If you like nostalgia being vomited from the screen and into your lap, you are going to LOVE Ready Player One. We went into this film with moderate expectations which were met, but definitely not exceeded. Ready Player One is two hours and 15 minutes of social commentary made palatable by serving it up with a visual feast of effects, Easter eggs and music.
Set in the near future, 2045, life is very bleak, as evidenced by the fact that people are willingly moving to Columbus, OH in droves. Everyone escapes to a virtual reality known as the OASIS where you can be anyone and anything.
When the creator dies he indulges his Willy Wonka complex and leaves a trail of clues to a puzzle, and the first one to solve it will inherit the OASIS and all its wealth. A young gamer who goes by the screen name Parzival cracks the first part of the code and spends the rest of the movie trying to win the game and avoid the evil corporation that wants to sell advertising. Advertising! The horror!
Adding to the bad guys’ badness, they run what appear to be legal debtors prisons, and use them for slave labor to work in the OASIS.
Back To The Future
Through all this we are inundated with imagery from the 80s. Turns out the OASIS creator was an introvert who became a pop culture geek. From Marty McFly to a Terminator-esque thumbs up to classic Atari 2600 games, this information superhighway was built by paving over Memory Lane.
At first we thought that so many pop culture references were a distraction. We were spending so much time looking for and identifying obscure songs or icons we would miss out on the movie. Looking back (as we listen to Take On Me by A-Ha) we realize this may be by design! By focusing on all the fun of the OASIS, we would overlook the fact that the script is thin and the dialogue poor. Not today, Satan!
The words spoken are so contrived and predictable they feel as if they were written by 18-year-olds in 1985, and leave the characters as shallow as the Heathers after having had a brain tumor for breakfast. One would hope youth would advance with technology but that is not the case here.
Seeing Is Believing
The best part of this movie is director Steven Spielberg realizing a grand and broad vision. The movie has two completely different feels and looks. The real world is shot in with a ‘real’ feel, exposing the grim, dystopic life faced by most people. Scenes inside the OASIS are sleek, beautiful, and OMG jaw-dropping awesome. The opening shot as Parzival descends his lair in the Stacks sets the tone for how Spielberg will take us through the film, and it is wonderful.
While the genius of Jaws was that the threat of the titular shark made the movie. The actual creature spends very, very little time on-screen. RP1 is the exact opposite. It shows us everything, leaving nothing to the imagination. And what it doesn’t show us, the bloated script tells us. Over and over again.
We get it. We spend too much time on our phones and on social media. But if the alternative is going to movies like this, I’ll take the virtual reality.
Go Big or Stay Home
If you do want to see Ready Player One, by all means do so while it’s still in theaters. See it in 3D and hear it in Dolby sound. The amazing visuals and sound will be completely lost at home, even on your 70″ inch TV and Bose sound bar.
That said, we need a drink.
The Critic’s Cocktail Recommendation
Nothing says 80s nostalgia like a Bartles & Jaymes wine cooler. Sold in four packs and in several refreshing flavors, this drink simultaneously epitomizes everything that was good and bad with the 80s. Grab your bottle opener and chug a couple down before you head into the theater! Then rent The Shining.