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‘Ready Player One’ brings out the geek in all of us

Steven Spielberg crafts one of the most visually stunning movies of the CGI age

Claude Brun, Staff Reporter
Originally Published May 4, 2018

“Ready Player One” released to great popularity in 2011 and has since become one of the defining texts for the nerdiest of our generation. The book took place in a near future where the world is going through what seems to be a second great depression, prompting the bulk of society to spend most of their days in the Oasis, a massive virtual universe that has come to replace the internet. Within this bonafide massively multiplayer online game, people work their jobs, go on vacation, and of course, play games. When the game’s creator James Halliday dies and promises to leave his fortune and control of the Oasis to whoever can find his three keys hidden throughout the game’s universe, 18-year-old Wade Watts dedicates his life to finding the keys so that he can escape his life of poverty.

The book relies heavily on the nostalgia of the 80s and the classic video games and movies that came from that decade, as much of the culture of the Oasis as well as the challenges to get Halliday’s keys are themed around it. Thus, with the recent wave of popularity in the 80s (ie “Stranger Things,” “It,” mom/boyfriend jeans) 2018 is the perfect time for Hollywood to funnel hundreds of millions of dollars into a feature adaptation of the book.

And now we have Steven Spielberg’s “Ready Player One” film adaptation, an idea that could have easily been executed terribly. Yet, Steven Spielberg upholds his reputation as “the King of Entertainment” by crafting a very enjoyable blockbuster that effortlessly creates a fictional virtual world that’s brimming with life and character.

The scenes that take place within the Oasis are great fun to watch, in part thanks to the amazingly realistic yet subtly whimsical CGI. The animations look wonderfully realistic and Spielberg crafts an Oasis that lives up to the one so affectionately described in the book. That’s not to mention the myriad of pop-culture references that can be spotted in the movie. Some are obvious, like Wade’s DeLorean time machine which he drives throughout the course of the movie and some are more subtle, like the squad of Spartans from “Halo” that briefly appear in a few shots. While the 80s references were changed from those in the book (largely for copyright reasons) they’ve been tailored to awaken the fanboy in everyone, whether you’re a fan of “Gears of War” or “Nancy Drew.” One extended scene that takes place within a virtual recreation of “The Shining” achieves the perfect balance between relying on the classic moments from the movie and advancing Wade’s story.

Sadly, once we enter the real world, we experience the same sadness a hardcore gamer would when they turn off his PC. Everything feels boring, bland and less exciting than the virtual world we just left. While the real world is well realized, it’s clear that — like Wade — the story just wants to get back to the Oasis. The action packed scenes in the real world simply pail in comparison to those in the Oasis, where the rules of space and gravity are suspended, resulting in some action that may look fake but are nonetheless enjoyable when you turn your brain off.

And that describes this movie well. If you don’t think too much about it, you should enjoy it. The music does its job, the story is nothing to write home about but it keeps the action flowing and it has a good (but relatively shallow) message about living in the moment. The acting is serviceable but none of it is that memorable. Even Mark Rylance’s performance as James Halliday is nothing special. Being a popcorn munching blockbuster, “Ready Player One” naturally has some cheesy moments. Some very melodramatic things are said about geek culture and the nerdiness sometimes crosses the line from relatable to ‘Bro, get a life.’ If the film tried to frame it in a way that critiqued Wade’s obsession with pop-culture it would be something else, but “Ready Player One” often glorifies it. More so, this pattern contradicts the central message of the movie, which I won’t get into here because it is delivered very bluntly in a clichéd closing monologue; you won’t miss it.

At the end of the day, “Ready Player One” is not a thinking man’s movie. It is however a very fun watch that should leave your eyes satisfied and your nostalgia levels higher than you’d ever imagined they could go. There’s something in here for everyone to geek out about, and that’s what makes it so great. While it has its problems and inconsistencies, it’s still a worthwhile watch if you have even the slightest percentage of geek in you.

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‘Ready Player One’ brings out the geek in all of us