Around this time last year I had just finished reading Ready Player One, a novel written by Ernest Cline. It's a work of fiction that could be considered a contemporary re-imagining of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I had no idea at the time that a movie was in production, and I was surprised when I saw the first trailer. Still, I had my concerns regarding the CGI (computer-generated imagery) and narrative. So, how does the film hold up? Is it a faithful adaptation of the novel, another generic sci-fi flick, or does it sit somewhere else on the spectrum?
The story takes place in a near-dystopian future plagued by overpopulation, world hunger, and mega-corporations.The majority of the population spend their time in the OASIS, a video game simulation created by James Halliday (portrayed by Mark Rylance). Our protagonist is a young man named Wade Watts/Parzival (Tye Sheridan), an orphan who lives with his aunt and her abusive boyfriend in Ohio. When Halliday dies he leaves a message behind. He states that the first person to win his contest within the OASIS will have full ownership of the company, along with his massive fortune. Wade discovers the first clue, then the competition heats up! That's the synopsis, in a nutshell.
That being said, I found enjoyment in this film; I had the biggest smile on my face within the first five minutes! I stared in awe during the action sequences, a lot of the jokes were downright hilarious( especially the lines delivered by T.J. Miller's character, i-R0k), the acting was better than I anticipated, the CGI was great, and I appreciated the plethora of pop-culture references! (Minecraft, Iron Giant, the Delorean, Overwatch, The Shining, several Batman related characters, Halo, Gundam, Godzilla, Chucky, I could go on...) I'll have to watch the movie several times to catch everything!
There were some deviations from the book, however. Parzival's online schooling is left out, certain characters meet at different intervals, there's less of an emphasis on 80's culture in the movie, and some characters' fates are changed from the book. Despite this, these changes didn't take away from the movie itself. In fact, the narrative is more streamlined because of it!
If I have to state any criticisms or concerns, I felt that the romantic aspect of the movie was forced. There's also little character development, so when one character states to another, "I love you.", I didn't buy it. It wasn't handled in a believable, natural manner and it kinda took me out of the experience momentarily. I had the same issue with the book, but is it fair to fault the movie for following the source material?
Other aspects I personally enjoyed were the overall video game aesthetic, the Hotwheels-esque race track scene complete with wrecking balls, and the anti-gravity club lifted straight from the pages of the novel! This is Spielberg's best work in a decade! If you're a gamer, if you enjoy action films, or if you simply appreciate pop-culture in general, then I think you'll like this movie!