Film Review: ‘Ready Player One’s’ stunning virtual world is a thrill for all

Kai Ponting, Staff Writer

Gaming technology is a rapidly developing industry, where constant new developments in more powerful hardware allow people to enter more realistic virtual environments. Steven Spielberg’s “Ready Player One” takes this concept of virtual worlds a step further by depicting Earth in 2045 where a video game, called the OASIS, has become almost more important than the real world. This disparity between the broken-down real world and the paradise of the OASIS offers an interesting commentary on where video games could possibly go in the future, housed in the guise of an action movie with stunning visuals and a well-developed plot.

“Ready Player One” tells the story of Wade Watts, played by Tye Sheridan, who, just like everyone else, is addicted to the virtual world of the OASIS. He lives in “the stacks” of a future Columbus, Ohio, an area similar to the poverty-stricken favelas of Rio de Janeiro. Orphaned as a child, he is raised in his aunt’s chaotic household, where her abusive boyfriend causes trouble and where Wade is sometimes unwelcome. He finds respite from this environment in the OASIS as his avatar Parzival, meeting his friends there and participating in an “egg hunt” set by James Halliday (Mark Rylance), the creator of the OASIS, when he dies.

The main conflict comes when a competing company, IOI, employs hundreds of so-called “sixers” to try to get the Easter egg and gain control of the OASIS, led by a man called Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn). The rest of the egg hunters, or “gunters,” are thoroughly against the idea that IOI could take control of the OASIS and commercialize it, ruining the experience for its millions of players.

The OASIS’s fantastical universe will be a thrill for not only comic book fans but also those prone to nostalgia. Despite the futuristic world, the film’s soundtrack contains a great deal of ‘80s and ‘90s references from artists like Duran Duran, Blondie, and Bruce Springsteen, and there are a multitude of comic book references and references to old Atari and arcade games. In fact, the last challenge Wade and the other gunters must pass is finding a hidden clue in Adventure, an Atari 2600 game and the first Easter egg ever to be put in a video game.

Nostalgia aside, the plot of “Ready Player One” is complex and well-developed. Its progression is logical as Wade becomes involved in the rebellion against IOI and the fight for control of the OASIS. As players’ scores matter less and less, the fate of the OASIS and people’s lives matter more and more.

The actors in “Ready Player One” are incredibly able to portray their characters. Aside from being excellent, some actors have the challenge of playing two completely different characters at the same time.

This is the case with Lena Waithe, who plays a character named Helen, a woman in the real world. However, Helen has constructed her avatar in the OASIS to be a 12-foot cyborg man, Aech. Waithe must portray both these characters, who are completely different yet the same in many respects. Aech is Wade’s best friend in the OASIS, and somehow, when Helen first appears on screen, her personality is instantly recognizable as Aech’s.

Although Tye Sheridan does not have to change his personality much between the OASIS and the real world, he does well to portray his character and his internal struggles as he is tempted by the sly Sorrento, while trying to remain faithful to the cause and his girlfriend Samantha (Art3mis in the OASIS), played by Olivia Cooke. Ben Mendelsohn is yet again the best evil leader, both in the OASIS and out of it.

As one would expect from a high-budget movie with Steven Spielberg as its director, “Ready Player One’s” computer-generated portions, which happen to be most of the movie, are excellent. The OASIS is fantastical while somehow managing to remain realistic, and the dystopian world of 2045 seems feasible as well. The omnidirectional treadmill, virtual-reality headsets, and trackable gloves and suits are all technologies that exist in some capacity today. The only thing that today’s world is missing is the network capacity to hold millions of players on one server, although with ever-growing computing power, this should not be a problem by 2045.

The conflict between the commercial giant IOI and the civilian gunters exists throughout the whole movie, creating a continuing conflict between skill and sheer numbers. The gunters are few, but extremely skilled, while IOI’s sizers are many, a conflict that leads the audience to root for the personable underdog gunters in their fight against the masses of impersonal sixers.

In between these scenes of conflict, a love story persists as well, between Wade Watts and Samantha. They meet in the OASIS as Parzival and Art3mis, two gunters on the quest for the egg. After after helping each other complete Halliday’s first challenge, they find they have chemistry between them, and they bring this chemistry into the real world when they finally meet. This relationship gives another element to the already complex and well developed characters of the film, without being shown too much and becoming overpowering.

With a little romance, a thrilling plot, and a touching end, “Ready Player One” is a must-see for fans of sci-fi and the casual viewer alike.

Our Grade: A
Rating: PG-13
Length: 139 minutes
Genre: Sci-Fi, Action
Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Olivia Cooke, Tye Sheridan, Ben Mendelsohn, Lena Waithe