In all my movie experiences, there were few that captured my attention right from the start and made me inexplicably happy. Some of them, such as "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" (my very first Star Wars movie experience that was not at my home with the lights turned out), "The Avengers" (my first real comic book movie experience), and many others made me wish I could watch the movie again right as the credits rolled. For a while, I have yet to find a movie that can come close to recapturing that happiness.
I went to see "Ready Player One" with my father one weekend, and I entered the movie with very low expectations. I caught glimpse of the trailers, and I was not impressed at any of the performances, and it looked like just shoving in a whole bunch of recognizable figures for the sake of fan-service (I'll get into that in a minute).
But boy, was I proven wrong once we both left the theater with grins on our faces.
Before I jump into what I really enjoyed about the movie, what is this actually about?
Here's a brief summary: In the year 2045, the world is struggling to stay alive. A Global Energy Crisis has been in effect for quite some time, and humanity has been losing more and more hope as the years past. They have only one place to go to reassure them that life isn't all that bad: the OASIS, an advanced and super technological simulation that was created by James Halliday. In the OASIS, you could become whoever you wanted and travel wherever you wanted from the comfort of your own real life home! It doesn’t just restrict to real life people or places, either - you can become any fictional character and go to any fictional world you want either! And the greatest thing about the OASIS? It was absolutely free, and it was open to all in the public domain (think of it like Net Neutrality).
With this legendary and amazing creation, Halliday became a trillionaire overnight, and even outmatched Bill Gates and Steve Jobs in terms of technological innovation and richness. However, towards the tail end of his life, Halliday soon sent a message to the entire world claiming that he will leave behind one last thing: an Easter Egg hunt. Located within the thousands of planets OASIS users can travel to, the creator of the simulation reveals that he’s scattered three keys that can open a vault that contains his Easter Egg. Whoever finds the Egg has ENTIRE control of the OASIS, as well as inheriting Halliday’s riches. For five years, people have been searching, but to no avail.
That all changes when one day, a OASIS user by the name of Wade Watts finds the Copper Key, and now the entire world is more motivated than ever to find the last two keys to get to the egg - even if it means to kill in reality to claim the prize. These include various “gunters” (people who are in the hunt for Halliday’s egg) that he meets along the way, who end up befriending and helping Wade such as his friend Aech, famous Twitch streamer and minor celebrity Art3mis, against entire organizations who have devoted time and money deciphering every single clue about the hunt. One of the main organizations is called IOI, or Innovative Online Industries, who wish to obtain entire control of the OASIS to make it an advertisement-filled wasteland. Wade is not down with that, however, and it is going to take him and all his partners to stop IOI and hopefully retrieve Halliday’s egg before they do.
Overall, it sounds like a very straightforward plot, doesn’t it? That’s because it kind of is! It’s also sort of ridiculous if you look at it in hindsight - millions of people fighting over this online virtual simulation, including dozens of corrupt big-budget organizations, instead of trying to fix the real world which is in shambles. But if you ignore the plot holes of just simply fixing the world, you can follow along with the story quite nicely, as it is very simple to keep up with and understand.
But what is it about the story that sets it apart from others? That, ladies and gentlemen, is where all the 1980s references come into play. The entire set-up of Halliday’s egg hunt all revolves around his life growing up in the 80s, down to every last 80s movie, video-game, and any media you can possibly imagine. In combination with the OASIS - which can let you become whoever you want and travel wherever you want, fictional or not, all within the safety of your own home - this movie is NOTHING but 80s references, winks, nods, callbacks, and more dedicated to the era. There are still original characters, places, and locations, but if you grew up in the 80s or have a very familiar presence around them, you are going to die for every single reference and nod to those days!
...Which also means that if you are not a fan of the 80s, this movie could leave you potentially alienated besides of the characters you see go throughout their adventures. But to be fair, if you’re even remotely interested in movies like these, chances are that you already know a bit of 80s trivia and movies. And for those who are skeptical of these 80s references becoming just fan-service, some of them are, I won’t lie - but most of them are placed so that it makes sense and serves as a wink to the audience rather than a reference being shoved in the audience’s face.
What about the general acting in the movie and the effects and how the movie is shot? Well, before I say anything on that, two words - Steven Spielberg. That’s all. In terms of writing and directing, this man is regarded as a legend for a reason, and this movie clearly shows it. Right off the bat, the first scene is an exhilarating thrill ride that leaves such an impression on you, and it only goes up from there. Tye Sheridan as Wade Watts (or Parzival, as his OASIS username goes by) does his performance very well, and this also includes Olivia Cooke as Art3mis (or Samantha) and Lena Waithe as Aech (or Helen). Though, if you were to ask me, my favorite actor out of all of them has to be Ben Mendelsohn as Nolan Sorrento (IOI’s CEO), and Simon Pegg as Ogden Morrow, Halliday’s closest friend growing up and also helped design the OASIS. Every time I saw them on the movie screen, I smiled because these are actors I’m well familiar with and enjoy seeing, so I’m happy I was able to appreciate their performances.
The only real problem I have with the movie is in fact the relation to the book. By this time, it is fairly well known that there was an accompanying book that was written a couple years ago by Ernest Cline, and was generally well received and met with praise. The movie, however, goes a COMPLETELY different direction than the book, and the beginning is the first thing you notice right off the bat. It’s nothing bad, mind you - not in the slightest! The book starts things out simple and slow, and gradually builds upon it to the point where it gets exciting. The movie, however, starts with action and an exciting opening right off the bat, and is entirely different to how the book establishes things. Across both version is the same story - same characters, same characterization and locations - so newcomers don’t have to worry about becoming lost. For those who have read the book, however, the only thing I will say is to prepare to see almost a completely different movie. It’s not different to the point of becoming polarizing, but if you’ve read the book, do not expect a one-to-one translation.
Other than that, though, that has been my “Ready Player One” review! Overall, I very much enjoyed the movie and had a blast watching it with my father, and I think you would as well. If you are just looking for a great time, or some classic 80s fun and a simple to follow storyline, this movie has got you covered in all those areas. Thank you everyone so much for reading, and have a great day!