When I first saw the trailer for Ready Player One after SDCC in 2017, I freaked out and asked myself “Why haven’t I read this yet?” I immediately bought the book, and finished it pretty quickly. As someone who is around the age of the main character, and who is obsessed with the pop culture sensations of other decades, I felt an immediate connection with the main character Wade Watts.
Wade lives in the year 2049 in Columbus Ohio, although that is his physical location, he and most of the world live in the virtual utopia known as the Oasis. The Oasis was the elaborate creation James Halladay, who created an “easter egg” hidden in the game to be found after his death. Whoever finds the egg gains control of the Oasis, and Halladay’s entire fortune. When a corporation with bad intentions is out to win control of the oasis, Wade must team up with other egg hunters known as gunters to find the egg first.
Given my love for the novel, I was excited but also a bit skeptical that some of my favorite parts of the book would be changed. While some of the things that I wanted to see, weren’t depicted the film finds plenty of other things to make up for it. The one thing that I definitely did not do is doubt Steven Spielberg. He has this uncanny ability to make films feel magical. Some of his recent films like Bridge of Spies, and The Post were good films but didn’t have much “movie magic.” That feeling is back in Ready Player One.
This is a story that takes some serious explaining to completely understand, and with that I expected it to be rather exposition heavy. While there is a lot of exposition, the film does a good job of not just spewing it out, and also not slowing down the narrative when something needs to be explained. I do feel that maybe if you have read the book, and understand things that are left unexplained you will get more enjoyment out of the movie, as it adds another element to it.
The visuals and the cast are huge standouts in this movie. Some of the shots are incredible, and it is crazy to me that Spielberg was even able to dream them up. He is at the top of his game even throwing out references to his own films. Some people won’t like all of the pop culture references, and that’s fine, but for me watching everything was crazy fun, almost like a guessing game that Spielberg laid out for the audience.
Ready Player One is cast exceptionally well, as I really can only disagree with one decision. Tye Sheridan is perfect as Wade Watts and Olivia Cooke is great as Art3mis. They are animated characters for a lot of the movie, and they do some superb voice work. Ben Mendelsohn is a fantastic villain just as he was in Rogue One. He has this menacing presence that seems so easy effortless for him to pull off. The only casting choice that I can really scratch my head at is T.J. Miller as the voice of I-ROK. His voice is very recognizable, and just didn’t fit his character really at all. On the topic of things that I had some issues with, there is some very cheesy dialogue. Some moments are just undercut by it, and they become a little bit cringe worthy as a result. Some elements are also pretty glazed over, and if I hadn’t read the book I would probably have ended up a bit confused. RPO is also lacking in the character development department. It moves at such a breakneck pace that slowing down to talk about characters wasn’t a priority. When there is so much information to fit into an already lengthy runtime at 2 hours and 21 minutes some things end up being sacrificed. In this case there is much more focus on the world that the movie takes place in rather than the characters.
Ready Player One is able to stay faithful to the book, while also successfully altering it for the screen. It is very well acted, and is helmed by one of the greatest directors of all time. Spielberg is able to bring a lot of his movie magic back to a story that pays homage to a lot of his previous work. It is filled to the brim with pop culture references, and if you adore this stuff like I do you will probably love this movie, but even if you don’t there is some fun to be had for everyone with Ready Player One.