Steven Spielberg delivers a mesmerising, nostalgia ride of excitement!
Ready Player One?
As you take your seat in the darkened amphitheatre of the cinema, the anticipation of the journey you are about to embark upon cannot compare to the genuine thrill ride that awaits you. Sat beside you on this whimsical journey is Hollywood legend Steven Spielberg. In his guise as a wise Jedi Master, he is on the verge of transporting you to an incredible world the likes of which you have never seen, and as the opening logos appear on the screen he whispers something in your ear…a snippet of advice bestowing upon you the words which will change your cinematic world forever….
“You’ve taken your first step into a larger world!”
READY PLAYER ONE:
I am constantly mesmerised by the brilliance of Hollywood legend, Steven Spielberg. As a child, he inspired my lifelong fascination with sharks, brought an extra-terrestrial into my back yard, transported me Back to the Future and realised the resurrection of the greatest creatures ever to walk the planet. From Jaws to Jurassic Park, E.T to Close Encounters, Back to the Future to Hook and Raiders of the Lost Ark to Gremlins, Spielberg has been instrumental in my cinematic experiences for as long as I can remember.
With the modern cinematic landscape reaching a point of mundane monotony, boasting a succession of undemanding blockbusters, it is to the icons of the industry we look to restore the balance. Enter Steven Spielberg. The master has once again returned to sprinkle his magic over Ready Player One, a big screen adaptation of the best-selling novel from author Ernest Cline.
When the creator of a virtual reality world called the OASIS (Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation) dies, he releases a video in which he challenges all OASIS users to find his Easter Egg, which will give the finder his fortune.
Boasting a screenplay written by Zak Penn and the novel’s author Ernest Cline, the big screen adaptation of Ready Player One found the perfect custodian when it came to its director. Steven Spielberg, having taken a sabbatical from producing fantasy movies since the 2011 blockbuster, The Adventures of Tintin signed on to both produce and direct the feature. And his artistic hand is evident from the movies opening moments.
The narrative is a remarkably simple one to follow. In the event of his death, the visionary designer of the Oasis, James Halliday (Mark Rylance) had left the custodianship of the platform to the virtual reality contestant clever enough to decipher his clues and discover the location of his all-powerful Easter Egg. The discovery of the golden egg would bestow upon the victor ownership of the OASIS and complete control over its immense fortune. Contestants of all shapes, sizes and ages have entered the OASIS as the avatar of their choice desperate to overcome the incredible obstacles standing in their way. The first of which had never been defeated.
The mother of all street races.
It is here we meet the movies’ protagonist, a streetwise daredevil called Parzival aka Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), a Gunter who wishes to win the quest, so he can leave the stacks, a skyscraper sized slum where the poorest members of the population are discarded by society. Inside the Oasis, Parzival and his closest friend, a Gunter called Aech enter the race as rivals but look out for one another. Aech runs a virtual garage in his free time to create and fix various made to order vehicles and items.
Together they enter the race alongside a whole host of devoted racers, as well as an abundance of entrants representing Innovative Online Industries, a greedy multinational company seeking control of the OASIS. Every racer selects their vehicle of choice with many of the icons of pop culture being represented. From the famous monster truck Bigfoot, to the iconic van from the A-Team and even the incredible 1966 Batmobile, driven by the unconquerable Adam West, the icons are on display in all their glory. In what can only be described as a glorious masterstroke, Parzival selects the fantastic time machine from the Back to the Future franchise, the DeLorean.
It is on the starting line he encounters Art3mis (Olivia Cooke), a famous Gunter who works with various allies to ensure the OASIS is kept free and out of the hands of IOI. Riding a light cycle from seventies classic Tron, she takes her place on the starting line and prepares to face the mother of all races.
What follows is arguably the greatest street race ever to be presented on screen.
The obstacles are insane. Everything imaginable, including the kitchen sink are thrown at the participants. From boulders to spikes, pedestrian traffic and even the iconic Tyrannosaurus Rex from the original Jurassic Park, the racers run the gauntlet of a lifetime desperate to reach the final obstacle…
The greatest monster of all time defends the finish line and he has never been defeated…how will he hold up against the Batmobile and the DeLorean?
In the aftermath of the race, Parzival begins to uncover clues to the mystery, all the while his blossoming relationship with Art3mis goes from strength to strength and they ally to pool their resources. It is in the aftermath of the race we encounter Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), the CEO of Innovative Online Industries, who seeks full control over the OASIS. Sorrento, like Parzival spends his time between the worlds and uses the resources of both in his quest to find the egg, a responsibility placed upon his shoulders by his greedy shareholders.
Parzival soon assumes the role of a cult celebrity. As his popularity sours throughout the OASIS, so does his profile which quickly alerts Sorrento to his efforts to find the egg. What follows is a race against time between the forces of IOI and Parzival’s growing list of friends who circumnavigate the obstacles of both the real world and the perils within the OASIS. This culminates with the biggest final battle in virtual reality history. This is where many of the greatest pop cultural icons in movie history make their highly anticipated cameo appearances.
