Kept you waiting, huh?
I was expecting the cringiest thing known to man. I was expecting little to no awareness of how the internet or video games work, I was expecting flat characters with no motivation, I was expecting awful comedy, I was expecting a world that was ruined by the little sense it made, I was expecting boring action, I was expecting stupid setpieces, I was expecting a soulless cash-in on a bestselling book with little more to it than a regrettable blip on the resumés of everyone involved, forgotten within the next year. I only got some of these things.
Ready Player One is based on the book of the same name by Earnest Cline, and it’s about a young man named Wade and his search for the Easter egg hidden within the worldwide VR sensation “The Oasis,” and all the wacky people he meets along the way. Explaining this story can be a little difficult, not because it’s particularly confusing, but because it’s a lot to unpack. The Easter egg I mentioned has a bit more significance to it than just a little gag by the developer. The finder of this Easter egg will inherit the entire Oasis and half a trillion dollars, both from the late creator of the game, Halliday. Half a trillion dollars and the biggest game to ever exist is a lot, so Halliday made this Easter egg very difficult to find. So difficult, in fact, that no one had made any progress in the five years since Halliday’s passing. Not until Wade (Parzival in the game) comes along, kickstarting the plot and reviving worldwide interest in the Easter egg. Among those interested, there’s the villain of the film, Nolan Sorrento. Sorrento happens to own a massive corporation that is interested in taking control of the Oasis and injecting advertisements into every square inch of the game. Oh, and Wade has a squad of friends that includes the Internet famous “Art3mis,” who also serves as the love interest. I think I covered everything.
Let’s just get this out of the way right now: I did not want to die while I was watching this movie. The world doesn’t make that much sense; it’s pretty easy to unravel it if you give it some thought. I didn’t do this a lot because the movie did a great job of immersing me in the world and it’s rules, and you don’t know how relieved I am to be able to say this. Usually, with movies like this, they misunderstand pretty much everything about how video games work. Which is usually fine, I’m not expecting deep, intimate knowledge about how video games work from a big-budget Hollywood movie. The problem comes when they try and base entire plot points around things that don’t make sense. That’s when it gets infuriating. This movie manages to avoid that by caring enough to do a little research. Not a whole lot, but enough to get by.
It looks pretty good, although some people might disagree because of the overabundance of CGI. I personally don’t get it when people say “it was bad, too much CG.” Maybe it’s just not everyone’s thing, but it’s usually garbage film students who think that practical effects are always better all the time because they spent too much time fantasizing about John Carpenter’s The Thing. People like this are willing to write CG off immediately without considering that it might be better for the situation. This is not to say that CG is always necessary, it certainly isn’t. The 2011 reboot of The Thing comes to mind, where they had puppets and practical effects already done for the movie, but the producers chose to replace it all with CG at the last minute. It not only looked worse than the puppets, but it also cost a lot more. There’s a case for less CG in superhero movies as well, but not for a movie like this. It’s a video game. The fact that it looks like a video game adds to the mood. It makes the Oasis feel more detached from the film’s reality, which is (surprisingly) the point of the movie. So, yeah, I didn’t really care that there was a lot of CG in this movie.
The actors all did a fine job, although there are a couple notable exceptions. I found TJ Miller to be quite annoying, it sounded like he was trying to do a standup routine every time he was on screen. Aside from that, I thought the lead actors had chemistry, Tye Sheridan as Wade worked really well, I thought he was the perfect mix between lonely nerd and surprisingly attractive ordinary leading man. Ben Mendelsohn as Sorrento was pretty fun, he made the most of what little was given to him and he was the perfectly hateable corporate shill we all know and love. Lena Waithe was great as the Wade’s best friend in the Oasis, and I thought Mark Rylance did a good job as Halliday, although if you were expecting any different you’re pretty dumb.
Something that’s immediately apparent and what remains obvious throughout is that Spielberg had a blast making this movie. I can easily imagine him writing as many clever ways he can slip in video game and movie references as he can and giggling to himself when he sees them in the final product. It’s very infectious, and I found myself buying into his giddiness as the movie went along. In fact, that giddiness is what helped me ignore most of the flaws. Not all of them, though.
I gotta mention the story, because despite my surprise with how much I didn’t hate it, it’s also not really worth talking about. It’s predictable, tensionless, and average. You know what’s gonna happen, when it’s gonna happen, who’s gonna do what, all of it (outside of a couple minor surprises). Although it’s easy to look past that (at least, it was for me), I can’t ignore it. It’s a legitimate flaw, and I’d be lying if I said it never impacted my enjoyment.
The action is fun, although, like the story, it has little tension. It’s got creative setpieces and fun ideas that elevate the action above a mindless bore, but that’s the best I can really say about it. There’s a particular sequence that takes place entirely inside Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining that I found particularly fun, even if it was just for the references. I know a lot of people who would despise this movie for all the references, but I didn’t always mind them. They had a good deal of restraint (usually), they weren’t intrusive (normally), and they were never obnoxiously obvious (OK, I lied about that one).
The movie has a good sense of consequence in the earlier parts, which I liked. This unfortunately does not extend to the rest of the movie. It feels like the characters can do whatever they want and nothing will go wrong. This is also a detriment to everything set in The Oasis. Since no one’s in any actual danger, it’s harder than usual to think that anyone’s in any kind of peril. We know no real harm can come to these characters, which further impacts the action. Everything’s also horribly convenient. Something in the last act borders on disgusting because of how convenient it is, and it just happens to be one of the most important plot points in the movie. It’s barely established, it’s not hinted at, it never comes up until it happens. It’s not a good example of foreshadowing, Chekov’s gun, or any of those fancy storytelling words/phrases.
I don’t know. Overall, I didn’t hate this movie. I think it’s worth a watch, but not for absolutely everyone. If you’re like me, but not as appreciative of video games as I am, you might not like this movie. If you’re looking for some passive fun, and don’t wanna think too hard, watch this. You could be watching Pacific Rim: Uprising, and no one wants to do that.
Don’t be spooked by that 5, that just means average to me. 5 is not a negative score.
I’m still gonna get people yelling at me about 5/10s, aren’t I?
Why do I bother.
Up next: gay.Connect to me