Movie Review: Ready Player One packs a punch

Ready Player One
Movie Review: Ready Player One packs a punch
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Tyler Collins

Tyler Collins

Tyler Collins is a thespian and performer who has worked with theatre, film, and TV across Ontario. He comes from Campbellton, NB, and has lived in North Oakville over 20 years. He is a graduate of Journalism from Sheridan College. Twitter: @MrTyCollins

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As far as blockbusters go, Ready Player One is a doozy. The production value is as extravagant as the story is long. It’s loud, busy, and often chaotic watching characters intertwine with each other. And most of all, it’s ludicrously entertaining.

Leading this dizzying world is visionary director Steven Spielberg. His experience and gift for crafting exciting platforms in his movies is more apparent here than ever. Spielberg’s manic design and direction infuse every second with glee and spellbinding fun.

Ready Player One is a genre-bending, scope-busting display of what happens when great directors have great fun.

That’s a notably important quality for a film so focused on video games. This is a genre with a horrible reputation. (Tomb Raider, based on a video, bombed just two weeks ago.) But Spielberg’s easy-going yet intelligent leadership help elevate Ready Player One into something brilliantly original.

It probably helps that Ernest Cline’s source novel revolves around an original game instead of another property. That game is more of a virtual reality world where players live in an open-world called “the Oasis.”

Here, players are free to do whatever they like and play across thousands of worlds and play every conceivable game. When Oasis founder James Halliday (Mark Rylance) dies, the hunt for an Easter egg begins in the virtual world.

Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

After Wade Watts (or Parzival, played by Tye Sheridan) finds the first of three keys, the competition escalates beyond the game. Soon corporations and players in the outside world interfere with the game…until the lines blur and virtual dangers become real.

The plot is intricate and somewhat incoherent. In its best moments, however, the treasure hunt is quite clever. Many of the puzzles and mysteries are fun to solve and create some terrific scenes for the players to act. A particularly sly one features character Parzival creating a virtual level to fool a corporate enemy.

The world is relentlessly original

What makes the movie absurdly cool and interesting are the video game worlds and environments featured. The production design is among the most elaborate made for any movie, and the game’s design allows for endless creativity.

There are thousands of references to video games of the last forty years, along with other from movies, television and music. Special attention is paid to popular culture of the 80s, and it spills into the story and pulse-pounding soundtrack.

Video game historians and aficionados will have a field day watching this film. The history of video gaming plays a key role in the plot. This handling is simple enough you don’t need to research an essay beforehand, but many of the story’s deeper subtleties will only be noticed by true superfine of games and Cline’s book.

Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

The movie’s biggest weakness is the never-ending exposition in the first 20 minutes. They spend an eternity on explanations of how everything in the world works and how it came to be. While some of it is truly necessary, it’s hard to focus with so much happening.

The overall feel of the movie is similar to many of Spielberg’s past blockbusters. It has the science-fiction aura (and runtime) of Close Encounters of a Third Kind. It also has that transporting quality of a surreal world like Jurassic Park.

This certainly isn’t his best work, but it confidently stands beside his pantheon of popcorn-munching spectacles. In a few scenes, it almost feels like Spielberg is writing an autobiographical love letter to his work of the past.

Those who prefer traditional and more wholesome big-budget movies will come out bored and mildly offended. Though you shouldn’t decide you won’t like the film if you don’t know much about the world of video games. (I’m uneducated in this field myself.)

Ready Player One is a genre-bending, scope-busting display of what happens when great directors have great fun. And this is a movie where the players are more than ready to bring audiences along for the ride.

Ready Player One
3 1/2 out of 4 stars

PG, 2hr 20mins. Sci-Fi Adventure Epic.
Directed by Steven Spielberg.
Starring Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Lena Waithe, Simon Pegg, T. J. Miller and Mark Rylance.
Now Playing at Film.Ca Cinemas, Cineplex Winston Churchill and Cineplex Oakville & VIP. Also in IMAX.

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