Ready Player One
Current pop-culture seems to rely a lot on nostalgia for the 80’s and 90’s culture; be it with Stranger Things, It, or the most heavily infused reference-bonanza yet: Ready Player One. And whom else could direct make an homage to 80s culture than Steven Spielberg.
Ready Player One is a loose adaptation of the Ernest Cline novel. The story follows Wade (Tye Sheridan) in Columbus, Ohio in 2044. The world is consumed with the virtual reality craze, no one seems to live in the real world; instead they live in the VR program called the OASIS. The founder of the OASIS (Mark Rylance) has died and he leaves his $500 trillion worth of shares to whoever can figure out his puzzle/treasure hunt inside his VR world. Wade, living in the slums of Ohio, teams up with other renegades (played by Olivia Cooke and Lena Waithe) in a race against the evil corporation of IOI headed by the greedy Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn) to become the inheritor of the OASIS.
When the story goes into the VR world it is filled with so many references you couldn’t possible catch them all in one viewing; you might catch glimpses of Freddy Krueger, Beetlejuice, Halo, etc. The visual effects in the OASIS are astounding as everything is computer generated; each skin cell seems to be calibrated to the point that it looks more defined than the flesh and bone actors. It’s no wonder it took nearly two years of production to finish the film.
The plot itself is unlike anything seen in recent cinema; it somehow manages to be freshly original by borrowing and building on references. However, after an hour and a half of playing I-Spy on the screen you start to wonder if the film is simply built for references to distract from telling an actual story. The third act is underwhelming, mostly because it falls into a very generic final battle, not something you expect from Spielberg.
Spielberg also seems to have lost his footing with the casting. The exceptions are both Olivia Cooke and Ben Mendelsohn, who stand out above the rest; they seem to grasp the concept and tone of the story much better than other actors. On the other side is Tye Sheridan, who puts up a feeble and uncharismatic performance; his CGI scenes seem to have more impact since the animators could tweak his physical performance, but without their help, his ‘real world’ scenes are a drag. All the ‘real world’ scenes were so dull that the audience became impatient to go back into the OASIS.
In the end, though, Ready Player One is a fun time. Spielberg seems to be cruising on autopilot, but by simply doing that, he’s spewed a better blockbuster sci-fi than half of the ones released today. The nostalgia aspect is sure to hook you, but only for so long, after the glitz dies down you’re only left with a bland plot and a weak lead.