Steven Spielberg helped define the 80’s and 90’s with classics such as “E.T.,” “Indiana Jones,” and “Jurassic Park,” so he seems like the perfect choice to direct “Ready Player One,” a film that seems like the love child of the entire Spielberg era.
Based on Ernest Cline’s novel of the same name, “Ready Player One” is set in the year 2045 in a world where nearly everyone uses the “OASIS,” a virtual reality software that allows players to escape their real life by becoming any avatar they’d like. When 18-year-old Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) discovers secret clues to a game in the program that will allow a player to own and control the OASIS, the evil Nolan Serrento (Ben Mendelsohn) will do everything in his power to win and gain control.
What makes “Ready Player One” so great is also one of its biggest flaws. Never before have I seen a film rely so heavily on nostalgia to make it appealing, but “Ready Player One” not only does that, it excels with it. From Van Halen’s “Jump” to the Iron Giant fighting Mecha-Godzilla, there are literally thousands of easter eggs and pop culture references to spy, but they unfortunately can distract from the rest of the film.
“Ready Player One” will never be remembered for its top-notch acting, but there are a few performances worth mentioning. Mendelsohn’s performance as the chilling villain Serrento was one of the highlights of the film for me. I loved his performance in “Rogue One” as the evil Director Krennic, and it felt like he was reprising the role, which is fine by me. Serrento is the CEO of Innovative Online Industries (IOI), and he and his company will stop at nothing to stop Watts and his group of friends from winning the game. Mendelsohn has a always had a way of playing villains that appeals to me, and the same is true for “Ready Player One”.
The other standout performance was Olivia Cooke’s. Cooke plays Art3mis, a famous player in the OASIS who serves as Wade’s love interest, but she is so much more than that. She is a strong, independent female who pulls her own weight throughout the film, much more than the other male characters. To me, she was a perfect example of what cinema should be moving toward as far as female representation and I’d be glad to see more roles like this.
One drawback of the film was its lack of character development or story arcs. The film is utterly predictable when you analyze the basic plot and other than Art3mis, no character truly evolves in any significant way. Perhaps if Spielberg spent a little more time rendering his characters rather than CGI, the film could have had a much more memorable cast of characters.
Although it is far from his best work, Spielberg managed to deliver a thoroughly entertaining sci-fi thrill ride. In Spielberg’s love letter to 80’s pop culture, “Ready Player One” taps into nostalgia so successfully, it makes up for the lack of character development and overuse of CGI.