Ready Player One - 2018 dir. Steven Spielberg
By Darren Cunningham – Bond Library film reviewer
Reality vs Illusion. In the universe of Ready Player One, there is a desperate and perhaps even essential need to escape into a fabricated world. It’s 2045 and reality for most is a dystopian society, ruled over by a corporation that hoards its capital and controls the masses. The only release for many of its citizens is into the Oasis, an immersive virtual reality experience where you can be whomever you want and if you are skilled enough, do whatever you want.
Wade—Tye Sheridan—a young man who lives in a dilapidated sector of this community, which resembles a tiered trailer park, is addicted to the Oasis and it is pretty much the only way of life for him. Halliday—Mark Rylance—the deceased creator of the Oasis, has unleashed a challenge he designed into this virtual world. The participants must use their wits and intelligence to find three keys; the prize - claim sole heir to Halliday’s legacy.
Through Wade, we experience much of the journey into the Oasis and he must outsmart Sorrento—Australian character actor Ben Mendelsohn—who is the menacing and megalomaniac head of the corporation. Sorrento has most of the advantage, employing many experienced players to get to the keys first.
Ready Player One is full of stunning imagery. The visual effects are astonishing. For movie buffs, it can also be a lot of fun spotting many of the pop culture references from a movie era gone by, namely the 1980’s. This was an iconic period for director Steven Spielberg, with a plethora of productions that boasted his name, even if he wasn’t clouted as director.
Filmed in Birmingham in the UK, the film also gets a gritty feel to it in some of the live action sequences and this adds to the oppression of the universe the film is set in. The virtual reality scenes really come alive, bursting with color and surrealism and are incredibly inventive. There is a brilliant sequence surrounding the avatar creations of the film’s main protagonists who are in search of a clue, who get caught up in an iconic horror film - showcasing how clever and deft Spielberg’s touch is. When he gets it right, which he often does, he can transcend the genre. Spielberg also has a knack of showing us something that could be considered familiar, but with a new and fresh approach.
Spielberg started to change his style in the 90’s, with a more mature and serious take to his film-making technique. The classic Spielberg that made him popular in the 70’s and 80’s can still occasionally rear its head and here he gives us a good dose of old school entertainment, jazzed up with technologies made available for today’s filmmakers. Spielberg is a master. His shot composition is flawless, and he often sets a benchmark. This film is no exception.
For maximum effect, the film does cry out to be seen on a large screen presentation with a quality sound system, but the presentation within itself, is enough to engage the viewer seeking some fun and innovative entertainment.