Review ‘ready player one’ a fun adventure through ’80s culture movies gastritis


When the creator of the OASIS James Halliday (Mark Rylance) dies, he leaves behind a game. Whoever finds three keys to unlock a hidden easter egg will gain control of the OASIS. Innovative Online Industries, led by Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), is using a team of forced labor to find the keys in hopes of ending the freedom of the OASIS. Bye-bye OASIS neutrality.

Our hero is Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) AKA Parzival in the OASIS, where everyone exists as an avatar. He has immersed himself in Halliday’s history and the pop culture Halliday loved. This allows him to become the first person to find a key during a race that incorporates various vehicles from film and TV, and features appearances by popular monsters. It is a thrilling piece of filmmaking on par with some of Spielberg’s best sequences.

The film has fun with how real world appearances differ from avatars, so to reveal who is playing Aech would spoil one of the film’s best reveals. When the characters finally do start interacting in the real world, there is genuine chemistry, and we aren’t simply waiting to return to the OASIS.

In terms of acting, the leads are appealing, but the film is stolen by Rylance who is perfect as the socially awkward Halliday. His screen time is limited, but every detail of his performance — from his mannerisms to his vocal inflections — is spot-on.

The film does have issues. The villains aren’t interesting. Mendelsohn tries to be threatening as Sorrento but he’s just a bland guy in a suit. He only comes alive when he tries to ingratiate himself to Wade by feigning pop-culture knowledge.

Sorrento’s lackeys I-R0k (T.J. Miller) and F’Nale Zandor (Hannah John-Kamen) add little to the equation. I-R0k has a cool skull design but Miller goes off on comedic riffs that don’t work. F’Nale is a character added for the movie and feels extraneous.

“Ready Player One” is geek wish fulfillment, in which all the obsessive storing of knowledge about movies, TV, video games, comic books, etc., allows a geek to become a hero and get the girl. Some have complained that Cline’s view of geek culture is overly male-centric and doesn’t acknowledge the burgeoning presence of the geek-girl.

Thankfully, Art3mis never becomes a damsel in distress and her actions are instrumental to Wade’s success in a climactic battle that features so many cameos by familiar properties of the 1980s and 1990s that it would take several viewings to spot them all.

Visually, the film recalls “Minority Report” and “A.I.,” both of which reflected dark futures in shiny packages. The OASIS is portrayed as a fun place, but there’s an underlining commentary about a society that is living more and more in a digital world. This helps to give “Ready Player One” weight.

In terms of this sort cultural pastiche, “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” did it in a way that felt more fresh and original, but “Ready Player One” is a welcomed return of the crowd-pleasing Spielberg that brought us “Jaws,” “Indiana Jones,” “Jurassic Park” and “E.T.”