Ready Player One – Visual Flair can’t disguise an Empty Experience

A scene from Warner Bros. Pictures’, Amblin Entertainment’s and Village Roadshow Pictures’ action adventure “READY PLAYER ONE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

I’ve never read the book for Ready Player One, so feel free to stop reading this review now.  Still here? Good. The great Steven Spielberg has crafted one of his worst films ever. With that said, even a bad Spielberg film is well worth watching. Ok, not A.I. Artificial Intelligence that movie is unwatchable.  All I knew about this film was to expect visual eye-candy and the movie delivers in spades. This movie is basically a live action Wreck It Ralph without that horrible middle.

The novel and movie is yet another YA story set in a “dystopian” future where the world hasn’t been destroyed by some nuclear, or natural incident. It’s been destroyed by “apathy.” People just decided to stop fixing problems. Um, ok?

In one of the film’s more interesting moments we see Wade (played by Tye Sheridan who some may recognize from X-Men: Apocalypse) traversing his crowded trailer park. There’s hardly any place to go and we see everyone escape the mundaness of regular life by going into a massive virtual world called Oasis. Other than overcrowding, being “poor,” and having to put up with his Aunt’s horrible boyfriend, Spielberg fails to make a case for why the real world was so bad that Wade or anyone else felt a need to escape.

A scene from Warner Bros. Pictures’, Amblin Entertainment’s and Village Roadshow Pictures’ action adventure “READY PLAYER ONE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Considering the book came out in 2011, we can clearly see author Earnest Cline got his inspiration from games like Warcraft.  If there ever was a generic movie made about Warcraft and MMO’s this movie would be the result.

Wade’s use of the DeLorean from Back to the Future was cool, seeing a cameo of Chucky – hysterical, the Shining sequence – freaky as hell – especially since I’ve been to the real hotel where Stephen King wrote the novel, using the bike from Tron and more all of it kind brilliant but wasted. The movie never lets you be bored and don’t dare look away or you’ll miss an 80s pop cultural reference. Every other minute there’s a moment where you go, that’s kind of awesome. Hallow and pointless but awesome.

A scene from Warner Bros. Pictures’, Amblin Entertainment’s and Village Roadshow Pictures’ action adventure “READY PLAYER ONE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

At some point it becomes overdone and it doesn’t disguise the fact that the Oasis is ultimate a boring place with a lot of really bad animation. All the characters walk really sluggish and talk very stiff. The interactions don’t feel real and this script is straight up video game.

The plot is one giant quest to find 3 keys left by the game’s creator James Halliday (Mark Rylance) who was one of the most uninspired, uninteresting characters I’ve seen in a while. Why bother watching a movie where the characters themselves don’t particularly care what’s going on? I understand what Spielberg was trying to do with this character, ok, I really don’t. He wanted to go for the absent-minded professor trope, but there’s was no energy at all whenever he was on camera. Poor Simon Pegg is stuck playing the straight man/business partner.

The player who gets all the keys get the ultimate prize – the ability to own the entire company and world. There are of course some players whose soul goal is to find the keys and win. In the real-world Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn) the head of the number two tech company in the world is doing whatever he can to win the ultimate game.

A scene from Warner Bros. Pictures’, Amblin Entertainment’s and Village Roadshow Pictures’ action adventure “READY PLAYER ONE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

After going 30 years without anyone finding a key, Wade finds the first one and then tells this bad ass chick Art3mis (Olivia Cooke) how to find it. Then his buddy H (Lena Waithe) who told people and next thing you know its keys for EVERYONE. It took me out of the movie. What was the point of making this key this nearly impossible item and one of the keys to owning the entire thing something multiple people and anyone who solves the clue can have?

There are no consequences to anything that happens in the Oasis. If you die, you only lose all the gear and money you’ve accumulated and will have to start over from scratch. But there’s no real-world impact, you don’t die or get hurt at all. If you are one of the lucky few to have one of the supped up, full body gear with pain receptors, you can feel things that happen in the Oasis, but you won’t die.

I can’t say I was disappointed with this movie, it gave me exactly what I expected, visual eye-candy without a soul. I left the theater thinking, I didn’t regret the 2+ hrs I spent watching it, but I would have rather been home doing something else.

Final Grade C

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