In 2045, virtual reality is taking over the harsh, miserable real world as overpopulation, pollution, corruption, and climate change have plagued humanity. Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), a young man who lives in one of the many slum-like cities that make for much of what’s left of Earth, is obsessed with the Anorak’s Quest, a hidden challenge in the artificial world of OASIS. Beside becoming a millionaire, the winner of the game, which consists in finding Easter eggs among a universe filled with ’80s/’90s pop-culture references, is also promised full ownership of OASIS. As Watts and his friends get close to finishing the quest, ill-intentioned players working for an evil corporation run by Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn) stand in their way.
After Bridge of Spies, Lincoln and The Post, Steven Spielberg jumps back into a movie genre from which he has been quite absent for the past few years: science-fiction. And with Ready Player One, adaptation of Ernest Cline’s 2011 “geek” novel of the same name, the director carries out the return at full blast since the film continuously juggles between live and heavy virtual action sequences.
But while audience members who grew up during Spielberg’s golden age will relish the film for the countless nostalgic cultural memories it brings back, it remains unclear whether or not it has something more to offer than just spectacular graphics and the reminiscence of treasured times.
Packed with nostalgia and entertaining action
“A lively and agreeable work of fanboy art,” Spielberg’s Ready Player One is first an excuse for the 71-year-old director to make “you feel like a kid again – and in that regard, he succeeds.” “As big and loud and fun as a romp through nerd-culture history should be,” the movie is “a blast.” “You’ll be exhausted trying to keep up with all, but also exhilarated.” The film “turns a vast virtual landscape of battling avatars into a bustling pop-cultural theme park.” “There is so much going on in this movie, both retro and futuristic, that it is hard to compute in one sitting.”
Moreover, with Ready Player One, “Mr Spielberg, a digital enthusiast and an old-school cineaste, goes further than most filmmakers in exploring the aesthetic possibilities of a form that is frequently dismissed and misunderstood.” He is “the only person who could have made this movie.” “Even with so much clutter in every frame, the storytelling is clean, the action is crisp and economical.”
But that’s it
While “there’s not much wrong with the movie on its own terms,” “there’s nothing great about it either.” “A virtually empty good time,” Ready Player One‘s script – despite scoring above the novel it adapts – “conflates recognition with enjoyment” through the“thin characterization of the core protagonists,” among whom “only the two attractive White people at the centre get backstories.”
In the end, “the multiplayer, self-inventing ethos of gaming might have offered a chance for less conventional division of heroic labor, but the writers and filmmakers lacked the imagination to take advantage of it.”
Best quotes from the reviews:
“You’d need a doctorate to get all the Easter eggs.” – David Edelstein, Vulture
“Ready Player One meets our pop culture at the crossroads and knocks it out of the park.” – Peter Hammond, Deadline
“Ready Player One is far from a masterpiece, but as the fanboys say, it’s canon.” – A. O. Scott, The New York Times
“The biggest IP mashup since Wreck-It Ralph.” – Peter Rubin, Wired