Movie #179 2020: Ready Player One (2018)

Based on the book of the same name, Steven Spielberg scooped up the rights to Ready Player One and flipped it on its head.

I say this as, although I’ve not read the book myself (yet), apparently the movie is vastly different to its source material. In short, this is a science fiction, fantasy, comic book-style affair, in which we are immersed into a futuristic world where most people pretty much live in this full VR video game.

The creator of the game – a virtual reality named ‘OASIS’ – dies at the start of the film, but posthumously leaves behind a game within the game – an ‘Easter Egg’ of sorts. In a competitive nature, the citizens of the alternate world have to complete a series of quests and riddles to find three keys. The victor of the game is promised sole ownership of the company, and as the viewer, we are allowed to watch the competition take place.

In regards to the fact that this movie adaptation is almost completely different to its literary relative, I say this: who cares? Using the Harry Potter movie franchise as an example, they are fondly remembered movies even though they omit so much extra information from the books in which they came from. So why can’t you just like both? It’s as if Spielberg and his writers have taken the basis of the book – the alternate universe, the characters, etc – to tell their own story, and I don’t see anything wrong with that.

With absolutely insane visual effects taking up the bulk of the film, this movie is either a visual effects designer’s dream, or a visual effects designer’s nightmare. Whichever it is, the visuals are executed really well for the most part, and it can’t have been an easy feat. I wouldn’t be surprised if the CGI department took up most of the budget from this – it’s absolutely crazy to look at.

The best thing about the movie is that looking for all of the different pop culture characters throughout is kind of like it’s own Easter Egg. It’s a really nice touch, and one that I’ve continually insisted on being one of my favourite things about movies: sometimes the things hidden in the background are just as exciting as those at the forefront. Layered across all this brilliant action that we are given is a soundtrack that goes hard, and this is yet another movie that takes one of the top spots of soundtrack of the year for me.

It’s not all positives though, and it’s certainly not a flawless film. For one thing, the ending is so very, very long that it seems too drawn out and overstretched. Things were not concluded efficiently and neatly, but for a movie that spans 140 minutes, it’s such a visual feast that it goes pretty quickly up until that point. 

Alongside that, the villains aren’t exactly up to much. Despite their VR avatars being super monstrous looking, they’re kind of lame in real life. Unfortunately, it is the villains’ real life counterparts that take up most of the screen time, and they pretty much look like well-dressed, white, male insurance bankers, which I think we’ll all agree isn’t exactly the most riveting choice.

The cast on the whole are all pretty great, but it’s Mark Rylance as OASIS creator Halliday that really struck me as perfect. He portrays Halliday’s timid but genius nature with nuance and interest, making him stand out amongst a bunch of quite extrovert characters.

So, although I haven’t read the book, I think this movie is much better than people give it credit for. It’s a cause for contention that there are such strong dissimilarities between the two, but perhaps if people weren’t so hell-bent on insisting that they should be one and the same, they might enjoy it more.

I’ll still read the book, but this movie has impressed me enough to want to rewatch it – if not only for the thousands of Easter Eggs within it!

Ready Player One is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video in the UK.

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