Movie Review: Virtually ‘Ready’
“Ready Player One” is an elaborate, labyrinthine, challenging movie. In some ways, “Ready Player One” is a non-movie. Rather, it’s a cinematic videogame.
Its storyline is about a complicated virtual reality videogame played in real time, simulataneously in the real world and in the virtual world. It’s a movie that folds back on itself, turns inside out, moves backwards and forwards, up and down, and sideways with plot twists and visual twists that wiil test the most attentive movie-goer.
“Ready Player One” is visually stunning, especially the gamer sequences involving avatars of the videogame players, and for those, and not necessarily for scenes of the videogame players themselves, which often don’t seem to be in 3D, although they are, “Ready Player One” is worth the premium price for 3D, the format in which it was seen for this movie review.
“Ready Player One,” based on the 2011 debut novel by Ernest Cline, who cowrote the screenplay with Zak Penn (“Last Action Hero,” 1993; “X-Men: The Last Stand,” 2006, and their video game versions), is directed by Steven Spielberg.
The story in the movie is set in Columbus, Ohio, in 2045. Wade Watts lives in a sort of high-rise trailer park. He assumes the online name and avatar of Parzival. He’s on a quest to locate Easter eggs (i.e., clues, in this instance, three keys) to inherit the world and wealth of Oasis (Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation), created by James Halliday, who left virtual bread crumbs for gamers before he died.
Hellbent on solving the virtual puzzle is Nolan Sorrento, head of Innovative Online Industries (IOI), who wants to buy Oasis. Parzival teams with Aech, Art3mis, Daito and Shoto to oppose Sorrento.
The storyline is a 21st century version of “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Word” (1963), “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” (1971), “The Hunger Games” (2008) and “Avatar” (2009). Even so, comparisons to other movies don’t do justice to “Ready Player One,” which is in a league of its own.
“Ready Player One” is a cornucopia of pop-culture references for fans of movies (a fragment of the plot from “The Shining,” 1980; the DeLorean car from “Back To The Future,” 1985), video games (Atari 2600) and pop music (various pop-rock hits) from the 1980s. “Ready Player One” is a visual and pop culture goldmine for Generation X-ers. Alan Silvestri (“Back To The Future”; “The Avengers,” 2012) composed the movie’s score.
The casting for ‘Ready Player One” is excellent.
Tye Sheridan (“X-Men: The Apocalypse,” 2016; “Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse,” 2015) is relatable and engaging as Wade Watts, aka Parzival.
Olivia Cooke (“Me, Earl And The Dying Girl,” 2015) is sensitive yet strong as Samantha, aka Art3mis.
Ben Mendelsohn (“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” 2016) is blandly menacing as Nolan Sorrento.
Mark Rylance (Oscar, supporting actor, “Bridge Of Spies,” 2015) is delightful as James Halliday, aka Anorak.
Simon Pegg (“Star Trek,” 2009) is solid as Ogden Morrow. Lena Waithe (TV’s “Master Of None,” 2015-17) is memorable as Helen Haris, aka Aech). Hannah John-Kamen (TV’s “Killjoys,” 2015-17) is confidently striking as F’Nale Zandor, Sorrento’s right-hand woman.
For all its computer-generated imagery razzle-dazzle, “Ready Player One” is peculiarly emotionally-uninvolving. It might be more fun for the movie-goer to be playing “Ready Player One.”
“Ready Player One” is also not particularly profound. “Because reality is real” is about as deep it gets.
Of course, that’s perfect for virtual reality and those eager to strap on the goggles and step into another dimension.
As for me, the ultimate 1980s videogame of a movie was “Tron” (1982), and its 2010 remake dealt with many of the same themes that are in “Ready Player One,” the most mind-bending and fun pop-culture mashup movie since “Guardians Of The Galaxy” (2014).
“Ready Player One,” MPAA rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. Parents are urged to be cautious. Some material may be inappropriate for pre-teenagers.) for sequences of sci-fi action violence, bloody images, some suggestive material, partial nudity and language; Genre: Science-Fiction, Adventure, Action; Run time: 2 hrs., 20 mins.; Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures.
Credit Readers Anonymous: Filming locations for “Ready Player One” included Birmingham and Hertfordshire, England, United Kingdom.
Box Office, April 6: “A Quiet Place” opened loudly at No. 1 with $50 million, ending the one-week No. 1 prize for “Ready Player One,” dropping one place to No. 2, with $25 million, $96.9 million, two weeks, and blocking “Blockers,” opening at No. 3 with $21.4 million.
4. “Black Panther,” topping “Titanic” as the third highest-grossing domestic release, padded down one spot, $8.4 million, $665.3 million, eight weeks. 5. “I Can Only Imagine” again dropped one place, $8.3 million, $69 million, four weeks. 6. “Tyler Perry’s Acrimony” dropped four places, $8 million, $31.3 million, two weeks. 7. “Chappaquiddick” opened with a lot of fanfare but not so much box office, $6.2 million, one week. 8. “Sherlock Gnomes” was down two spots, $5.6 million, $33.8 million, three weeks. 9. “Pacific Rim: Uprising” took another deep dive, again down four places, $4.9 million, $54.9 million, three weeks. 10. “Isle Of Dogs,” Wes Anderson’s stop-motion animation comedy, barked its way into the Top 10, with $4.6 million, $12 million, three weeks.
54. “Getting Grace,” filmed entirely in the Lehigh Valley, dropped seven spots from No. 47 after its position was updated, with $6,211; $151,300, three weeks, on only seven screens, down from 15 screens after opening on 60 screens.
Unreel, April 13:
“Truth Or Dare,” PG-13: Jeff Wadlow directs Lucy Hale, Tyler Posey, Violett Beane, and Nolan Gerard Funk in the Horror film. A game of Truth or Dare among friends turns deadly.
“Overboard,” PG-13: Bob Fisher and Rob Greenberg direct Anna Faris, Eva Longoria, Emily Maddison, and Swoosie Kurtz in the Comedy Romance. A yacht owner is thrown overboard and is the target of revenge in the remake of the 1987 comedy.
“Beirut,” R: Brad Anderson directs Rosamund Pike, Jon Hamm, Mark Pellegrino, and Dean Norris in the Dram. A former United States diplomat negotiate for the life of a friend left behind in Beirut, Lebanon.
Four Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes.