Review: Ready Player One

I went into Stephen Spielberg’s Ready Player One with absolutely no prior knowledge. Hadn’t seen the trailer, heard about the plot, or read any reviews. Hell, I didn’t even know Stephen Spielberg was involved! I went in completely blind, and I suggest you do too.

(If you’ve already seen the movie, or are just really stubborn – go ahead, this review contains some mild spoilers.)

Ready Player One has received a surprising amount of backlash online and a large part of that is coming from its specified target audience – gamers. Ignore the criticism, so that you don’t miss out on what perhaps is the most visually appealing movie of the year.

The film follows Wade Watts who, like the rest of the world in 2045, plays in an online Virtual Reality world called The Oasis to ignore the harsh realities of life. The creator of The Oasis, James Halliday, died years ago, leaving behind a mysterious set of clues to reveal the location of his massive fortune. Kinda Willy Wonka-ish, if you ask me.

Throughout car races and car chases, fantasy battles and dance battles, Wade (or under his avatar’s name ‘Parzival’) finds himself following Halliday’s clues to reach the fortune before IOI; a corrupt game company who want to use the money for their own gain.

Ready Player One highlights a number of interesting questions concerning the place of gaming in our society. And in my opinion, neither presents it positively or negatively. At a stretch, I think it shows that gaming can easily enhance our lives when used sensibly. (Even if sensible is awfully dull).

Wade not only saves the world through playing The Oasis, but also makes friends in the real world that make his life more meaningful. But on the other hand, loses someone he loves dearly as a result of his actions in The Oasis.

In the Oasis, Wade has confidence, purpose, and determination. But the point of the film explores, does this matter at all when it’s not taking place in reality?

Wade, as his avatar Perzival, proclaims his love to a female character halfway through the film. She instantly rejects him; they’ve played a game together she says, but that doesn’t mean Wade knows her.

In one scene, we see a child desperately trying to get the attention of his mother – who is too involved in The Oasis to notice a fire has started in the kitchen. Like in Black Mirror (and pretty much any other dystopia film out at the moment) we are reminded that new technology is both a blessing and a curse, and its our decision how to react to it.

Things come together superbly quickly in Ready Player One and often with some vague reasoning. Which to be fair may be explained further in the source material for the film: Ready Player One by Ernest Kline, first published in 2011.

Fuelled by the humour of the characters and cinematic action of each scene, Ready Player One is still an enjoyable jaunt of a film. And jaunts don’t need to be held down by humdrum facts and logic.

For a first watch I enjoyed the movie for as it was. I look forward to getting further meaning from it next time round, whether it be through its countless references to pop culture, or deeper reflections on the world’s potential future.

There’s truly something in this movie for everyone – be it the 80s soundtrack, the gaming references, the love story, or the reappearance of the beloved Iron Giant.

There are certainly negative aspects (think the plot-holed storyline, or our protagonist’s questionable behaviour) but it is easy to recognise and still enjoy the movie.

And most importantly, Ready Player One is about a group of young people sticking it to the money grabbing unethical establishment. And it doesn’t need to be 2057 for that to resonate.

Enjoy the film!

By Kirsten Robertson 

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