Ready Player One Review

Story posted April 19, 2018 in Arts & Entertainment, CommRadio by Zach Hall

“Ready Player One” is Steven Spielberg's latest directorial effort, based on Ernest Cline’s acclaimed science fiction novel of the same name. From a tidal wave of pop-culture references to dazzling special effects, “Ready Player One” makes for an entertaining movie, but doesn’t do much to transcend past anything but a spectacle.

“Ready Player One” takes place in the year 2049, a dystopian look at Earth after several geopolitical events reduced most large cities into slums. Because of the disastrous conditions of the real world, almost everyone opts to live their lives in the OASIS, a virtual world where the only limits are the player’s imagination. The OASIS was created by the late James Halliday, who is celebrated amongst the OASIS community for giving them the opportunity to escape the real world. Upon his death, Halliday set in motion a worldwide hunt within the OASIS in which players must find three keys in order to secure a quarter trillion dollars and full ownership of the OASIS. At the start of the movie, this hunt had been going on for five years. 

The main character of the movie is Wade Watts, an orphan living with his aunt in desolate Columbus, Ohio. Wade is represented primarily by his avatar Parzival. He is joined by his virtual best friend Aech, as well as newly met Art3mis. These three, along with two other players, Daito and Sho, team up to find the three keys to reveal the golden easterEaster egg. This hunt for the keys is the main focus of the movie, meaning that the majority of the movie takes place in the OASIS. Because of this, anything outside of the OASIS is not fleshed out very well. Scenes in the real world are sprinkled throughout the movie and give little snippets of backstory about the world and a few characters. The problem is that very little of this backstory is touched on, and when it isdoes it feels pointless in the grand scheme of things. Wade gives some exposition in the beginning of the movie about the state of the world and little bits of his backstory, but neither of these points are really touched on much after this. The same goes for the real life versions of everyone in Wade’s group. Characters are primarily represented by their avatar counterparts within the game, and the scenes outside of the OASIS don’t do much to explain the characters motivations outside of wanting control over the OASIS. These scenes only take up a small portion of the movie, which gives the movie more time to explore the OASIS. It would have been more effective if some of the OASIS time was replaced with more meaningful character development in the real world to get a better understanding of their motivations outside the competition. This makes the main conflict of the movie tonally bland at times, serving as a simple hero versus evil story. Any motivation outside of wanting control over the OASIS for good or evil is nonexistent, and can make some expository scenes uninteresting.    

The bulk of the movie taking place in OASIS has upsides and downsides. On one side, “Ready Player One” is visually excellent. The OASIS is colorful, vibrant, and packed to the brim with characters with loads of aesthetic variety. The world of the OASIS is a visual marvel and, Steven Spielberg's direction makes for an exciting look into this virtual world. Spielberg’s excellent camerawork for action scenes translate well to cgiCGI, and it’s evident that he took the time to make sure the sheer amount of things on screen at one time wouldn’t clutter up the screen. For the most part, Spielberg succeeds.

On the other side, the overabundance of pop culture references and characters can get a little overblown at times. At it’sits best, these pop culture references show off the ability to be literally anyone or anything that you want to be and help give the OASIS life. At its worst, it is a barrage of references and callbacks that serve no purpose other than to be references and callbacks. This kind of pop culture avalanche was at the heart of the book, but can be overwhelming when translated to the screen. For the most part, Spielberg is able to convey the OASIS as a playground of imagination that is visually stunning. Aside from the occasional sensory overload, the OASIS segments make for the most interesting part of the movie, even if it can pull away from meaningful character development. 

What it all boils down to is a good time iof you’re looking for a visual spectacle that doesn’t require much ponderance of the grand idea of the film after the credits roll. The bulk of the movie is enjoyable and visually interesting enough to entertain the audience all the way through. Unfortunately, a lack of meaningful character development and some (not all) of the pop culture references being pointless and overwhelming hold “Ready Player One” back from being something truly special.

Rating: 3/5 stars     

 

Zach Hall is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email zth5043@psu.edu.