Ready Player One (12a)

Dir. Steven Spielberg

Cast: Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Mark Rylance, Simon Pegg

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)

“In 2045 there’s nowhere left to go, nowhere, except The Oasis …”

In the year 2045, the real world has become such a harsh place that most of humanity choose to spend their time in a virtual reality called ‘Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation’ or OASIS.

Socially awkward teenage Wade Watts (Tye ‘Cyclops from X-Men’ Sheridan) only truly feels alive is when he jacks in to the OASIS – where he is known as his avatar ‘Parzival’.

When eccentric tech whizz James Halliday (Mark Rylance), who created the OASIS dies, he leaves a legacy challenge – all his immense fortune and total control of the OASIS will pass to the winner of a three-part video game contest designed to find a truly worthy heir. Cue a battle royale between the gamers of the world and the sinister IOI corporation for control.

Based on the geek-tastic novel by Ernest Cline, Ready Player One see Steven Spielberg set a high score for video game / film crossover movies. It’s a total joy watching such a wealth of references collide in one film. From the moment Parzival jumps into the Back To The Future DeLorean in order to race against Lara Croft driving the A-Team van, Batman in his classic series Batmobile and the enigmatically cool Art3mis (Olivia ‘Bates Motel’ Cooke) riding Kaneda’s motorbike from Akria, anyone with even a passing love of films will break into a smile …

There are just too many to list, with blink and you’ll miss them visual ‘Easter Eggs’ in virtually every scene. I loved the extended The Shining sequence from the book too (which might scare / go over the head of younger viewers) as Parzival and his ‘High Five’ crew must battle through the horrors of The Overlook Hotel to win one of the contest levels.

I don’t think there have ever been so many 80s pop culture references packed in to a movie – from the soundtrack that uses classics like Van Halen’s ‘Jump’ and New Order’s ‘Blue Monday’, through to quoting dialogue from John Hughes films and more … this is a film that demands repeat watching in order to appreciate everything going on.

The nerd-em-up story moves at breakneck speed and the climactic showdown is the stuff of legend, liable to discussed for years to come. The scene stealing star of the film is a superb cameo by the Iron Giant which should make people want to revisit the excellent Brad Bird film from 1999.

With unmatched use of CGI to create something truly incredible, Ready Player One will scorch your endorphin sensors as pop-culture eats itself in a most delicious way. Essential viewing.

Thinking Material: Who are you online?

Ready Player One has a deeper level too – it riffs as a cool satire on our increasingly virtual lives. It’s a human need to find an escape from things when life gets tough. Whether it’s movies, television, books and now more than ever – online, we have a growing number of options in how get away from reality for a while.

Online we get to choose how we present ourselves, our Facebook feeds can be an unreal ‘greatest hits’ of our lives (which can both inspire but also demotivate others who compare and see their existences a just ‘not as fun;). Or even worse when used by believers to present a hypocritical ‘holier than thou’ persona who seems to be living a perfect Christian walk with God – when in reality it can be a very different story. At the even more extreme level there are numerous horror stories of dodgy people masquerading as innocents to win the trust of young and/ or vulnerable people – but pretending to be being somebody we’re not doesn’t have to necessarily be a negative.

As in The Matrix, the aspirational online avatars used in The Oasis are representations of our inner self ‘fantasising’ as to who we’d like to be. Of course it’s vital to remember the line between reality and fiction – that your alter ego isn’t a solution to real world issues but it is possible to inspire and be a positive influence online. In real life, however, it’s important to channel any online persona you have in a way to complement and even support the person you are in the real world. Because as Parzival says: “as terrifying and painful as reality can be, it’s also the only place where you can find true happiness. Because reality is real …”


5 out of 5 stars
Related Viewing: Scott Pilgrim vs The World, Rick & Morty, Stranger Things