Review: Ready Player One — A simple but extremely fun ride for pop culture fans

tracer chun li ready player one movie still

Ready Player One (2018)

Movie review

Directed and co-produced by three-time Oscar winner Steven Spielberg (Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan), and screenwritten by Zak Penn (The Incredible Hulk, X-Men: The Last Stand) and Ernest Cline (Fanboy), Ready Player One is based on Cline’s 2011 novel set in the year 2044 where majority of the Earth’s population engage in a virtual reality world called Oasis for entertainment, social and even work to escape the problems and slum life in the real world.

After the death of its creator James Halliday (Mark Rylance), a secret quest is revealed and the player who completes it by finding all the “Easter Eggs” will receive full control of the Oasis and half a trillion dollars. The story’s protagonist Wade Watts / Parzival (Tye Sheridan) and his allies, whom he’s never met in real life before, work together to try completing the quest before IOI, a large business corporation that exploits players, are able to do so.

If you’re someone who grew in the 80s onwards and loved popular video games, comics, movies and animes, there’s almost no doubt that you’d appreciate and get the kick out of all the popular characters, vehicles, locations and references featured in this film. Spielberg and the other co-producers spent years to get the rights to use them. They didn’t get all of them. You won’t see Marvel superheroes, Son Goku or a Lightsaber in the film but it pretty much has a bit of everything else. Some of them got quite a bit of screen time with kickass moments. This is how it’s supposed to be, Wreck-It Ralph! There’s Back to the Future‘s DeLorean, Akira‘s bike, the Iron Giant and many, many more packed into the 2-hour-20-minute film. And they are actually used in action sequences. There are a lot of surprises not shown in the trailers that got the fanboy in me wanting to jump up and cheer at the big screen.

tye sheridan ready player one still

However, the film suffers from an extremely simple and predictable plot, poor character development, lack of depth, rushed exposition, straight-forward anime-like dialogues and a typical rich businessman as the villain (Nolan Sorrento played by Ben Mendelsohn). Although I do like the amount of time spent in the CG world, I felt mostly unengaged by what’s actually happening in the story and I absolutely was neither compelled by or emotionally attached with any of its hollow characters. The actors’ performances are only as good as the material they’re provided with. There are also certain things that don’t make any sense to me.

Thankfully almost all the action scenes are awesome backed by stunning visuals. So much happening but never felt bloated or repetitive. They’re just extremely joyful to watch. Classic Spielberg brilliance in this department. And the music composed by John Williams’ replacement, Alan Silvestri, (Back to the Future, Forrest Gump, The Avengers) is impactful as well.

Ready Player One may be flawed and will most definitely not be remembered as one of Spielberg’s best films but it certainly is one heck of a fun, nostalgic ride for those who’re fans of pop culture. The final act is nothing but one big, epic, action-packed war battle filled with loads of popular characters and stuff that’s more than enough to satisfy a pop culture nerd like myself. And there’s also that part in the second act set in the recreation of that iconic fictional location… I’d rather not spoil the surprise but… cough… Stephen King’s… cough.

Post-credit scene: Surprisingly, there’s none. Not even a mid-credit scene. No extra easter egg for the audience.

Malaysian censorship: Nothing seemed to be censored at the press screening and I doubt any scene is required to be cut anyway. The most “sexual” moment is already shown in the trailers. They might, however, blur out the middle finger gestures.

Verdict: Not the best Spielberg film but you’d still totally enjoy it if you’re pop culture nerd.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Based on: Ernest Cline’s 2011 novel “Ready Players One”

Genre: Science fiction action adventure
Running Time: 140 minutes
Director: Steven Spielberg
Screenwriters: Zak Penn, Ernest Cline
Cast: Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, T.J. Miller, with Simon Pegg and Mark Rylance

Malaysia Release Date: 29 March 2018
Rated: P13
Local Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures Malaysia
Production: Warner Bros., Village Road Pictures, De Line Pictures, Farah Films (and more)

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