Ready Player One – movie review

by James Robins / 11 April, 2018
RelatedArticlesModule - Ready Player One movie

Spielberg is off his game in virtual-reality extravaganza Ready Player One.

Steven Spielberg’s new movie relishes the chance to open a toy chest crammed with heroes and monsters, scatter them over the bedroom floor and bash them together. Ever fantasised about the Iron Giant squaring off against a Mechagodzilla? Well, in this film anyway, it’s less thrilling than you might suspect.

Ready Player One is set in Ohio in 2045, long after the “corn-syrup shortage” and the “bandwidth riots”. To escape the general distress and decay of reality, humankind has disappeared into virtual reality – an online universe called Oasis, where all dreams are conceivable and all desires possible.

Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) is an orphaned teenager obsessed with a challenge laid down by the game’s designer, James Halliday (a delightfully dorky Mark Rylance), who, not unlike Willy Wonka, promises the keys to the Oasis kingdom should his puzzle be cracked.

Watts and his pals are pitted against a tyrannical corporation, led by Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn). It’s called IOI, though its massive logo looks unfortunately like “LOL”).

Ernest Cline’s original 2011 novel posited that immersive technology would stifle creativity and people would endlessly recycle past cultures. This is the basis of the film’s barrage of nostalgic creatures and creations – all introduced with a blast of Van Halen’s Jump.

There are cute riffs on John Hughes films and 80s band Duran Duran; nods to sci-fi classics such as Blade Runner and Silent Running; and Batman, Clark Kent, the Tyrannosaurus rex from Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, and a Back to the Future DeLorean all show up. But Ready Player One isn’t really rooted in popular culture at all – or even nerd culture with its search for virtue in obsessiveness – but rather in contemporary video games. You could be forgiven for looking up, as I had to, what a Twitch stream was.

The action is so convoluted that the cast has to spend much of the running time reminding themselves (and us) of certain plot points. It’s also a pity the characters we’re supposed to care about feel as flimsy as their Oasis digital avatars – thin, flat and artificial.

What’s left is undiluted spectacle and a kaleidoscope of computer-rendered chases and shoot-outs. You yearn for the more charismatic, kid-friendly Spielberg of old, be it the wondrous charm of E.T., the renegade thrills of Indiana Jones, or The BFG’s absurdist gags. They will long hold a special place in every childhood heart. Ready Player One will not.

Video: Warner Bros. Pictures



This article was first published in the April 14, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.


Auckland waterfront stadium plans revealed
97933 2018-10-19 06:34:37Z Auckland Issues

Auckland waterfront stadium plans revealed

by Rowan Quinn

Plans for a 50,000-seat waterfront stadium in downtown Auckland that would replace Eden Park have been revealed.

Read more
The eclectic range of Kiwi composer Rhian Sheehan
97711 2018-10-19 00:00:00Z Music

The eclectic range of Kiwi composer Rhian Sheehan

by James Belfield

Rhian Sheehan is hitting the road with a collection of intimate tracks – a world removed from soundtracks for theme parks and virtual-reality games.

Read more
Anika Moa's celebrity takes the back seat on soul-baring new LP
97774 2018-10-19 00:00:00Z Music

Anika Moa's celebrity takes the back seat on soul-…

by James Belfield

Anika Moa says she only ever shares “about 5% of what and who I am”. Her new album says otherwise.

Read more
There's only one way to deal with the undignifying symptoms of chronic illnesses
97788 2018-10-19 00:00:00Z Nutrition

There's only one way to deal with the undignifying…

by Ruth Nichol

After she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Shona Daubé learned how to live with chronic illness with a smile.

Read more
50 great Auckland restaurants where you can eat well for less than $50
94144 2018-10-19 00:00:00Z Auckland Eats

50 great Auckland restaurants where you can eat we…

by Metro

Here are 50 Auckland restaurants to try that won't break the bank – and tips on what you should order.

Read more
Notes from Cambodia: Is the young democracy sliding back towards dictatorship?
93903 2018-10-19 00:00:00Z Travel

Notes from Cambodia: Is the young democracy slidin…

by James Borrowdale

James Borrowdale looks beneath the shiny surface of modern capitalism in Cambodia.

Read more
Jami-Lee Ross' deeply ugly practice of taping could still snare Simon Bridges
97923 2018-10-18 14:50:17Z Politics

Jami-Lee Ross' deeply ugly practice of taping coul…

by Jane Clifton

First it was: follow the money. Now it’s cherchez la femme. Wherever the Jami-Lee Ross conflagration takes us next, Ross will go down in history.

Read more
Stop the truck! Pūhā & Pākehā gets a new Grey Lynn home
97905 2018-10-18 11:55:17Z Auckland Eats

Stop the truck! Pūhā & Pākehā gets a new Grey Lynn…

by Kate Richards

Founders of popular food truck Pūhā & Pākehā have opened up an eatery in Surrey Crescent offering new interpretations of traditional Māori cuisine.

Read more