Almost every famous icon in cinematic history appear at one point or another with Robocop, Beetlejuice, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Batman, Harley Quinn, The Joker, The Xenomorph Alien, Chucky, Freddy Kruger, Jason Voorhees, the Iron Giant, the Gremlins, Sonic the Hedgehog and Mechagodzilla to name but a few. And it is amongst the mayhem that Spielberg pays tribute to one of his greatest mentors. Rampant amongst the battle is the iconic Ray Harryhausen Cyclops from the 7th Voyage of Sinbad. Like many of his peers, Spielberg counts the moment the Cyclops storms onto the beach in the opening moments of 7th Voyage as the moment that inspired his imagination and made him want to make movies. It is incredibly gratifying to witness a computer-generated version of Harryhausen’s Cyclops explode onto the screen for the first time since 1958 and interact with the environment in such quality.
With the war for the Oasis reaching its pinnacle, Sorrento and his minions race to expose the virtual reality contestants in the real world and have them arrested before they can unlock Halliday’s secrets inside the Oasis.
Which side will prevail? Book your tickets to find out…
With what feels like relative ease, Steven Spielberg has crafted another magical cinema experience that transports you to another world. A world that not only feels fantastical but establishes itself well within the limits of our modern comprehension. With our “real world” population spilling out of control and virtual reality becoming prevalent on our home-based games consoles, the notion of a genuine Oasis is a very real possibility. Spielberg realises this future and presents it with glee.
As was the case with Jurassic Park, Spielberg has selected actors with incredible talent over the established A-List Hollywood hierarchy and Ready Player One is all the richer for it. Tye Sheridan slips into his role as both Wade and Parzival effortlessly and takes us under his wing as he tackles the events both inside and out of the Oasis. As was the case with his appearance in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Ben Mendelsohn is a joy on screen. Even though his character is a greedy, corporate stooge, the actor immerses himself in the role and his charisma oozes through the screen at all times. The same can be said for Olivia Cooke. She positively sparkles as the rebellious Art3mis and her growing relationship with Parzival is a welcome inclusion.
As you would expect from a Spielberg feature, the cinematography is breathtakingly vivid, with the sequences presented in glorious clarity which deserves to be experienced on the biggest IMAX screen you can find. Spielberg’s directorial touch is faultless and resonates with the vibe from his past successes which will undoubtedly ensure that Ready Player One will be counted amongst the greats.
The soundtrack, written and composed by the great Alan Silvestri is a perfect fit for the source material and accentuates the movies brilliance at every turn. The occasional hint at his Back to the Future score is nostalgia trigger in itself and helps the movie feel familiar whilst being fresh and exciting. Furthermore, the addition of some of the greatest pop culture songs from the eighties was a welcome addition and they blend with the tone of the movie flawlessly.
My biggest misconception ahead of seeing the movie was the overwhelming array of pop culture references at play. With so many icons of cinema revealed amongst the trailers, one could be forgiven for thinking they would usurp the events of the film and undermine the plot at every turn. I am delighted to have been proven wrong in this case. Instead of being a detraction, they make the movie. I cannot stress how delightful it is playing spot the Hollywood legend throughout the length of the movie, and it will take way more than a single visit to catch them all. This only serves to heighten the overall pleasure of Ready Player One and it will have fans besides themselves with euphoria. Thankfully, the storyline is compelling enough to hold its own against the nostalgia components which heightened the film instead of consuming it.
Including the Cyclops from the 7th Voyage of Sinbad was my personal highlight. Being a lifelong fan of Ray Harryhausen’s sublime movies, having a computer-generated rendition of the character integrated into the epic final battle was, for me a moment to punch the air in delight.
To summarise, Ready Player One is mesmerising. A feature film that can best be described as a breakthrough for cinema. For a single movie to unite so many rival studios in order to put the experience of the viewer ahead of financial gain is incredible. This relationship will undoubtedly propagate a higher quality of motion picture production in the future and will only benefit our overall cinematic experiences moving forward. Overall, Ready Player One is an incredible movie, a rollercoaster ride of fantasy, blended with a hauntingly accurate look at our own future. Spielberg has crafted another instant classic and I cannot wait to experience it again…
So, what are you waiting for? Join the adventure too big for the real world.
Steven Spielberg has issued a challenge. Join the fight and help save the Oasis. Whether you choose to be Robocop, Batman, Beetlejuice or King Kong…there is a place for everyone in the Oasis. And with a pair of IMAX 3D glasses in hand…a piece of it can be yours.
As the credits roll and lights illuminate the room, the sudden realisation hits you….the words of our guide were true. You have taken your first steps into a larger world…and things will never be the same again…