Ready Player One is a pop culture explosion that will please many but this is not one of Spielberg’s best

Ready Player One (2018) – Film Review

Ready Player One 2018 film poster

Ready Player One 2018 film poster

In a dystopian future where people escape to a massive multiplayer virtual reality game called OASIS to forget their humdrum lives, a group of gamers go on a quest to solve a puzzle left the the deceased inventor who has offered a hugely valuable prize – ownership of the game and the riches that come with it. Welcome to the world of Ready Player One.

Playing like a cross between Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) and The Matrix (1999), Ready Player One is directed by the quintessential 80s director in Steven Spielberg but it’s been the best part of a decade since the legendary director turned his hand to the kind of blockbusters that earned him his reputation.

Spielberg’s latest is approaching a return to form without quite hitting the heights of his best films but while he has done well with streamlining Ernest Cline’s book into a recognisable quest format with plenty of pop culture and video gamer garnish but there’s still a fair bit of slightly overcooked fanboy exposition and explanation present in the film – especially in scenes where you see an entire department of geeks trying to solve parts of the quest.

This, and the paring back of other story elements, including rushed-feeling romantic elements which feel like they exist in the shadow of the (admittedly awesome) visual effects sequences, give Ready Player One a slightly hollow sheen especially with the much vaunted recognisable Easter Eggs liberally scattered throughout the film amounting to very little in terms of the film itself apart from recognition factor amongst a certain section of the audience.

Characters a little sketched out in Ready Player One but Steven Spielberg knows how to make a crowd pleaser

Most of the lead actors are playing characters who are given just enough detail to get by with but Mark Rylance as the Willy-Wonka-like inventor of OASIS James Halliday is woefully underused.

Tye Sheridan and Olivia Cooke are good value with the slightly generic heroic lead roles they are given while Ben Mendelsohn is alright in the only outright villain role.

A bit of blandness in the casting might have been forgiven with some quality Spielberg action sequences, especially in the imaginative OASIS world, but most of them fall short of the best examples we have seen from the Spielberg back catalogue apart from one special sequence borrowed – with permission – from a Stanley Kubrick film which is brilliantly realised.

Make no mistake – the film is his best effort box office crowd pleaser since Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) but a tacked-on predictable ending could mean that some of the gamers and pop culture ‘nerds’ this film is aiming at will only take a bemused interest in the film.

Perhaps that’s partly because Spielberg is a little too distant from the mainly youth orientated culture that Ready Player One is aiming at – a culture that the Wachowskis might have done better with – but it’s still a good effort and worth seeing even if it doesn’t quite immerse everyone in the world of OASIS.

Ready Player One (12A; moderate violence, horror, infrequent strong language; 139 minutes)

Director(s): Steven Spielberg

Cast Includes: Tye Sheridan, Hannah John-Kamen, Ben Mendelsohn, Mark Rylance, Olivia Cooke, Simon Pegg

Summary: READY PLAYER ONE is a US science fiction drama in which a gamer and his friends race against a sinister corporation to take control of a virtual world by finding secrets hidden within it.

Rating: *** (A pop culture explosion will please many but this is not one of Spielberg’s best)