Not many directors have had the longevity and pioneering career that Steven Spielberg has. Not content to create one type of movie, Spielberg has managed to evolve, adapt and innovate in ways that not only keep him relevant but in some instances place him ahead of the curve. Although the central concept is based on a novel, Ready Player One is an example of how Spielberg still has a directorial mind that is not only relevant today but understands the audiences and what they want.
VR is becoming a mainstay of homes around the world so the central concept of the Oasis, a VR hub that players all around the world tap into to play all manner of games and essentially live their lives virtually, is not one that is too far fetched or out of reach. It means that from the very beginning, Ready Player One feels accessible and there are all manner of relatable aspects to the movie and it’s universe. Anyone who has even played a video-game in passing will be able to recognise and relate to this movie, from the creation of the avatars that distinguish each character to the pop culture references that are dotted around not just the foreground but constantly in the background.
This mix of the old and the new is what gives Ready Player One it’s magic. Within the first act is a race involving all manner of cars. In this set-piece alone you find an action-packed sequence, completely CGI but seamless and perfect, which also involves Back to the Future’s Delorean, King Kong and a T-Rex (identical to that from Jurassic Park). This is just one sequence and the rest of the film follows in that ilk, throwing-in pop culture and movie references, mainly from the 80s but not restricted to this era, as part of telling a story which is parts mystery, parts adventure and parts romance.
None of the pop culture and random characters that make cameos take away from what is an exciting, intriguing and engrossing story. This is a tale of a young group of kids against a huge, multi-billion corporation. The under-dog fighting the overlord and although this has been done a thousand times before, even by Spielberg himself, here it is done with innovation and in a guise that fits the 21st century perfectly. Spielberg has taken The Goonies and made it relevant to today’s time, technology and audiences.
To say this movie feels like “classic-Spielberg” is not too over-hype it’s quality. It has that “movie-magic” that pervades his other classics like ET, Close Encounters and Jurassic Park. You are sucked into the sense of adventure and what makes this more appealing is that it switches themes, genre and setting so frequently that you can’t get over-familiar with anything but the characters you are rooting for.
This is where Spielberg’s knack for casting also comes into play. The cast is fantastic, from the hero played by rising star Tye Sheridan, to the mysterious Olivia Cooke, the villain (fresh from Star Wars: Rogue One) Ben Mendelsohn through to Simon Pegg and new Spielberg stalwart Mark Rylance. It is an eclectic mix but each step-up to their mark perfectly, particularly when some like Sheridan and Cooke spend most of their time behind well-crafted and designed avatars.
To say anymore about Ready Player One would be to give away aspects of the movie that are best discovered fresh. The trailers did a good job of only revealing certain aspects of the plot but the plethora of hidden “Easter Eggs” within each scene set in the Oasis, from people dancing in a club to one huge battle sequence that features people, vehicles and creatures from all manner of pop culture, is what will make this movie one which is re-watched many times and paused constantly as new, hidden gems are discovered.
Overall, Ready Player One is Spielberg at his best. It is an adventure story, set in a modern environment that will appeal to audiences of many different ages. The technology is utilised well, the pop culture used in interesting ways and the actors give fantastic performances to cap it all off. A modern classic.
Rating – 5!
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)