You had me at explosive action, a dope soundtrack and CGI hair blowing in the wind more beautiful than a Disney princess’s.
The long-awaited adaptation for Ernest Cline’s literary 80s nerdfest has made it to the big screen and people are loving it. No wonder, the source material is awesome! If you need a quick refresher, here‘s our (rather extensive, spoiler-filled) book review.
No worries, though, this entire text will be free of any spoilers! So let’s jump right into it, shall we?
More than half of Ready Player One takes place in a virtual reality universe called Oasis. There, we follow Parzival aka Wade Watts, a young, Oasis user obsessed with the hunt for Halliday’s easter egg. This is basically the las will of the virtual universe’s creator James Halliday and grants the finder all rights to and rule over the Oasis. Parzival, after having found the first of three keys, teams up with Art3mis, Aech, Daito and Sho to try and find the remaining keys as well as the egg before IOI do. IOI is a greedy corporation set on making all users pay (in the long run) exorbitant amounts for the use of the so far practically free virtual reality. Thus it not only becomes a question of pride but, more importantly, of survival, given that the Oasis is the only means of escape and freedom in the story’s otherwise bleak, hopeless reality.
Naturally, everybody was dying to find out how the CGI would look and how life-like they were going to make it. And wouldn’t you know it, it is incredible! Not photo-realistic, which is a good thing cause that would have just made the entire experience unsettling
I’m not here for the next Black Mirror episode. It looks like a video game, a very beautiful, exceptionally creative, ridiculously engaging video game. Couldn’t have imagined it any more fitting for this kind of story. Big applause to the entire artistic team that worked on RP1 for their marvellous work on special effects and animation.
My absolute favorite when it comes to looks is actually the fairly obvious choice of Parzival. He looks like the grown up, casually punk-ified version of Jack Frost. But while he is clearly still humanoid, Art3mis and Aech let their creativity flow freely while picking a character design, making them unique and certainly recognizable even outside the film – geting my wallet ready for some crazy cool merch!!
Another humungous part of movie and book alike: easter eggs. The entire story is built around the biggest easter egg hunt in the history of mankind. Halliday has hidden the physical (well, not technically physical, more virtually physical if you know what I mean) key (well, not technically a key, since you need three keys to get to the easter egg) to his legacy inside this virtual reality and anyone is welcome to try finding it. Which means Parzival and all other serious contestants need to be absolute experts in all things Halliday – what he liked, what he watched, his favorite song lyrics, most played Atari games etc. – to stand a chance at finding this special easter egg. But that’s not the only rendition of a hidden treat this movie offers. Having read the book, I was expecting nothing short of an onslaught of references, obvious and obscure, and I was not disappointed. The number of generous nods to video games, movies, tv-shows and general 80s/90s fandoms is overwhelming. As is that of YouTube videos dedicated to finding all of those easter eggs. You could spend hours on those. We would know. Literally.
A big selling point of RP1 is the director Spielberg, himself. And I certainly felt his distinct influence in the way the story was told. So much wonder, so much attention to detail and the loving eye with which even the oddest and dorkiest of characters were regarded. Even Halliday, whose book-counterpart I didn’t find particularly likable, became someone to root for. I did like Tye Sheridan’s performance a whole lot, though. He perfectly brought across the child-like fascination and nerdiness of a genuine fanboy and was charming throughout. And watch out for my favorite character Sho, the wold’s most badass eleven-year-old!
The choice of title songs in such a reference-heavy movie needed to be an hommage in itself. And there are some vastly recognized stand-out pieces in it for sure, like Van Halen’s Jump. I would have liked to hear more of those songs, though. Especially the first car race sequence was practically score-less (no pun intended) and I, personally, might have found it more engaging and less of a heavy-handed showing off of visual exposition. Groovy nonetheless.
All that being said, I gotta admit that, unfortunately, I didn’t like the movie as much as I had hoped. For those who read the novel, it might be just a bit unsatisfactory to see basically every single plot point completely changed. Due to a focus on the visuals and fights, the coherence of the story was sacrificed which left RP1 a bit superficial and doesn’t convey how exceptionally dire the entire easter egg hunt truly is – we’re talking about the future of civilization here, after all. Spielberg does his best to bring in some emotion, it just seems near impossible what with the almost excessive number of vital plot points the movie needs to address to make sense. BUT! That doesn’t mean the it is disappointing by any means; it is actually well worth watching. If you’re looking for a visually impressive, exciting action movie with car races, explosions and more than one wild battle sequence, you’ll enjoy the everlovin’ Captain Crunch out of RP1.
So get out your walkmans (walkmen?) and do your best Marty McFly impression cause the nostalgia is real with this one!!