The Steven Spielberg directed “Ready Player One” is based on the 2011 sci-fi, fantasy novel by Ernest Cline. Spielberg is the epitome of 1980s era film — with such iconic titles as “Jaws,” “E.T” and “The Goonies” — making him the perfect captain for a ship navigating 80s nostalgia. “Ready Player One” is a “Willy Wonka” esque escapade takes the viewer through a visual masterpiece of 80s childhood pop-culture nostalgia. The film includes messages of being present in life and what defines friendship.
As someone who read the book, I found watching “Ready Player One” to be frustrating. Many moments of scoffing and tossing my hands in the air at every deviation from the original plot. The story arch is flip over and out of sequence. Major climaxes and high points are left out entirely. Calls to vintage gamer culture and John Hughes classics omitted and replaced with more mainstream references. The sense of loneliness experience by the main character, representing the whole society, is completely brushed over and forgotten. The development and suspense of the love arch between “Parzival” and “Art3mis,” two of the main characters, is done and over within the first hour of the two-and-a-half hour runtime. As a reader, I felt underwhelmed and cheated.
Now, it is not fair to judge a film by how well it pleases those latched on to the source material. There is more to a movie than the book it is based on. With that in mind, let us dive into the perspective of “Ready Player One” from a movie goer.
“Ready Player One” is a magnificent, visual escape with the help of CGI rendered details and hidden treasures. “Ready Player One” utilizes the now common technique of motion capture animation, using the actor’s faces as a canvas for the digital character — making the believability and gravity of their expressions and performances more tangible.
The story follows a classic arch of a “Willie Wonka” treasure hunt to earn access to the millionaire’s fortune and technology. Tagging along with “Parzival” and his crew of online misfits, you see them turn from passive players, simply meandering through a free game, to champions of the everyday man, fighting for the creative purity of that same virtual reality.
The performances of the young actors and actresses held a level of juvenile quirk and charm common in Spielberg films with a heavy young adult cast. These were not performances worthy of an Oscar nod— simply a presentation of awkward and at times, cringey youth. Holding honesty and candor to the attitudes of their characters.
Is it the next best thing to hit the theaters; shattering what you thought you knew about film and storytelling? No. It is fun, it is enjoyable, it is a ride of the classic pre-millenia aesthetics. It is an escape.