Ready Player One (M)

In a Word (or two): Nostalgic adventure

Ready Player One

The High Five: Sho (Philip Zhao), Aech (Lena Waithe), Parzival (Tye Sheridan), Art3mis (Olivia Cooke), Daito (Win Morisaki), speak to 'The Curator' inside the OASIS.

 

"The story, which flashes constantly between the virtual and real worlds, is, like the book, stuffed with enough pop culture references to keep your head spinning. But the film – directed by none other than Steven Spielberg, himself an iconic figure of the Eighties – departs quite significantly in its detail from the book, a move which doesn’t always work in its favour."

A futuristic trip through 1980s pop culture, Ready Player One is a playful sci-fi adventure set in a dystopian future.

Based on a book by Ernest Kline (who co-wrote the screenplay), Ready Player One tells the story of nerdy orphan teen Wade Watts (played by Tye Sheridan), better known by his online handle Parzival who lives in the stacks – read slums - of Columbus, Ohio, in the year 2045.

Living on an overpopulated, polluted and diseased Earth, humanity has retreated into the virtual world thanks to the creation of an online environment known as the OASIS by the rather reclusive genius James Halliday (played perhaps a bit too stiffly by Mark Rylance) and his offsider Ogden Morrow ‘Og’ (Simon Pegg).

By the time he dies, Halliday’s company (he had a split with Og over a personal matter) has become the largest and wealthiest in the world. On his death, Halliday, who lives on in the game through an avatar known as ‘Anorak’, leaves behind a three stage puzzle with the person who is able to follow all the clues and uncover an “Easter egg” hidden within the game winning control of his company and wealth.

While the contest initially provoked a frenzy of activity among “gunters” (as the egg hunters are known), it’s now five years since Halliday died and still no-one - not even the legions employed by the second biggest company in the world, Innovative Online Industries or IOI – have managed to complete even the first stage by finding the first of three keys.

But then Parzival stumbles across a clue which leads him to the first key and sees his name inscribed upon the game’s leader board.

Suddenly famous, he’s thrust into an unfamiliar world in which he finds himself a target of IOI (in the real and virtual worlds) as well as its head Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn) and his hired avatar thug I-R0k (TJ Miller). He’s forced to enlist the help of his longtime companion ‘Aech’ (Lena Waithe), whose avatar is giant orc-like creature, as well as that of newfound friends including love interest ‘Art3mis’ (Olivia Cooke), and the constant companions ‘Sho’ (Philip Zhao) and ‘Daito’ (Win Morisaki).

The story, which flashes constantly between the virtual and real worlds, is, like the book, replete with enough pop culture references to keep your head spinning. But the film – directed by none other than Steven Spielberg, himself an iconic figure of the Eighties  – departs quite significantly in its detail from the book, a move which doesn’t always work in its favour.

Still, Ready Player One is an entertaining adventure with some messages about the power of the common man against giant corporations as well as friendship and inclusiveness (there may be some surprises when the people behind the online avatars are revealed - but be careful what you read and watch before seeing the film). There's even a comment or two about the importance of spending some time away from the virtual world.

The nostalgia aside, the bizarre characters, great effects, twisting storyline and non-stop action alone should make it a shoe-in for big box office receipts. A blast.