On IMDb, the trivia section of ‘Ready Player One’ states that this is Steven Spielberg’s first science fiction film since War of the Worlds in 2005 and his first action/adventure fantasy since ‘The Adventures of Tintin’ in 2011. Let’s just say that I’m happy he’s returned to the genres that made him a household name, and coincidentally, what got him referenced in the book of Ernest Cline of which the film is based on.
Spielberg’s vision seems perfect in bringing to life Cline’s vision of a harsh world where people prefer to live most of their lives (if not all) in the virtual reality game called the OASIS. Like any video game, humanity can choose an avatar of varying shapes and sizes and interact in the multiple, limitless worlds in this virtual reality.
But when Ready Player One begins, it seems everyone is on a quest to find the hidden Easter Egg left behind by the deceased creator of the OASIS. Anyone who finds the hidden Easter Egg will inherit a large sum of money and sole ownership of the virtual world. Our protagonist, Wade Watts, who is called Parzival in the OASIS, lives for the OASIS. There, he is the person he wants to be, has a small select group of friends, and wants to find the Easter Egg to have a better life than the one he has in Columbus, Ohio.
But the shady corporation IOI want the Easter Egg for themselves. IOI have the resources and the manpower to tip the odds in their favor and their big boss, Nolan Sorrento, is not above playing dirty. When Wade finds the first of three keys, the hunt for the Easter Egg just got very serious and the loner must rely on his few friends and the mysterious gamer Ar3mis to finish the quest as IOI comes closing in.
As expected, ‘Ready Player One’ is an entertaining visual feast of CGI effects, great action, and heavy on the 80s and 90s pop culture references that the book pays tribute to–everything from Gundam, the Iron Giant, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Tron, Back to the Future, and so much more–run rampant through the game and it’s virtual heaven for geeks and nerds alike. There is even a big homage to one of Spielberg’s good friends, Stanley Kubrick, that plays out quite nicely.
The effects are stunning, and Spielberg is a master at creating thrilling sequences and elaborate action setups that are enjoyable to watch, especially on the big screen. Taken at face value, Ready Player One is a great time at the cinema.
Unfortunately, the story plays out kind of thin. The hunt for the three keys is filled with information the audience isn’t privy to so we feel disconnected from the search. There’s a love story that feels hollow and forced. And while the characters are likable, even endearing, there isn’t much to them outside what the narrative needs.
What I do appreciate are the many themes that the film tackles, from the corporatization and commercialization of our pop culture and our means of access to it (like video games and movies and social media) to this wave of escapism and this generation’s inability to disconnect, and the film’s rallying cry for people to stand up against an oppressive corporate regime who wants to monetize, regulate, and control our safe spaces and the means with which we enjoy our lives.
There is a simplicity, even a naivete, that permeates every scene. It’s very black and white, and it feels dated that way. It’s an innocence that just doesn’t reflect today’s world, which is filled with gray areas. But maybe that’s part of the appeal. Regardless, it’s still a joy to watch, and maybe even a little dangerous, because no matter how much the film tries to tell us that the OASIS is virtual and not the same as reality, it certainly doesn’t make it seem any less enticing.
'Ready Player One' will open in Philippine cinemas this Saturday, March 31, 2018.