In total honesty, I haven’t read the Ready Player One book so this whole review will be based on the movie and its video game-iness rather than a comparison to the book itself. Thankfully, you don’t need to read the book to be able to watch the movie as it even starts off with a small voice-over description of the book/movie world. Lucky for you...I’m not going to spoil the movie!
The movie is set in the “not too distant future” of 2045. The world (aka Ohio, USA) is a high-density dystopia and it seems that everyone’s life just sucks. No one seems to have any jobs, don’t ask me how anyone pays for any sort of bill and kids don’t seem to have school to go to (except in that one short flashback scene). Everyone, just like all of us real life gamers, escapes the perils of their reality by jumping into video games, more specifically, the OASIS, a MMORPG VR world where you can be anyone you want and do anything you like.
This virtual dreamscape was created by James Halliday, played by Mark Rylance, who decides to leave the world Willy Wonka-style by leaving an inheritance of the entire OASIS system and its parent company for the first person able to solve three of his riddles and collect three keys hidden within the game. This exciting announcement has lead to the formation of ‘gunters’ (aka Easter Egg hunter) who scour the digitalized memories of Halliday in order to find clues as to the keys whereabouts. Seven years after the announcement, it seems that not many are left obsessing over the hunt aside from Wade Watts aka Parzival (Tye Sheridan), an orphan with nothing else to lose, and the tech company IOI, Innovative Online Industries, spearheaded by the malicious Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn).
The OASIS is possibly every gamers’ dream VR game, where the only limit is your imagination. It’s not surprising that almost the entirety of the movie will be set in said game world, so about one third of the movie is actually shot IRL and the rest is in CGI-heavy OASIS. Littered with easter eggs, old and new, for us to find, the movie doesn’t stop giving us video games and Steven Spielberg references (no surprise there though, he is the director of the movie). So many that it would be near impossible to name all of them in one sitting. Even two in-game levels are based on epic movies, though I’ve read that one of them isn’t even featured in the book.
After much whining about wanting to be “clanless”, Wade then finds his “clan”, dubbed the “High Five” for being the first five to find the first key, within his best in-game friend Helen/Aech (pronounced “H”, played by Lena Waithe), cyber-crush and popular blogger Samantha/Art3mis (Olivia Cooke) along with random in-game friends Toshiro/Sho (Win Morisaki) and Akihide/Daito (Philip Zhao). They ban together to outsmart Sorrento and IOI and prevent them from winning the hunt. To be honest, any sort of character development is heavily weighed upon Wade and Samantha while a bit of backstory was given to Helen, none given to Toshiro or Akihide which is, as usual, a massive let down for me.
So much of the movie’s time was spent within the OASIS itself that not much was given to story building with the exception of Halliday, who isn’t even one of the lead characters but is given plenty of flashbacks and scenes (albeit important ones) dedicated to him. On top of the lack of character building, we have no clue what the state of the real world is or why it is such an overpopulated dystopia. There was an off-hand comment about people “zeroing out” and losing everything; being able to “die in the real” and the tale of Samantha’s father who enlisted as an IOI loyalist but was tricked into debt by the company and worked to death. The latter was the only mention of IOI’s so-called evilness but as the movie goes along, you don’t see a speck of “help me” written on any other loyalists’ faces.
Alas, this movie doesn’t miss a beat and I can’t decide whether I loved being entertained throughout every moment or hate that being able to further immerse myself in the world of Ready Player One. What I do know is I hated every moment TJ Miller had a scene. Literally any actual video game voice actor could have replaced him: Matt Mercer, Nathan Fillion, even the voice of Detective Pikachu. I could go on! Anyone could have easily made i-R0k's scenes so much less cringy to sit through. While the movie loses points for not giving me any sort of connection to the characters, it sort of makes up for it by giving me the fantasy I’ve always wanted as a huge MMORPG gamer and a lot of action packed into it.
Jasmin’s rating: 3.55/5 stars - 0.05 extra points because I love 80’s music.
All images taken from IMDB.