Ready Player One Film Review – Imperfect Oasis

Ready Player One is based on the best-selling novel by Ernest Cline. The film was directed by Steven Spielberg and stars Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke and Ben Mendelsohn.

The year is 2045. 18-year old Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) lives in The Stacks, a cramped slum in Columbus, Ohio. Even as the world struggles, everyone is occupied with The OASIS, a digital world accessed through virtual reality headsets. It’s an escape, a paradise, where you can be anything you can dream of. Formerly controlled by James Halliday, its creator, the Oasis is now ready for new management. Whoever is lucky enough to find Halliday’s ‘Easter egg’, left behind after Halliday’s death, will earn complete control of The OASIS and an enormous fortune. Wade eagerly hunts the egg, but he’s one of many who do, including the sinister IOI corporation.

The main selling point of Ready Player One is that The OASIS is populated by characters from video games, film, and television – with hundreds of references throughout. Tracer from Overwatch leads a massive charge. The Iron Giant kicks serious butt on the battlefield. Chucky from Child’s Play picks up his knife again (and leads to the funniest joke of the movie). Most characters are only on screen for a couple of seconds. The film itself is a visual treat, or rather, a visual feast. The OASIS is home to endless worlds – from beautiful landscapes and utopian cities, to lands of frightening horrors and conflict – and they all look great. Even among other blockbusters, the action is simply spectacular. There’s an insane car race through the streets of a virtual New York City, which is almost too awesome for words. There’s an extended horror segment near the middle of the film that is incredibly exciting.

At its core, Ready Player One is a piece of entertainment – like many of the blockbusters referenced over the two hours and twenty-minute long movie – but as a film, it doesn’t always work. The plot feels like it’s littered with trivial details. Some of the important characters aren’t well developed, or they don’t interact enough with the other characters. It’s a shame, because the banter between the characters that do speak to one another can be quite funny. Pacing is also an issue. An important series of reveals before the finale are quick, while the awesome final battle and ending overstay their welcome. Note that many of these problems occur outside of the virtual OASIS, when we see real actors, and not digital avatars. I still enjoyed watching Ready Player One, though that’s likely because it was in a theatre. I’m not convinced that the film would hold up well on a smaller screen, or if it’s worth watching more than once. Finding new references is fun… but how many times do you need to see them?

-Sean Daniel