As a child of the ’80s, I grew up with the content featured in Ready Player One from director Steven Spielberg. The references are fast and furious in this new film that is set in the future while paying tribute to the past, and that endeared me to the project from the moment I sat down.
Wade (Tye Sheridan) lives his life in relative anonymity in the Stacks. His neighborhood in Columbus consists of living quarters that would be best thought of as a glorified junkyard, with places to stay piled on top of each other. But home is not where the heart is in this future setting. No, that is at the OASIS.
The OASIS is a virtual world that serves as an escape from the harsh existence citizens face in the real world. In the OASIS, it doesn’t matter who you are — everyone becomes who they want to be. The only limits to what can occur in this alternate reality are centered in your imagination. But even the OASIS is not peaceful at the moment.
Wade dreams of solving the three challenges that were left behind for the inhabitants of the OASIS five years earlier by the co-creator of the virtual environment, Halliday (Mark Rylance). The individual who completes the tasks first will take over everything. But despite the efforts of all who have tried, no one has been able to even solve the first challenge, and the leaderboard remains empty.
Wade, whose in-game alias is Parzival, has friends in the game, but he has refused to join them to create a clan. They play together, but ride solo. And it seems that’s the way it will go until he meets an avatar who sweeps him off his feet. Art3mis (Olivia Cooke) has not only a look to her that stuns Parzival, but she also has an attitude and personality that leave the man smitten. But this is the game — it’s not real life.
As Parzival finally solves the seemingly mystifying first challenge, alliances are made, friendships develop and Parzival wants to meet Art3mis in real life. But on the road to complete the challenges, there is one clan standing above them all. Tech giant IOI is attempting to solve the riddles with an army of individuals at its disposal. It’s a virtual race for ownership of the most powerful company on the planet. Who will win?
Part animated, part live-action but all fast-paced fun, Ready Player One is so chock-full of ’80s references that even those well versed in the era will need multiple viewings to catch all that goes on around the characters.
Sure, there are hiccups along the way, be it underdeveloped plot points, unexplored narratives and some schizophrenic moments, along with a 2-hour-and-20-minute runtime. I still found myself enjoying the ride that existed within the film, and the message that drove home the story was spot on.
To create a new life in a virtual world where everyone is “someone else” can be fun, but it is more fun to create that character in real life for yourself. Relating to the person next door or even down the hall makes everyone and everything just a little bit better. Don’t miss what’s right in front of your eyes, and don’t miss Ready Player One.
Paul’s Grade: B+
Ready Player One
Stars: Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn Director: Steven Spielberg
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