A love letter to 1980s games and movies from Steven Spielberg, Ready Player One is a mind-boggling mix of animation and live action that is aimed squarely at adults who were around at the time of Back To The Future and Rubik’s Cube, but will also thrill older kids (see notes below for reasons why it’s not suitable for younger ones) even if they don’t get the eighties references that are liberally sprinkled throughout the adventure.
Based on the book by Ernest Cline, the movie is set in a dreary near future where people escape from their lives by transporting themselves into a virtual reality world called the OASIS that was invented by computer genius Halliday (Rylance). In the OASIS you can be anyone, enter any type of gaming world that you can think of and do anything you can imagine (including climbing Everest with Batman), but the most dedicated gamers are all on the same quest – when Halliday died it was revealed he had planted Easter Eggs in the OASIS and the one person to find all the clues and solve them will inherit both is wealth and the OASIS itself.
One such gamer is orphan Wade Watts (Sheridan), who like everyone else is struggling to complete Halliday’s first challenge – a high-powered street race (Wade’s avatar, Parzival, drives a rather familiar looking DeLorean) in which the obstacles include a roaring tyrannosaurus Rex and a rather angry King Kong. It’s there that he first goes up against skilled gamer Art3mis (Cooke), but they are soon on the same side as they discover rival software magnate Sorrento (Mendelsohn) and his team are determined to crack Halliday’s codes so they can take over the OASIS for their own money-making ends.
While the plot zips along merrily (and makes a lot more sense on screen than it did on the page), it’s the visual feast that Spielberg delivers that makes this so much fun. For adults, it’s a game of spot-the-pop-culture-reference as the car from Christine zooms past, or the Iron Giant thunders along to a soundtrack of Joan Jett and Van Halen, but there is much to enjoy for everyone else too, as the director creates two distinct worlds – the brightly-coloured, neon lit OASIS and the dull, bleak ‘real world’ – and has tremendous fun playing in both of them.
It does feel something like a compilation album in parts (Now… that’s what I call the 80s) but Spielberg never forgets he’s got characters in this universe, too. Mendelsohn’s baddie may be a bit one-note, but good guys – including Wade/Parzival, Art3mis, Aech (Lena Waithe), Sho (Philip Zhao) and Daito (Win Morisaki) – are all interesting and well-drawn, while Rylance steals the show as the brilliant but socially awkward Halliday.
Ultimately, this is one for nostalgia fans and grown-up gamers, but older kids and adults along for Spielberg’s flashy, brash and exciting ride will have a pretty wild time, too.
THE FOLLOWING CONTAINS SPOILERS!!
While most of the movie is fine for the over-11s, parents should note that during one visit to the OASIS, Wade and his friends are transported into a movie, and that movie is the Stephen King horror The Shining. While grown-ups will know what is coming, kids may be scared by some of the scenes which include the chase through the maze, the elevator doors opening and the hall filling with blood, the twin girls and a visit to room 237, and the lady in the bath there.
There is also a scene following this in which the characters are in a ballroom full of zombies. Sensitive viewers and those under the age of 11 may find this scene quite scary as one of the gamers is forced amongst the creatures.
There are violent scenes in the movie but mainly between avatars in the OASIS. There is also an intense battle sequence, again in the virtual world.
Horror characters, such as those from The Shining and Freddy Krueger, are seen in the movie, but most of the time fleetingly.
Parents should note this ISN’T a kids’ movie, nor has Spielberg aimed it at children. There are some sex references and bad language.
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