Ooh, shiny pop cultural references!
If there’s one thing I’ve learnt about the relationship between the mainstream audience and cinema, it’s that people love nostalgia and pop culture. It’s the reason films like Beauty and the Beast and Deadpool which scored a lot of dough at the Box Office. So, it would come to no surprise that a film loaded with pop culture would eventually occur in Hollywood. This film is Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One, based on the popular book by Ernest Cline, who helped to adapt the novel for the big screen.
Set a few decades in the future, we are introduced to the combination of a Virtual Reality simulator with the Second Life RPG formula known as “The Oasis”, created by a socially awkward geek named James Halliday (Mark Rylance). It’s a place filled with no limitations and the ability to be anyone and do anything, with any nostalgic film, TV Show or game reference. At the tragic news of Halliday’s death, he leaves a final note saying that he has hidden three keys in three challenges that lead to an Easter egg. Whoever gets the Egg becomes the new sole owner of “The Oasis”. So, a teenage geek living in the slums of Ohio named Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) steps up to the task of getting the Egg before it falls into the hands of Innovative Online Industries CEO Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn).
The best word to describe this film is fun. It’s not one of Spielberg’s best films, but it’s still fun to take in. I can see what people mean when they say it’s a tribute to everything from pop culture since the 80s, and I’m more than positive that it’ll win over the crowd of geeks and nerds alike with its many references to video games, movies, TV shows and even 80s music. The environment within the game was brought on incredibly well using some great CGI that helps differentiate the fantasy RPG with reality. My two favourite scenes include not only the final army battle where chaotic fun occurs, but also the tribute Spielberg gives to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. That moment of the film was not only nicely paced, but also fantastic to watch. This is most interesting because Spielberg and Kubrick were good friends and admirers of each other’s filmmaking styles. In fact, they worked really closely together on the 2001 film A.I before Kubrick passed away, and the directorial seat went to Spielberg.
But even if the film had Deadpool driving a TARDIS while wielding a Keyblade, it still wouldn’t distract me from its various flaws. This film does have some plot holes, like taking five years to complete the first challenge when a real gamer would figure out how within three days; its formulaic story has been done to death in other films, like The Hunger Games and Maze Runner; and the main characters that eventually make the resistance group “High Five” – as well as the villain – are just generic with very little originality. Well, one character has a bit of interest – Halliday. Rylance’s socially awkward performance where his character feels more comfortable in an environment of video games and movies helps make sense that he would create this world. He even has an interesting message at the end of the film based on his character progression that isn’t a bad message for its desired audience at all.
Overall, this is a fun film to watch over the weekend. It’s mainly for someone who loves retro games and classic nostalgic films, but it can also be something for the whole family to enjoy. It will definitely be a box office favourite with the various references thrown across the screen.