Blu-ray Review: Ready Player One

So right out of the gate I’ll reveal that I’ve never read the book Ready Player One, so this review is based off of just having the knowledge of the world that the movie itself presented to me. With that said, it’s easy for me to say that Ready Player One is just a hell of a lot of fun, and easily one of the most visually-striking cinematic roller-coaster rides that Steven Spielberg has ever directed.

That’s not to say that the film is without flaw – because it’s not – I’m simply stating that he’s brought to life this world based off the book of the same name by Ernest Cline in such an captivating and vibrant way that it’s hard not to fall in love with it and all its blockbuster glory.

From the moment Van Halen’s “Jump” kicks in at the start of the opening credits, it’s clear this is going to be a nostalgic romp filled with blasts from the past for those who lived during the 1980s, or simply a rocking good time for those who came after. There are serious aspects to the story of Ready Player One, such as lessons about living life to the fullest, not being afraid to take chances, holding on to old friendships while also making new ones, and Spielberg handles them masterfully in a wondrously crafted virtual world that allows them to be delivered in bountifully entertaining fashion.

The film takes place in the year 2045, and the world has fallen on extremely hard times. Issues that should have been dealt with but were ignored have left the world quite the desolate place, where people mainly find comfort in the OASIS, a virtual world that anyone can transport to and basically live in aside from eating, sleeping and bathroom breaks. The OASIS was created by the eccentric James Halliday (Mark Rylance,) and brought to fruition along with his partner Ogden Morrow (Simon Pegg.) Eventually Halliday forced Morrow out, as he wanted the OASIS to remain free of rules and simply be a place where people could do anything or be anyone they wanted and simply have fun in the game.

So when Halliday died, he left an Easter egg in the OASIS, hidden behind three keys that were also hidden in various places throughout the OASIS. Whomever found the three keys would be granted this Easter egg, as well as control of the OASIS and Halliday’s stock in the company, which rounds out to about half a trillion dollars.

Without getting into it too much, this basically sees the film’s protagonist, Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), a long time Gunter (egg hunter) team up with his online friends Aech, Sho and Daito, as well as popular Gunter Art3mis (Olivia Cooke.) Oh, her name isn’t really Art3mis, that’s her avatar’s name. And Wade’s avatar’s name is Parzival. You see, when you put on the VR glasses/suits, you enter the OASIS and there you create an avatar that represents you in this virtual world.

There are loads of little Easter eggs for the viewer when it comes to catching various cameos that people have chosen as their avatars. Wade mentions early on that you can be anyone, male or female, animated, human, animal, robot…there are even popular characters such as Harley Quinn or Master Chief being used by multiple people. Anyone who has played an MMO has an idea of what living in a world like this is like, but Ready Player One multiplies that by…well, infinity, as all games today have limits, and the OASIS has none.

The film’s antagonist, Nolan Sorrento, is played by the fantastic Ben Mendelsohn. He’s the CEO of IOI (Innovative Online Industries) who will stop at nothing to find the three keys and seize control of the OASIS. His motivations are all financial, wishing to add paywalls to various features within the OASIS, as well as selling advertising space and anything that will help see company stock rise. He has a near endless team of “sixers,” who are basically expert gaming slaves to IOI whose sole jobs are to find the keys and get Sorrento control.

So it’s basically a giant race between our young heroes and the evil corporate villain for the film’s two hour and twenty-minute duration, and I personally felt as though the film was incredibly well paced. I wasn’t aware of how long the movie was initially, so when it ended and I saw that 140 minutes had flown by I was fairly shocked. Between the fantastic soundtrack, beautiful visuals and the intriguing — albeit fairly straightforward — mystery being solved by the characters throughout, there really isn’t a point where things slow down enough for the viewer to think about the time, let alone how much has passed.

Now, as mentioned above, the film isn’t without flaw, and while most things can be overlooked, there’s one big one that can’t be. The main issue is the story of Halliday and Morrow. This is a vital cog in the machine for this story and it’s heavily glossed over in the film. I’ve heard that the book goes into a lot more details about the two, their relationship, and that of Morrow’s wife, Karen; however, in the film their history is only briefly touched upon when Wade and Art3mis are looking for clues in a library that Halliday created to help find the keys.

