It is no secret that movies and video games have not mixed well in the past, be it video games based on movies (there are too many to count that are bad, but E.T. is probably the most notorious) or movies based on video games (anyone remember Mortal Kombat: Annihilation?), it is hard for these two industries to get along, with a few exceptions (Wreck It Ralph and the Goldeneye Video game come to mind). Finally, it is as if Steven Spielberg has come between the two, shouting “ENOUGH!”, and has given us a great film in Ready Player One.
Based off the book of the same name by Ernest Cline, the world is a very different place in 2045 (though not as different as the year 2049 in the Blade Runner sequel). Everyone has one place to escape, which is the OASIS, a virtual reality where gamers can basically do everything you would want in video games and/or social media. We meet our hero Wade (Tye Sheridan, who I have been a fan of since 2013’s underrated Mud), who lives in the projects of Columbus, Ohio, which is now one of the biggest cities in the world. As Parzival (his Avatar), he is on a quest to find the three keys that will win him the ultimate “Easter Egg”, and complete control of the OASIS. The contest was designed by the late creator Halliday (Mark Rylance), after he severed his partnership with Ogden Morrow (Simon Pegg).
There are many unsung rules of the OASIS, such as never giving your real name, even if you fall for the gorgeous avatar Artemis (Olivia Cooke). They both are pursued by a company that calls themselves the sixers, lead by the tyrannical Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn). Sorrento also needs some help from a pro gamer named I-ROk, who is voiced to perfection by T.J. Miller (who needs a hit after starring in The Emoji Movie).
I have never read the book, but I would wager the Orb of Osuvox that only Steven Spielberg (arguably one of the best film makers who ever lived) could have done this book justice. The secret of Spielberg’s success in Ready Player One is not just that he shows us countless objects from pop culture, but that he does not just rub it in our face. He trusts us enough to find them on our own. It is also not his main objective to show us special effects (which are obviously superior), but to tell a story (as it is for any director).
Parents, the movie is a strong PG-13. There is no real sexual content (though some innuendo, kissing, partial nudity, and revealing clothing). There is a good amount of swearing (including one F bomb, though it is used rather comically), though nothing the normal middle schooler has not heard these days. There is also one part of the movie that talks a bit about the horror classic The Shining (which I would hope kids have not seen at too young of an age). The scene in Room 237 is shown, though not all of the one character in the bathtub is.
Yes, the movie does over stay its welcome (especially in the second half), but there was rarely a time when I wanted the film to end. I expect a lot of parents will be getting references the kids will not, obviously meaning parents will enjoy this as well.
At one point, Halliday says something about how we need to remember to spend time in reality, to remember that is what real is.
That does not help when a movie like Ready Player One seems so life-like.
Overall: Four Stars ****