Editors Note: This review is from Daniel of the Geek Out Huntsville team, who saw the film this past Wednesday night. His opinion of the movie is only his own, go see the movie for yourself and form your own opinion!
Let’s get this out of the way first: Ready Player One is an awesome time at the theater and worth the ticket price.
Steven Spielberg movies tend to fall into two categories. Either they’re introspective think pieces examining a time in history or a particular character (Saving Private Ryan, Lincoln, The Post) or they’re unapologetic popcorn fun (Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, Adventures of Tintin). With dozens of action set pieces and visual candy leaking throughout, this one clearly falls into the thrill ride category.
While the ride is an awesomely fun one, it can sometimes go a little too deep. When you’re spending all of your mental energy looking for easter eggs like the Batmobile, Minecraft blocks, Overwatch characters, Back to the Future gags, and so many other references, it can be tough to really follow the actual story of Ready Player One.
If you’ve already read the book, you know the drill. The lead character is an orphaned cyberpunk hero who has devoted his time into seeking the Macguffin that drives the plot. The creator of a VR platform that has engulfed society has hidden a priceless easter egg inside his digital world, which has triggered a war within it amongst its digital avatars.
Instead of hacking or fighting his way to it, our protagonist Wade Watts employs his knowledge of 80’s pop culture trivia to find the egg, which will grant him a ton of money but also control over the corporation behind the VR world called The Oasis. It becomes a bit of a fun Trivial Pursuit way of solving a mystery, but the nostalgic obsessiveness does become a bit overbearing, as the reference-deep dialogue seems to get in the way of actually progressing a story.
Ernest Cline, the writer of the Ready Player One novel, has received a share of literary criticism since it was released in 2011. Personally, while I absolutely loved the themes, world-building, and ideas, I could not stand his writing style. It felt like a far superior writer had given a plot outline to a seventh grade literature class student who had a week deadline to turn in a project. Dialogue and descriptions often were far too cringey and unrealistic for my taste, and unfortunately as Cline is a co-writer on the film version, that seeps into it as well at times.
Although the movie suffers from introspective self-obsession and hackey writing, Spielberg manages to salvage something redeemable out of it. Ready Player One becomes a critique of itself in the last two acts, using themes to ponder if tech that disconnects us from each other or nostalgia that prevents us from living in the here and now is actually constructive in any way.
Also buried within the non-stop action and references are some very solid performances, most notably from Simon Pegg and Mark Rylance, who portray futuristic and even more geeky versions of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak.
The scenes that serve as flashbacks for their creation of The Oasis best portray the way that the film not only cautions against its own flashiness, but our obsessiveness with it as well.
Often times, Ready Player One feels like a caffeine fueled trip through the toy isle at Target. It is admittedly a ton of fun, and is something that’s best seen on a huge screen to appreciate. Even though it can be a little exhausting seeing so much thrown at the screen at once, it still employs it cleverly to say something about our society at this particular moment in time.