The reason this is such a big deal is because their relationship, the fallout and even things afterwards play such an important part of the overall story that it’s just somewhat baffling that another ten minutes or so wasn’t dedicated throughout just to fill in a few more gaps. Now, while 140 minutes went by rather smoothly, it’s entirely possible that those extra 10 minutes could’ve hindered that; however, I believe it would’ve been better to have found the time, even if it meant trimming things elsewhere if adding on wasn’t an option.

As it stands, the viewer gets a bare bones understanding of what went down between the partners, and this leaves certain questions when all is said and done – or at the very least just takes away from some of the parts that should’ve had a bit more of an emotional punch to them because there’s just a lack of connection between Halliday, Morrow and the viewer.

That’s really the biggest knock to the film, and while it’s rare to be able to get all the important pieces of a novel adaptation onto the big screen, that one is just so crucial that I wish the time was taken. Aside from that, the film is just loads of fun. Spielberg just lets loose and does what he does best in being a masterful filmmaker. While the film takes place almost 30 years in the future, Spielberg doesn’t go crazy with how the world looks. It looks how a forgotten and ignored world should – not incredibly different, but just different enough to give it the feel of a possible future reality.

However, in the OASIS, Spielberg rolls up his sleeves and goes wild with top of the line motion capture and digital technology. There’s a lot of love put into this world by him and his team, and the viewer is the true winner here. It’s done so well that I think you’d be in for quite the challenge to find anyone that wouldn’t want to strap on some VR goggles and let their worries fade away for a while in all that this virtual world of splendor has to offer.

While I’ve heard it does stray from the book in some regards – which may turn off some – and despite it glossing over crucial character story elements between the OASIS creators, Ready Player One is an absolute blast, and a movie that I feel only Steven Spielberg could make the way it needed to be made. Outside of the film’s more serious moments, I’d be hard-pressed to remember a point where I didn’t have a beaming smile across my face as I just sat back and enjoyed the ride. And what a ride it is, as Ready Player One delivers some of the most visually-stunning and energetic fun to hit the screen this year.

With so much talk about the visual beauty of the film, there isn’t much to knock it on in this department. The visual transfer to Blu-ray from Warner Bros. is top notch, as the movie looks vibrant in the OASIS when it needs to, and rich and dark when needed as well. Outside the computer game, the real world looks clean and crisp, with blacks never looking muddy and the visuals all coming through smoothly both in-game and out.

On the audio side the movie sounds fantastic. The soundtrack blasts throughout but never really interferes with the dialogue or sound effects. The dialogue itself is clear for the most part, though Wade’s friend Aech can be harder to understand inside the OASIS at times, but it’s nothing that’s overly distracting.

Special Features:

The ‘80s: You’re the Inspiration – This feature comes in at roughly five and a half minutes long and sees Ernest Cline, as well as the cast and crew talking about the ‘80s, and how Spielberg actually took out various references to his own films and why. It’s a fun, quick watch.

Game Changer: Cracking the Code – The mother of features for the disc is found here, coming in at almost an hour in length. This piece touches on the entire creation process of the movie from start to finish. From writing the script to sorting out how the OASIS would look, to creating the costumes and avatars, and so much more. Fans of the movie – and moviemaking in general – will want to check this one out.

Effects for a Brave New World – This feature comes in at just under 25-minutes in length and focuses on the film’s visual effects creation, and building the world of the film, as well as showing the actors what it looks like through pre-viz.

Level Up: Sound for the Future – This much more brief eight-minute featurette focuses on the film’s sound design, which is quite fun to watch, as they get into how they recreated some of the more famous sounds that we all know and love from various games and ‘80s nostalgia.

High Score: Endgame – This piece hits the 10-minute mark and focuses on the film’s score by Alan Silvestri.

Ernie & Tye’s Excellent Adventure – This feature comes in at 12-minutes in length and is an interview between Ernest Cline and Tye Sheridan, who talk about the film before its premiere in Austin. Definitely a fun little piece with fun insights from both sides.

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Presents Ready Player One. Directed by: Steven Spielberg. Written by: Zak Penn, Ernest Cline. Based on the novel by: Ernest Cline. Starring: Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Lena Waithe, T.J. Miller, Simon Pegg, Mark Rylance. Running time: 140 Minutes. Rating: PG. Released on Blu-ray: July 24, 2018.

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