Strap on your VR goggles and freshen up on your 80s pop culture knowledge, Ready Player One has hit theatres in spectacular fashion.
Based on Ernest Cline’s 2011 novel, this big-screen adaptation is chock-full of intense sci-fi, innovative CGI and enough movie character Easter Eggs to make your head spin. Starring Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke and Ben Mendelsohn, this film had a lot of buzz about it from all of the previously released trailers, posters and promotional pieces. Now that it is out in theatres, does this movie live up to the hype? In this review I’ll delve into the good, the bad, and the in-between.
We’ve all heard the following statement a million times: “The book was better”. While I don’t want to compare the novel and the film throughout this review, I want to get it out of the way now. While I enjoyed this film, I absolutely enjoyed the novel much more. Ernest Cline did a remarkable job developing his characters and the world of the OASIS in such a way that it was going to be a tall task to adapt it for the big screen. There is a very large disparity between the novel and film. Some of the changes worked, some didn’t, but it’s important to separate the two and focus just on the film as it is. With that being said, let’s focus on the film.
Ready Player One is a 2+ hour long visual orgasm, to be so crude. The heavy use of CGI was a lot to take in, but it was very well done for the most part. While detractors of the overuse of CGI may have an issue with this film, what worked for me was the fact that “human” characters weren’t done over in CG. Seeing people being rendered digitally just doesn’t look quite right, but when non-human characters are used, it lessens the burden of seeing beings that aren’t real. I was very happy with the digital graphics of the characters and thought they looked really cool.
Perhaps the biggest selling point for this film was the incorporation of all of the different film & video game characters added in as Easter Eggs. Trailers showed characters like the Iron Giant, Freddy Krueger and Chucky, but there were countless others. It will be interesting to see just who is found in frame-by-frame analysis, but I know I saw others like RoboCop, the Ninja Turtles, and I swear I saw a Street Shark.
One of the things I enjoyed most about this film was the balance between true live action and digital shots. While the digital aspect was a sight to behold, director Steven Spielberg and co. did a nice job mixing in the live action aspect to give our brains some much needed time to decompress. I’m not sure I could’ve handled this film if it were purely straight CGI (which is one of the reasons I disliked Avatar).
The action sequences were a lot of fun and the different settings within the OASIS were really neat to explore. I will touch on this subject more when I get into my dislikes, as I thought this aspect could’ve had more development. As I wrap up this section of the review, know that I did enjoy this film despite what you’re about to continue reading.
I’ll be honest: the acting in this film wasn’t very good. I didn’t buy these characters. I think the actual story might have been lost on the actors that starred, particularly with Ben Mendelsohn (whom I think is a terrific actor). A lot of them seemed to be going through the motions and didn’t really connect with me. The romantic angle between Wade & Samantha felt very forced, as Wade seemed to fall in love with her the second he met her. Their relationship wasn’t developed well because the story focus seemed to be rushed.
As the goal was to find the three keys to unlock the ultimate Easter Egg, the plot didn’t allow for more time exploring the different worlds, players, and other great things that the novel had to offer (oops, I’m comparing again). Despite the lengthy run-time, everything seemed very jammed together and there were a number of scenes that seemed to drag, causing pacing issues. Less time could have been spent on showing the live action characters controlling their avatars, in my opinion, which leads to one of my biggest gripes.
Quick side bar: I am an avid fan of the Assassin’s Creed video game franchise. I was so excited for the film adaptation and wound up hating it, with one of the main reasons being that instead of getting into the Animus machine like in the game, Michael Fassbender’s body was controlled by some weird apparatus and the film went back and forth showing him mimicking his action sequences while played out with his assassin character. The same premise applies in this case. I didn’t want to see a Playstation VR version of people using the OASIS, it just looked silly and took me out of scenes throughout the film. Sure, there were times when it took a comedic angle and was also used as a plot device during the final act of the film, but I personally didn’t like it.
Overall, the film was enjoyable, fun, and didn’t require much thinking. The object wasn’t to create a thought provoking case study on the effects of virtual reality compared to real life, though the theme was present. If you’re looking for a film with lots of action, great visuals, and something different than what else is out in theatres, this is the film for you.
With such an interesting world and the limitless possibilities set within the capabilities of the OASIS, I just wish more time was spent on the adventurous side of things instead of rushing the main quest. I could have done with less time spent on the IOI (the evil corporate antagonists) and the poorly-developed members of it.
We want to hear your thoughts on the film: what did you think about it? What were your favorite parts? What Easter Eggs did you spot? let us know in the comments section!