Forgive me if this review feels a bit
jumbled and ramble-y, but it's 3:30am as I sit down to write it. I
have a screening I have to leave for in about 5 hours, but I'm
honestly still amped up after having seen Steven Spielberg's Ready
Right up front, this was the very first
public screening of the movie, which was held during SXSW at the
Paramount, a giant movie palace (balcony, paintings on the ceiling
and everything) with the majority of the cast and Steven Spielberg
himself present. The audience was electric, super into it buzzing
even before the film started. There is no way this film has a better
audience experience. There was cheering after the action scenes,
roaring laughter at some of the jokes, pointing fingers constantly
entering your periphery as different people noticed different iconic
All that stuff is infectious, so it has
to be said that it could influence an opinion. Now you know the
My quick history with Ready Player One:
I read the book once, right before it was published. I knew Ernie
Cline a bit. He was in my extended circle. We all camped out for
Episode 1 together. I sat down to read the book thinking I'd give it
a chapter or two and pat him on the back, tell him I'd started it and
good job or whatever. I was on an international flight when I started
reading and when I looked up the flight was almost over and I had
finished the book. It's a very fast read and compels you to keep
going. It was a pulpy adventure success and I was happy for Ernie,
but I honestly didn't think much more of it. Until Steven Spielberg
You never count out Steven Spielberg.
The man is a master filmmaker and even when he strikes out he at
least swings big. By just about any measure I'm an easy mark here.
He's my favorite filmmaker taking a stab at one of the geekiest
things ever written.
The thing is, Spielberg's a bigger geek
than you are. No shit. He was a gamer before there was a word for it.
At a core level he understands the appeal of the Oasis, the central
online gaming reality the story revolves around, and he just happens
to also be one of our most visually inventive filmmakers to boot.
Some of the early marketing was
off-putting to me. It felt like CG spectacle and I didn't get any
sense of the characters, but I kept telling people openly mocking it
that you discount Spielberg at your peril. And it turned out I was
For those who don't know the world,
Ready Player One is about a poor kid who lives in a future world
that's not quite apocalyptic, but super shitty and drab. The one
escape isn't movies or TV or reading... it's gaming, thanks to a
system called OASIS, which is essentially the internet, but a video
game. Everything you could possibly imagine is there. You can create
any identity you want, play any kind of game you want, go anywhere
you want. It's not quite real, but it's not too far off, either.
Because it's a world of unlimited
possibilities just about every pop culture character can be found in
there. You like Overwatch or Halo or Nightmare on Elm Street or Iron
Giant or Batman or Back to the Future or He-Man or Gremlins or a
million other things? You can choose that as your avatar. Or you can
be something wholly original. The one thing nobody is is themselves.
Our hero, Wade Watts, is fascinated by
the man who created it all, the Steve Jobs or Bill Gates of the
Oasis, a socially awkward (and sadly deceased) genius named James
Halliday who, in true Willy Wonka fashion, left a series of
challenges within his huge gamescape that, if solved correctly, will
lead to a hidden easter egg, which grants the winner complete
ownership of OASIS. This isn't like someone getting to own a big game
franchise. It's not even like someone getting to own Sony or
Microsoft. Everybody is plugged in. This place has its own currency.
This is like someone getting to own the internet itself.
Naturally there are powerful corporate
interests that want to own this for themselves and they want to pump
it full of ads and pay to play features... they essentially want to
revoke net neutrality and take humanity one step closer to a
dystopian, corporate controlled reality.
The key to solving these puzzles is to
understand the creator and what he was obsessed with. Halliday was a
child of the '80s, so his nerdy obsessions are rife with pop culture
references and hints, but underneath it all there's a story of a sad,
lonely man. Yes, there's a trillion things to dig in a nostalgic way,
but what Spielberg does so well is build the world and the characters
within it that you're invested in them.
Much of the book is changed in this
adaptation, but the breakneck pacing, sense of high adventure and
huge beating heart are still there. Spielberg's sense of geography
and ability to construct pulse-pounding action scenes is still as
sharp as ever.
There will be some that will write this
off as a nostalgia trip and conveniently overlook how ingrained in
the actual plot and character all the references are. This isn't a
movie where you need to know everything on screen. I didn't know
everything I saw, and I'm pretty fuckin' nerdy! All you have to be is
invested in the characters and be willing to go for a ride. If you
can then you're going to find yourself having a ton of fun.
In Ready Player One Spielberg gave us
one of the geekiest films ever made. It's certainly the geekiest film
he's ever made, and that's saying something.
I wish I could be a little more
critical of it. There were a few moments that don't work and some
over-explaining that happens in a few scenes, but I had the goofiest
grin on my face the entire runtime of this movie and I'm still
smiling. I'm sitting here, dog-tired with a big day of interviews and
movie-watching coming up and I'm still smiling like a frickin' doofus
over this movie.
It's just flat out fun. This will be a
litmus test movie. We might be able to get along if you don't like
this movie, but we're never going to be good friends. If you can't
enjoy something that wants to make you happy so earnestly then I
don't know if it's going to work out between us. Sorry, bud.
Again, consider that I saw this in
possibly the best setting ever and I'm just about exactly the target
audience for this movie, but goddamn did it make me happy.
I might come back with a few more coherent (and not sleep-deprived) thoughts later, but this is where I'm at hours after the experience.