regulated considering the main plot point is to complete a hunt in the Oasis in order to gain the controlling shares of the company that created the Oasis and thereby gain control of it. Obviously it is still a land of some law and order since there is a regulated stock market which made the lack of police in most of the film concerning.
The Oasis was the best part of the film and luckily is where most of it took place. The avatars were slightly unrealistic looking but in a way that made it feel more like a video game. I was impressed with the motion capture and how I didn’t feel as if anything was out of place. It may have helped that the Oasis was pretty much all CGI but I never found myself pushed out of the immersion. I personally hope to see a day and age where we get something at least close to the Oasis as I could see myself having an amazing time with it.
Despite the mediocre villain, the story is fun and allows the viewer some engagement. There are several puzzles that take a little time to solve which allows the viewer to see the discovery and be a part of the process. It added to my overall enjoyment and immersion. The way the Oasis was structured reminded me of gaming. There were in game transactions for gear, in game currency which you could earn by play or pay for, respawning, inventories, item management, upgrades, and more. All of the attention to detail really brought mt in as a gamer and led to my position that this is the best video game based movie since Wreck it Ralph and potentially ever. It is truly an achievement which doesn’t surprise me considering Steven Spielberg was at the helm. By no means is this a movie meant to send a deep message or win awards. On the contrary, it is extremely self aware and full of entertaining set pieces, cameos, humor, and action. I personally look forward to seeing it again in the near future so I can pick out even more references and be extremely entertained again. WB hit it out of the park with this one and I am happy to say it is the most fun I have had in a theater all year. Do yourself a favor and check it out!
4 out of 5 Couch Cushions and a throw pillow (4.5)