Ready Player One – Movie Review – Sometimes fun, but lacks consistency.

Based on the 2011 novel of the same name, Ready Player One takes place in the year 2045, a time where most people would rather spend their day to day lives inside a virtual universe called Oasis. This film follows Wade (Tye Sheridan) as he attempts to complete a three challenge contest in the Oasis, that was designed by the James Halliday (Mark Rylance) the man who built the Oasis itself. The winner of this contest will gain total control of the Oasis and retrieve Halliday’s immense fortune.

You may recognise this film for being the one that features dozens and dozens of film and video game references. This was a major factor in the book and that has been made equally important in this film as well. When people enter the Oasis they can essentially become whoever they want to be. It’s through the creation of their avatars where we get to witness many recognisable figures from pop culture history, particularly from the past three decades. This element of the film is fun because you’ll end up scanning the frame of almost every scene, to see who you can spot. There were some great references and character appearances, some of which were very unexpected and a delight to witness. That being said at times the film did fall into the realm of it all feeling a little bit like a gimmick, but that’s the least of this film’s problems.

The script is very inconsistent when it comes to balancing the narrative and the characters. I felt as if I never truly got to know the real life characters, because whenever the film takes place outside of the Oasis, it’s in a rush to get back there. This is understandable, because in all honesty I’d prefer to spend more time there, than in the real world. But the lack of solid development in those scenes set in the real world, negatively impacted my engagement with the characters and their journey. I found myself not caring about them or their mission.

I unfortunately found most of the performances to be fairly average, which I do think is no fault of the actors themselves but due to the script. Tye Sheridan portrays Wade Watts, the main protagonist of this story. He also portrays Wade’s avatar in the Oasis who is named Parzival. Tye struggled to leave much of an impression on me when portraying Wade, because the script doesn’t provide much for him to do. Whereas I did feel more interested in Parzival and that’s certainly where the better aspects of his overall performance lie. The screenplay tries to develop a romance between him and Samantha, who is portrayed by Olivia Cooke. Her avatar is called Art3mis and she is rather famous in the Oasis when we first meet her, because she fights to protect the Oasis from a corporation named IOI who aim to takeover. The romance between Wade and Samantha didn’t work for me, I didn’t feel that much of a connection between the characters. Whilst it did seem more palpable between their Oasis counterparts Parzival and Art3mis, I still think it was lacking. Ben Mendelsohn was great, which is what I typically expect from him. He portrays Nolan Sorrento, the CEO of IOI. He seeks full control of the Oasis, and the film offers up just enough development to allow me to understand his motivations. This role is the type of performance Ben excels in with ease. He’s always an entertaining presence in a villainous role. Also Mark Rylance brought a natural likability to the role of Oasis creator, James Halliday. It was rather impressive seeing such a sophisticated actor like him, being so committed to the role of a giddy quote on quote nerd, who ended up becoming the wealthiest person on the planet.

With Steven Spielberg at the helm you are likely to expect a well directed film at the very least. This film is far from his best but it’s still competently directed, and his flair as a director is on full display during the films large scale sequences. He showcases the action on screen in a very frantic and exciting manner. In fact the highlight of the entire film is a fantastic sequence towards the middle of the story, that does far more than just reference a classic 80’s horror film. The sequence is a wonderful surprise conceptually and in it’s execution. This is a film that kids will likely love, but Spielberg doesn’t shy away from using horror imagery at times and I loved those moments.

I have mixed feelings on the visual effects, some sequences looked great. Whereas others lacked visual polish. Also I found the designs of the main characters faces in the Oasis to be a little distracting. I think they were intentionally made so they didn’t look too real which is fine, but because of that their visual appearance didn’t always work for me. The soundtrack had some well chosen songs that fit nicely into certain scenes, but with that being said I thought the musical score of the film wasn’t memorable or that effective. Many of Spielberg’s films contain some of the most iconic music ever composed for film, so the standard is set high but the score in this film didn’t come anywhere near it.

I also think the run time is far too long. Especially seeing as the two hour and twenty minute length fails to give an adequate amount of development, for the main characters in the real world. A solid half an hour could’ve been shaved off the run time, and I feel the film still could’ve achieved the same things that it does. Because of this length the scenes feel unbalanced at times. To give a brief example, there were scenes which I was enjoying and having fun, but that would then be followed by a dull scene which lost all engagement from me. That happened far too often.

So to summarise Ready Player One is at times fun, but it struggles to be consistent. The script struggled to balance the scenes in the Oasis, with the scenes in the real world. Due to this I just didn’t care for the characters and their journey. If you happen to be horror fan, then the best scene in the film will certainly entertain you. But you don’t need to see the film in the cinema to experience and appreciate that sequence.

★★

(2 Stars Out of 5)

-T.Graham.

Ready Player One – Starring Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, T.J Miller and Mark Rylance.

Directed by Steven Spielberg.

Opens in U.K. Cinemas March 28th.

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