Ready Player One Review (Spoiler-Free)

April 9, 2018

I’m just going to get my one big complaint out of the way first – I don’t think Spielberg is a gamer. Even worse, it doesn’t seem like he made much of an effort to understand gamer culture while making his latest pop-culture, nostalgia romp, “Ready Player One.”  That said, I think Ernest Cline’s story is so strong – even with all of the changes necessary to adapt his novel into a 2-hour and 19-minute film – that what we’re given is one of the most fun movie experiences of 2018.

I was a bit skeptical going in (I love the book and didn’t want to see it botched). I didn’t believe that any adaptation could do this story justice. And while the film does have problems, it does its job by keeping main story beats in-line and morphing certain events from the novel into more movie-friendly content.

Like the plot of the movie itself, “Ready Player One” is an Easter egg hunt, and I’m not sure if it’ll land with those who aren’t into “nerd” or “geek” culture. There are large chunks of this film where Spielberg’s goal seems to be, “let’s force gamers and non-gamers to find some middle ground.” Still, “Ready Player One” is full of so many hard truths, almost making it a commentary on modern society. Spielberg, yet again, has broken ground on a new type of discussion.

There are not a lot of movies that genuinely represent gaming in all of its glory. The fact that Disney’s “Wreck-it-Ralph” got me more excited about playing video games than “Ready Player One” is a bit of a letdown. But for gamers, many questions and ideas presented in “Ready Player One” aren’t of the sunshine-and-bunnies variety. Many of us play games as a form of escapism. “Ready Player One” really explores the question, “why be in this world when I pick up a controller and be in a better one?

The Oasis (the story’s VR world), is where I had the most fun with “Ready Player One.” I mean, who wouldn’t like to leave reality every once in a while and go to a place that is, quite literally, perfect? Unfortunately, this is where “Ready Player One” bumps into some tonal issues. The film (despite trying) never captures the correlation between a person and their “in-game avatar,” emotionally. The film even makes several jokes regarding the dissonance between a player and their avatar – turning what should have been very heavy, gut-wrenching moments into comedic gags.

It was hard for me to get into the film, at first. I was slightly bored (which has been a recurring theme for more recent Spielberg movies). Instead of watching the movie, I couldn’t help but think of how great “Ready Player One” would be as an actual video game. But when our main protagonist, Wade Watts, figures out the first challenge, the movie picks up and never really slows down. That’s not a bad thing. From a fan perspective, “Ready Player One” engaged me with its plethora of references. Again, everyone’s experience with the movie will differ. You either get and understand the references, or you don’t.

Performances all around were very strong. Tye Sheridan and Olivia Cooke do great voice work, which made it very odd when the film cut back to the real world – where both of their characters were somewhat bland. While I understand what Spielberg was doing here (making the real world boring), it still could have used more substance. Being in the real world should make a character automatically boring, but it does here. Still, i appreciated the diverse cast – something we’ve been seeing more and more of recently in Hollywood. “Ready Player One” does a great job of showing just how many types of people, regardless of gender, ethnicity or socioeconomic background, play video games. Ben Mendelsohn is great as the film’s main antagonist, Sorrento; but Mendelsohn is always great, and I will always cherish watching him in these villainous rolls.

7.0 out of 10 – Good

“Ready Player One” isn’t nearly as bold as it should be and Spielberg plays it safe. The outcome is a very standard, albeit fun film.