Ready Player One is directed by Steven Spielberg and stars Tye Sheridan as Wade Owen Watts/Parzival, Olivia Cooke as Art3mis, Ben Mendelsohn as Nolan Sorrento, Simon Pegg as Ogden “Og” Morrow, Mark Rylance as James Donovan Halliday/Anorak, T.J. Miller as i-R0k, Hannah John-Kamen in an undisclosed role, Lena Waithe as Aech, Win Morisaki as Toshiro Yoshiaki/Daito, Philip Zhao as Akihide Karatsu/Shoto, Ralph Ineson as Rick and Letitia Wright as Reb,
Ready Player One lands in cinemas on March 29, 2018.
The film is set in 2045, with the world on the brink of chaos and collapse. But the people have found salvation in the OASIS, an expansive virtual reality universe created by the brilliant and eccentric James Halliday (Mark Rylance). When Halliday dies, he leaves his immense fortune to the first person to find a digital Easter egg he has hidden somewhere in the OASIS, sparking a contest that grips the entire world. When an unlikely young hero named Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) decides to join the contest, he is hurled into a breakneck, reality-bending treasure hunt through a fantastical universe of mystery, discovery and danger.
It’s a rarity for me to read a book before seeing the movie adaption. In recent years this has happened to me only twice. Once with The Hunger Games franchise and now also with Ready Player One.
Any fan knows the general rule of thumb is that the film never lives up to the book. Whilst that is true for some aspects of Ready Player One that is not the case for the film as a whole.
The basic story remains intact. This is, in part, due to original novelist Ernie Cline’s involvement with the screenplay. Here he works with Hollywood stalwart Zak Penn to re-craft the story in to something more palatable.
This is most definitely the Spielberg version of Ready Player One and that’s not a bad thing. For the first time in a very long time I had the Spielberg feeling. The feeling you get when watching ET or Indiana Jones.
Whilst Parzival remains the central character of the film the supporting cast all receive a bump in screen time. The classic Spielberg trope of the gang of friends which inspired Stranger Things adds a new dynamic to the story.
Purists beware. Supporting characters Daito and Shoto are now introduced alongside Aech. This establishes the group very early on in the film. Much earlier than the book. Though in this version we meet all of the supporting characters within the first twenty minutes it works.
Some of the narrative differences are a little harder to stomach. Whilst the road race challenge for the first key is a visual spectacle it is no Tomb of Horrors. This sequence comes off as a great way to shoehorn in a whole load more pop culture references whilst avoiding the need to explain the history of a game very few people have played.
It’s a prime example of how Cline and Penn have adapted the book to fit this new medium though. So whilst moments like this were at first annoying my rational brain could understand the need for change.
Most importantly the film never loses the heart of the book. The sense of adventure does not wain. The characters do not become tiresome.
One of my biggest concerns was that the film would feel overstuffed. In a computerised word where any characater can appear how they wish it would be easy to overload the screen with cameos.
Whilst I have no doubt that fans will be spotting new characters for years to come it doesnt become an attack on the senses. From a personal perspective it was nice to see my DC Comics family well represented. There’s also moments for the T-Rex of Jurassic Park fame and King Kong to make appearances.
These cameos also never pull focus from the main cast. Unless they are intended to.
The film is well cast. Sheridan is a compelling lead both as a live-action and voiced character. I’ve yet to see him in anything I haven’t at least enjoyed.
Olivia Cooke is a favourite of mine from her time on Bates Motel and I was excited to hear she was cast in this. She plays the expanded Art3mis role well. Has great chemistry with Sheridan and is a convincing rebel against the IOI company.
Supporting actors Lena Waithe, Win Morisaki and Philip Zhao are also brilliantly cast. Each brings something exciting to their role and succeed in bringing the book to life.
Rylance and Pegg deserve more screen time together as Halliday and Ogden-Morrow. I’d buy in to a tech firm drama about their days developing the OASIS system.
Rylance trademark stoicism is dialled up to an eleven which works perfectly for the awkward Halliday. Whilst he amps up the anti-social side of the character it never strays in to the utter stereotype of a gamer geek.
Ogden-Morrow seems to have had his role quite drastically reduced to make room for more Halliday. When he is on screen however Pegg does his usual job of bringing the character to life with a level of undeniable charm.
Ben Mendelsohn is batting for a career best. His villain is a true Spielberg villain. Dislikeable, despicable and a great source of humour for the audience at his lowest moments. I cannot think of a better actor play the role of Sorrento.
The CGI is, of course, impressive. The world of the OASIS is perfectly rendered. Several shots are spent taking in the sprawling landscapes and myriad of characters held within it. It’s aided by being an entirely CGI based with no live-action footage intermixed. In a normal Hollywood blockbuster we’d be talking about integrating characters to CGI environments but there is none of that here.
As with the cameos there is so much to see within the OASIS we’ll be spotting new Easter eggs every time we watch it.
The score for Ready Player One comes from Alan Silvestri. Though he is a name you might not know if you look him up on IMDb I guarantee you recognise a LOT of his work. Silvestri took over scoring duties from longtime Spielberg collaborator John Williams when his work on The Post (also a Spielberg film) meant he had to step away.
His score remains Spielberg-esque. There are hints of Williams but Silvestri is able to put enough of his own personality on it to make it something unique. There are standout themes and accompanying pieces alike. Silvestri is able to enhance the film without ever drowning it in his soundscape.
Ready Player One is a somewhat santised version of Ernest Cline’s novel. But a very successful version which evokes classic Spielberg throughout. A complete must watch.