I can not control my nerdy love for ‘Ready Player One’. When this film first took me into the world of the Oasis, I thought I had died and gone to the heaven I have been hearing about all my life. I actually had to check my pulse and confirm I was still in the real world. I know that sounds like a bunch of nonsense, but I’m for real. I genuinely could not believe that the greatest filmmaker of all time was taking me into a virtual world where every piece of popular culture I have loved my entire life was a reality. Luckily, I am still alive, but I am currently nicking for another hit of the Oasis and all the wonder it has to offer.
The story for ‘Ready Player One’ is basically Steve Jobs as Willy Wonka, but through the eyes of a god. The year is 2045 and the world is mostly an extended slum. Population is out of control and the economy almost solely runs in the virtual world. That virtual word is known as the Oasis and it is a trip into the mind of a brilliant gamer who grew up in the 1980’s, but had the genius to translate his imagination into a game that the whole world could live in. That gamers name is James Halliday and he is this films Willy Wonka.
Before he dies, Halliday leaves a series of keys and clues that will lead one equally brilliant individual to an Easter egg that gives them control of the entire Oasis. Now, the Oasis is the main driving force of the world’s economy. So, the corporation that seems to run what is left of America will stop at nothing to win the contest and gain permanent control. That corporation is called IOI and they are like big brother hacking into your ‘World of Warcraft’ account to manipulate your experience.
The main character in the film is a kid named Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) and his avatar in the Oasis, Parzival. Wade is completely obsessed with Halliday. He’s also determined to win the contest, but mostly just for the love and wonder he feels for the Oasis. Well, that’s not entirely true. He is also in love with another avatar named Art3mis (Olivia Cooke) and spends his free time hanging out with his best friend Aech (Lena Waithe). A fact that all changes once he defeats the first challenge and becomes a threat to IOI. After that, the film becomes an unforgettable puzzle and a race against the evil corporate overlords that are trying to take over the world. It’s kind of class warfare in a digital world.
But enough about the plot. The thing that makes this world so amazing is the world itself and the characters that encompass it. It should be no surprise at this point that the movie is littered with Easter eggs. There are so many moments you will point out one of your favorite characters as an avatar or favorite cars from a movie. It is literally endless. This movie has everything from King Kong to the Iron Giant and the Delorean from ‘Back to the Future’. Not to mention the infinite amount of video game characters you will see walking around in the background.
The whole movie is a love letter to the gamers that grew up in the 1980’s and have watched the world of gaming reach a level that could eventually surpass reality. It’s a love letter to those children who grew up watching the films from Spielberg or Zemeckis and dreamed about driving a Delorean past a T-Rex at 88 miles per hour. It’s a movie that will dig into your brain and then manifest your very fantasies in reality. And it’s a movie that manages to do all this while continually moving along an intriguing narrative and fun characters.
Any director could have just placed a million famous characters in a movie and made you smile at it, but Spielberg understands this genre better than anyone. He delivers pulse pounding action sequences that leave you on the edge of your seat while you point giddily at what your favorite video game or movie character is doing in the background. He juxtaposes images with sound and musical cues that are tailor made to manipulate your emotions in ways you didn’t think possible. He blocks sequences so that every person and every object in every scene bounces perfectly off one another like a great symphony. Hell, Spielberg is so good that he manages to make this film feel like the biggest fantasy you’ve ever seen and the most realistic future I’ve seen in the current sea of dystopian films.
My father once told me that Spielberg has gotten to the point where he is so effortlessly brilliant at what he does that he would be truly arrogant to think he could judge one of his films the first time around. You have to watch them over and over to truly grasp the craftsmanship that is on display. This couldn’t be more true with ‘Ready Player One’. This is a film that has so many Easter eggs to see that you may watch it ten times and still not truly grasp how phenomenally Spielberg directs the best dance sequence since ‘Pulp Fiction’ or the most intricate introduction to a world sense ‘The Lord of the Rings’. And you can harp a little bit over the script and the real vs. avatar dynamic in character development, but I assure you that you won’t give shit a year from now. All that will matter is that you have a film that takes you to nerd heaven every time you feel like it and courtesy of Steven Spielberg. Who could ask for anything more.