Reviewed by: Allison Broski
“Ready Player One” is a novel-to-film adaptation which is reminiscent of the book it portrays but fails to deliver the same impact. The film takes place in Columbus, Ohio in the year 2044. The Earth has become a desolate place, and people have taken refuge in the online world known as the Oasis.
Upon the death of its creator, James Halliday (Mark Rylance), a hunt for Halliday’s Egg commences. The Egg promises full control of the Oasis and trillions of dollars, leading to a frenzy that has died down as we meet our protagonist Wade Watts, aka Parzival (Tye Sheridan). In his long search for the Egg, he meets Art3mis (Olivia Cook), Aech (Lena Waithe), Sho (Philip Zhao), and Daito (Win Morisaki), who all work with him to defeat the organization known as IOI, headed by Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn).
Naturally, the plot follows the typical adventure line: do the things, get the girl, win the game – in this case, quite literally. I wish I could say Spielberg does something dynamic and interesting with this plot, but it is not to be. It should be noted, however, that for those who have read the novel, the trials in the film bear little resemblance to their written counterparts, save for the final fight. If that intrigues you, very well. If it disappoints you, it did for me as well.
The acting was itself mundane. Sheridan is too perfect to play Watts, an ultimate fanboy. Cook, Zhao, and Morisaki all leave something to be desired. Waithe helps the group dynamic a bit with her wit, but even her performance is unremarkable. Only Rylance delivers a truly moving performance as James Halliday. His portrayal of the nerdy, socially awkward Halliday is perfectly tied to the description given in the novel, and it is a joy to see him every time he makes his brief appearances on-screen. For the villains, they never feel truly threatening. They wave their guns around and make a ruckus, but it is all bark and no bit. Mendelsohn tries but ultimately fails, to portray a villain we love to hate. His henchmen also lackluster, and I-R0k, played by T.J. Miller, is comic relief who will miss with much of the audience.
Now, this isn’t to say the film was bad. It was actually quite enjoyable. Much of it takes place in a CGI universe, and the graphics are incredible. My guest described them as being a bit of a sensory overload, but every detail, was perfectly rendered and had just enough punch to leave your eyes soaking in a veritable goldmine of artwork. The plot had good pacing. Just when you thought things were slowing down too much, Spielberg throws in some action to keep things interesting. The romantic aspect of the film, a worry for me upon seeing the trailers, was not overwhelming, save for the end. And don’t worry: there are plenty of the 80s and modern pop culture references.
“Ready Player One” is now in theaters.