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Ready Player One - 2018

Ready Player One - 2018

Director(s): Steven Spielberg  

Writer(s): Zak Penn and Ernest Cline (screenplay) / Ernest Cline (novel)

Cinematography by: Janusz Kaminski  

Editor(s): Sarah Broshar and Michael Kahn

Cast: Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Lena Waithe, T.J. Miller, Simon Pegg and Mark Rylance  

Synopsis: When the creator of a virtual reality world called OASIS dies, he releases a video in which he challenges all OASIS users to find his Easter Egg, which will give the finder his fortune (IMDB).

Review:

A sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations; Nostalgia. This has been a huge source of inspiration in Hollywood as of late, with every possible TV sitcom getting rebooted or reimagined and movies going for a retro look and feel. So, adapting a novel where society is obsessed with nostalgia, the decade of the eighties specifically, seemed like a no brainer. But, if you read the source material you just wonder who could ever tackle this big mountain of creativity and constant use of 80’s nostalgia. Well simple, you get the man that is responsible for a good chunk of that 80’s nostalgia; Steven Spielberg. Oh, it also helps that he’s one of the best directors of the last few decades.

The story at its core is very simple and straight forward: a hero’s journey. The underdog that faces insurmountable odds only to rise to the occasion and save the day. The setting is also straight forward: a dystopian future. A small subset of the population has majority of the wealth and the rest of society is struggling to survive under extreme circumstances. What makes Ready Player One unique is the Oasis: the virtual reality world that allows everyone that accesses it to be anyone they want to be and be anywhere they want to be. This is a place where the characters escape the harsh realities of their living situations, choosing to live in this virtual paradise where your skills and not your social standing is what matters. Tie that to the fact that the recently deceased creator of this world challenges its users to an Easter Egg hunt based around 1980’s pop and nerd culture and you have a fairly entertaining movie.

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The last movies Mr. Spielberg directed are Lincoln, Bridge of Spies, The BFG and The Post. With RPO being a sci-fi/action adventure, they don’t seem like he was warming up for this project. But, if you are having doubts about his ability to direct action, the first big action set piece will put all your doubts to rest. Every single time there was an action set piece I was glued to the screen. Spielberg’s ability to block a scene has always been one of his biggest assets as a director and this movie benefits greatly from it. He keeps the movie moving at a quick pace and the audience doesn’t feel the 2hr and 20min runtime. But weirdly, the moments I felt less connected to the movie was anytime we were in the real world. Spielberg usually delivers characters that the audience connects and engages with but the human version of the Oasis’ avatars just missed the mark for me. I just kept waiting for us to jump back in the CGI world.

Quick note: watching Spielberg direct sequences with the DeLorean from Back to the Future was my geeky dream come true. I had an unapologetic smile on my face while watching it.

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Zak Penn and Ernest Cline wrote a good adaptation of a very difficult source material. While I was reading the book, there were multiple times when I said out loud “No way this can be a movie” and I was right and wrong. The core of the story is there but necessary changes occurred to make it a more streamlined story for the silver screen. But, there are way too many changes that I didn’t care for, and my wife (someone who didn’t read the book) also found them as weak aspects from an overall enjoyable experience. My biggest qualm was the multiple missed jokes, on me, by the change of the character I-R0k, voiced by T.J. Miller. He is a mercenary hired by the bad guys and I guess he tries to be comedic relief.  Also, the tests are extremely watered down. Sorrento isn’t as menacing as he is in the books and Parzival doesn’t come across as a “underdog genius” like in the books. He almost feels like he is just going through the motions rather than leading the charge.

Quick note: not all changes were bad and my favorite change is the movie simulation they jump into. Not going to spoil it but it was both hilarious and visually entertaining.

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The acting is fine. Nothing horrible, nothing great and all the avatar counterparts steal the movie from the actors (I know they voice them… it’s a “joke”).

Ready Player One is entertaining, a blast, and just a plain old fun time. Is it a perfect movie? No, far from it. Does it crack the top movies of Spielberg’s career? Not even close. But, he adapted what many considered an unadaptable book and delivered a nostalgia heavy story without it feeling heavy handed and I was extremely entertained. This is not a “turn off your brain” and have fun movie; you will just simply have fun. Steven Spielberg is back in the action adventure genre and the world is better for it. Spielberg is why I love movies.

Ready Player One is currently playing in theaters. Go watch it.  

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