Videogames and film they’ve had quite the relationship haven’t they. Neither truly understanding the other to achieve what they both do alone, succeed. Can Ready Player One climb the mountain of failures that came before?
Ready Player One is set in the future (2045 to be exact) where humanity has finally decided to shy away from its problems. We have retreated to the “Oasis” a virtual universe where anyone can be what they want to be and there are no limits. Just an endless supply of pop culture references that denizens of the Oasis can draw upon.
When the Oasis’ creator James Halliday (Mark Rylance) passed away he left one final quest for his followers. This quest involves three keys and an endless supply of treasure. Unfortunately when Ready Player One opens no one has cleared the first quest and this is where the audience meets Wade (Tye Sheridan). Wade is from Ohio and hopes to conquer the quest so he can get out from under his small part of the world and achieve greatness. When he meets Art3mis (Olivia Cooke) a legendary gamer he sets in motion a chain of events that will change the world forever.
When the film opened up and audiences get to see the Oasis it is quite the sumptuous experience. The experience for me felt similar to what I can only imagine travelling through a Stargate is like. I felt an incredible rush as the endless worlds of the Oasis are shown whizzing by the screen. You can try your best to check out all these worlds and the characters that inhabit them but you will need a pause button because you’ll never be able to take everything in all in one sitting. And I suppose this is what makes Ready Player One a fascinating videogame experiment. The film feels like you’ll achieve something if you can find every cameo, every nod, every easter egg in the film and it’s that feeling that gives Ready Player One a unique identity.
Sadly what takes away from this uniqueness are some of the characters, though Tye Sheridan is commendable as Wade aka Parzival (his Oasis identity) his character is your usual by the numbers Disney hero. So much so that he is complete with dead parents from the offset of the film. He’s given every character trait a protagonist is required to have in Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces so there are no surprises with him. It’s the supporting cast where audiences can find most of the flavour of Ready Player One.
Art3mis (Cooke) is a woman on a mission to avenge her father against the evil corporation IOI who are hoping to complete Halliday’s quest to pursue their own nefarious desires. They’re spearheaded by Nolan Sorrento (always a baddie never a goodie Ben Mendehlson) who will stop at nothing to conquer the Oasis. The true trophy goes to Mark Rylance who plays the eccentric gamer Halliday. He is heartbreakingly familiar to any gamers out there and his performance brought a genuine tear to my eye.
As well as the less than original protagonist the dialogue within Ready Player One is nothing exemplary. The dialogue can come across as clunky at times. It’s a shame because there are moments that could have been emotionally satisfying unfortunately the story doesn’t dwell on them enough to capitalise on the emotional currency available to them. There is also the issue of the unimpressive villains and a runtime that felt bloated if I’m being honest.
Where Ready Player One shines though is in its quest, the three trials are fascinating and are fun to try and figure out for yourself. My personal favourite is the second trial and it has one of the most enjoyable acts of a film in it and it involves one of the most influential IPs in horror and I couldn’t believe how satisfying it was. There was some true innovation during this act of the film, unfortunately, the third trial does falter slightly when the bar has been risen so high, in my opinion, with this second trial.
Ready Player One is a love letter to videogames and pop culture in the most earnest way possible. The characters, though at times are not as deep as you’d hope they would be, are endearing. The world crafted is gobsmackingly gorgeous with visuals that trump everything else out right now. And the message of the story is a beautiful one that everyone should take into their lives.