"fun and thrilling but gets far too carried away with its own spectacle"
Chances are if you like films you enjoy something from Steven Spielberg’s eclectic and lengthy filmography. And, going out on a limb, there’s a pretty high probability you adore one or more of his movies from the past 40 or so years: whether it’s Jaws, E.T., Schindler’s List, Jurassic Park, Saving Private Ryan, Minority Report, A.I., Lincoln, or Bridge of Spies – the man has something for all tastes.
Despite an array of genres and themes the Hollywood icon’s tackled over the decades, Ready Player One is something altogether different. It’s the type of film the director hasn’t really delved into before: a CGI-heavy action- adventure that feels more akin to blockbusters such as Avatar than the humanistic stories we’re used to.
And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, either. The fluid and often impressive CGi Spielberg employs is often very effective. It’s particularly spell-binding during one of the film’s biggest and longest action sequences involving a violent and heart-pounding sequence that would make Nascar wet itself.
Ready Player One sees Wade (Tye Sheridan), just like everyone else in the world, don a VR kit to escape into a virtual world of social interaction, gaming, and, in the cases of many, living obsession. Going by the name of OASIS, when the creator, Halliday (Mark Rylance), of this globally-addicted virtual world dies, he releases a video that challenges all its users to find an Easter egg and discover his fortune and, in turn, full control of OASIS. When Wade cleverly deciphers the first clue, he brings his closest friends along for the ride, including online love interest Samantha (Olivia Cooke) to seek out the true meaning to OASIS and to discover whether Halliday is actually dead or not.
Yet Ready Player One is a movie of ups and down, both literally in its zany, bustling environment and in its narrative construction intended for its audience. With any Spielberg film there is, for me at least, a certain degree of expectation so it’s hard not to demand things from him here.
On one hand, his latest delivers a pulsating and visually stunning sci-fi flick that stuns in an IMAX theatre and entertains for a solid two hours. On the other, the narrative actually gets lost amongst the sheer amount of visual prowess and expansive ideas that are squeezed into the film itself.
Usually we get solid direction and a script from the director, but here it appears the distractions of the world are too significant to depend on things like a plot because from around the mid-way point things get very hazy. Not only are we unsure where the overarching plot is heading but character motivations are particularly unclear as well.
When a sense of direction and purpose is lost, especially in a Spielberg movie, then it doesn’t make you, as an audience, feel very positive about its outcome. And sadly we aren’t proven wrong or get our faith re-instilled with a finale that remains cloudy but is again distracting with a powerhouse of a CGI fest.
Leads Sheridan and Cooke form a solid bond as Wade and Samantha; with Ben Mendelsohn proving a worthy villain even if his intentions within the plot are not always logically driven. For the majority of the film the aforementioned pair team up well against the corporate boss Sorrento that Mendelsohn portrays, but somehow the whole thing feels a little inconsequential.
Ready Player One is fun and thrilling but gets far too carried away with its own spectacle and ends up neglecting itself and any semblance of a plot in the process.