I saw ‘Ready Player One’ on a rather gloomy Saturday afternoon, the perfect time to sit in the cozy darkness of a theater and get lost in a good tale. And that, I did…
‘Ready Player One’ is a film ridiculously energetic in its creativity, overly ambitious in its 1980’s nostalgia and absolutely wondrous in its visual delivery, yet so uneven at the fine art of storytelling. For a movie that ultimately brandishes a take-home message of finding happiness more in the real world than a virtual one, it isn’t all that great at cementing itself in reality.
What it IS good at, though, is play. And when it shines, you’d be hard pressed to find a more entertaining ride than this
Based on a 2011 bestseller, ‘Ready Player One’ centers on Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), a poor kid from the stacks in 2045 Columbus, Ohio. Down on his luck, dry on fortune, but extremely gifted at gaming, there is hope for Wade. With shades of a ‘Willy Wonka’ twist, an immersive virtual world called the OASIS exists, where humans can become their own avatars and do things they never could in real life. When James Halliday (Mark Rylance), the eccentric inventor of the OASIS dies, he leaves behind endless riches and control of his brainchild to the player who can solve a three-part treasure hunt. And since Halliday was a pop-culture junkie, Watts’ quest for the prize is littered with lightning quick cameos; everything from Marty McFly’s DeLorean and Chucky the killer doll to Marvin the Martian and ‘Star Trek’ vulcans. I got near misty seeing the Iron Giant again (I love the Iron Giant), horror fans will especially love a stage of the game based in the hotel from “The Shining”, and ‘Ready Player One’ rarely stops pumping its soundtrack on full, a playlist littered with 80’s faves. So…a lot going on.
Who better to direct what is really the ultimate crossover film than Steven Spielberg? He’d probably be a hero to a guy like Halliday and, as always, Spielberg’s balancing skills are nothing short of amazing as he somehow keeps this circus of creative chaos marching in the right direction. But again, SO busy n’ fun is the virtual world that there isn’t much in the way of interest towards the real world. And that’s where ‘Ready Player One’ falters.
In a sense, it’s like a typical Spielberg-esque celebration, minus a chunk of heart. Good thing we’re too caught up in the relentless action and reference sightings (whoa, was that the Batmobile??) that we barely notice.