Mario’s Movies: We’re Ready for “Ready Player One”

By Mario Ricciardi and David Ford

In 2045, the real world is in shambles, but thankfully people can take refuge in the OASIS. OASIS is an expansive, virtual reality role-playing game where people can be whoever they want to be. Because of the widespread popularity of the game, an avatar holds more social relevance then the person behind it. What happens to you in the game almost always matters more than what happens to you in real life.

The game’s enigmatic creator, James Halliday, hid three keys deep within different areas of OASIS. Upon his death, Halliday revealed that finding these keys would give the winner ownership of OASIS, amongst many other rewards. Our main character Parzival, the avatar to Columbus, Ohio native Wade Watts, teams up with a ragtag group of gamers to complete this proverbial treasure hunt. To complicate matters, the corrupt video game conglomerate, Innovative Online Industries (IOI), employs an army of debt-indentured players to stop the main characters and win the prize for themselves.

“Ready Player One” is based on the 2011 book of the same name written by Ernest Cline. Since I have not read the book, I have employed the help of David Ford, a general assignment reporter for The Jambar, for this week’s review. Ford has read the book and saw the movie with me, so he has his own unique take on the movie.

Dave’s Take:

“Ready Player One” is among one of my favorite theater experiences. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and the movie experience was no different. The visuals worked extremely well, the story never dragged and the stakes were real. When people ask me who my favorite filmmaker is, I can never give a definitive answer. After watching this film, Spielberg might take the crown.

In addition to Spielberg’s direction, Alan Silvestri provided an amazing score to go with the intense action scenes (scenes that featured King Kong, the Iron Giant and “The Shining”). The soundtrack also paid homage to some classic 80s tunes.

Essentially, the setting reminds me of a Michael Crichton story — a powerful, eccentric business mogul (Dr. Robert Ford in “Westworld” and John Hammond in “Jurassic Park”) creates a world where common people can escape the real world to indulge in consequence-free activities. In “Ready Player One,” OASIS creator James D. Halliday, portrayed by Oscar-winning Mark Rylance, built an entire world where people can escape their real-life problems which is why the real world in the film is so dilapidated. People didn’t care anymore; they could escape to OASIS.

While the film does a great job explaining its origins and visually creating the epic, virtual reality paradise, it fails to deliver a compelling message about our obsession with technology.

The film’s comparisons, which I would say are “Westworld” and “Jurassic Park,” deliver a thought-provoking take on our indulgences with technology, and cautions us, as humans, to avoid playing God. “Ready Player One” fails to do so.

Toward the end of the film, Wade mentions OASIS is closed on Tuesdays and Thursdays so people can strive to make the real world better. This is the only real message about the overuse of technology we really get in the film. Other than the film’s message being far underdeveloped, I have no other complaints.

The cast was great — Mark Rylance, Simon Pegg, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Tye Sheridan, etc. Despite his brief role, Pegg’s performance as Ogden Morrow, the apprentice and co-creator of OASIS alongside Halliday, was my favorite. Mendelsohn’s role as villain, Nolan Sorrento, followed the familiar trope of evil, business tycoon. The character’s back-story briefly follows his internship with Halliday and Morrow, which I wished was fleshed out more; however, for what it’s worth, I enjoyed his performance.

Overall, Spielberg delivered another entertaining, visually innovative film I’d highly recommend. When it releases on the home video market, I will definitely purchase a copy.

🐧🐧🐧🐧(4/5 Penguins)

Mario’s Take:

Science fiction and fantasy has a long standing history of linking humans with computers. One minute they’re helping you iron your clothes and cook breakfast, the next they’re coming back from the future to kill you or to harvest your biochemical energy. These tales of artificial intelligence being major shareholders in humanity have always come across on a deeper level as cautionary tales. This has since changed.

With “Ready Player One,” the story of a computer-simulated world taking priority over the real one becomes a subtle yet overt warning. Sure, the plot has more to do with authoritarian corporations and unequal distribution of wealth but the background is still the background. The future in “Ready Player One” is bleak. People live in trailer homes stacked on top of each other, put life savings toward video game power-ups, and care more about humanity in a computer simulation than humanity in the real world.

For the first time in years Steven Spielberg doesn’t feel like one of those “old man directors” Tarantino is always harking about. Spielberg brings back his classic two-perspective approach to storytelling. On the surface “Ready Player One” is about kids hunting for treasure, but a level deeper it’s about our cultures decline into digital escapism. Just like how “Jaws” is about a killer shark, but it’s really about families going through divorce. “E.T.” is about aliens, but really it’s about the lonely finding friendship. “Indiana Jones” is about action and archeology, but really it’s about finding relevance as one approaches middle age.

Yes, Spielberg has shifted back towards his roots for this one and it’s an enjoyable experience. The film occasionally falls flat and there are a few inconsistencies with the characters (Aech is terribly afraid of horror movies, yet has Chuckie doll power-up on hand?). That aside, it’s a really fun ride. Also, the pop culture references the movie has worked into the scenery are great. If you’re a pop culture geek you’ll have a field day.

Essentially “Ready Player One” is studio film full of special effects, CGI and easily digestible storytelling. It’s a crowd pleaser made by one of the most accomplished directors of our time. And although this is the case there is almost always something more interesting or engaging in the background. Whether it’s the pop culture references or the condition of the real world contrasted with the virtual reality, there is more to study by looking deeper. Regardless of entertainment value the true take away from the film is how close our reality is to being the world in “Ready Player One.”

For me, “Ready Player One” is a movie that focuses too much on being entertaining. I felt the true story was about the continual surrender of humanity for technology and the importance of giving others the true you. Unfortunately, these themes do not get as much screen time as they deserve for the sake of popcorn entertainment.

🐧🐧🐧(3/5 Penguins)