It’s safe to say Ernst Cline’s gaming-curated novel READY PLAYER ONE was a home run for Hollywood; not just an adaption, but another opportunity to showcase visuals in a blockbuster medium. Following Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) in a much tattered Columbus Ohio, a virtual universe titled the OASIS has taken the human experience by storm, and has the world playing. Inside the universe, recently passed creator James Halliday as planted three hidden keys within challenges, the first to find all keys is rewarded total control of the system. When Wade comes across the first key, he and his OASIS companions are set on a quest to maintain the safety of the virtual universe and its future.
With a new world to explore on the big screen and director Steven Spielberg behind the camera it’s no surprise the film’s presentation is safely broadened to appease as big an audience. The OASIS, mirroring the likes of all pop culture, and in particular the 1980’s, is a place to offer all types of interaction and possibilities for one to become whoever they please. It’s rendering is believable, and commendable for that reason alone. Despite that, the largely comprised CGI landscaping is very boisterous and it’s plethora of references cloud out the organic compositions.
Beyond the face of the OASIS is a surprisingly well suggested exploration of youth-escapism through the digital world and what it has been capable of achieving. This largely encompasses Spielberg’s genius touch if anything, as he seems to have grasped and implemented modern internet culture into a movie that is otherwise lacking in his specialty of adventurous thrills. Fault does come upon the storytelling as to juxtaposing the needs of reality against this digital desire, as the real world feels completely forgotten despite part of the film’s message.
Lead Tye Sheridan is a capable actor, and his presence feels welcome despite the script never coming to fully develop his character. Supporting talent shines, Olivia Cook as OASIS member “Art3mis” (or real world “Samatha”) makes for a strong love interest for Sheridan’s “Wade” and strongly holds together their chemistry. Both actors are primarily offering voice work for their OASIS avatars, and other notable appearances by Lena Waithe, Philip Zhao, and Win Morisaki are all great. Ben Mendelsohn as tech guru Nolan Sorrento makes for a passable villain, though never as serious a threat as on paper.
READY PLAYER ONE will not be remembered as Spielberg’s best, or even one of, but there’s enough appeal sprinkled throughout the project that shall set to satisfy those accepting of the brand. An array of visual heavy action sequences padded with a some-what balanced story thesis shine in their own respected ways, even if not frequently asked to. A lot about the film will make the audience think about their connection to internet, though maybe that discussion should be ask another time, without video game characters battling simultaneously.
READY PLAYER ONE is now in theatres.