Film Review – ‘Ready Player One’ (2018)

The current king of filmmaking aka Steven Spielberg strikes back once again. To see him on his flipside of Hollywood mainstream, dominating in special effects, aiming for blockbuster gold is what he knows best. The other flipside is his serious, cultured and enigmatic choice of filmmaking, such as ‘Catch me if you Can,’ ‘Munich,’ and most recently ‘The Post.’ Spielberg goes from cultured to blockbuster films like a ball hits red or black on a roulette table.

His latest film that will hopefully gain box office success over the Easter holidays is the long-awaited ‘Ready Player One,’ based on the 2011 debut novel of Ernest Cline, who also co-wrote the screenplay of his own novel. The plot is highly original and will contribute highly in the Science Fiction film genre: When the creator of a virtual reality world called the OASIS dies, he releases a video in which he challenges all OASIS users to find his Easter Egg, which will give the finder his fortune. No wonder the release was for the Easter period. The egg is better known as three keys that are hidden within the OASIS. Already Spielberg is referencing his previous film ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.’ E.G, Indiana Jones locating the three Sankara stones that provide fortune and glory.
In this case, our young protagonist Wade Watts will compete with many others to find the egg/key to a better, bigger and brighter life than the one he has in reality. His meagre life in Columbus Ohio and abusive parents will motivate him to form his perfect diamond.

The question lies within: What obstacles will Wade or more rather his avatar name, Parzival have to face? Who are the other players in his way? It’s a pleasure to see ‘Rogue One’s Ben Mendelsohn keep busy following his King George performance from ‘Darkest Hour.’ His antagonist character, Nolan Sorrento is satisfactory as he wasn’t villainous or evil enough. His determination for the OASIS prize needed to be as eager and desperate as Temple of Doom’s villain Kalima, ripping a heart out. The fact that the film is full of 80’s pop culture film homage, Mendelsohn needed to combine a previous Spielberg villain with his own originality.

Following on from 80’s homage, the soundtrack is one of the many merits of the film, from Van Halen to Duran Duran to Cyndi Lauper. The Special effects and CGI are on par with James Cameron’s ‘Avatar’ as the characters are in reality setting for a minority of the film, but in the majority play the OASIS, thus resulting to being their CGI characters, in this case, their avatar. This is arguably the film’s flaw as we don’t get much of Spielberg’s sentimentality or anything heartfelt. The film is overloaded with special effects that the audience would yearn for deeper characterization.

If there is anything to appreciate is the 80’s homage and the amazing effort that went into the making of the film. To see our protagonist Parzival drive a Delorean and race against the beastly King Kong trying to bludgeon him in the iconic car is great visual stimulation. The highest marks of the film are the big reference to Stanley Kubrick’s ‘The Shining.’ To find the key/egg in a virtual simulation of ‘The Shining’ is excellent as the player’s terrified reactions to engaging with the twin girls or the woman in the bathtub or the blood spilling out of the elevator is a perfect homage and great entertainment.

Nonetheless, the performances are bland. Mark Rylance; Spielberg’s new and regular employee can only deliver what is in the script, which is a lack of emotion along with Simon Pegg, the makers of the OASIS. Tye Sheridan in the lead role of Wade/Parzival does his best, enjoys his starring opportunity but his avatar character blocks out his real features, most of the time and the audience yearn to know Wade more than his avatar Parzival. For a Spielberg film, it is an A+ for effort, but the filmmaking legend should know better to combine his usual sentimentality and special effects rather than allow the latter to oppress the film.

Aly Lalji | [rating=3]

Sci-Fi, Action | 12A | USA, 2018 | 28th March 2018 (UK) | Warner Bros. | Dir.Steven Spielberg | Tye Sheridan, Ben Mendelsohn, Olivia Cooke, Letitia Wright, Mark Rylance