The ‘visionary master’ Steven Spielberg returns to his roots with a CGI heavy nostalgic trip to the 80’s with his version of the Ernest Cline novel, Ready Player One.
If you haven’t read Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One book I urge you to stop what you’re doing and go and read it. It’s wonderful escapism and Cline paints a lovely world.
When you read the book it’s obvious that it’s going to be a film, there’s no question. When you then hear Steven Spielberg is attached, well, things get even better.
However, there are large parts of the book that are simply unfilmable. For instance, there are two parts whereby the main character is thrust into playing the part of an actor in a film, and must act in and recite, word-for-word, that actors lines. This, obviously, isn’t possible on screen so this has been cut.
It doesn’t stop there though, things must be cut from a book, we expect that, unfortunately it has to happen. The issue is that writers Ernest Cline and Zak Penn (Last Action Hero, Avengers Assemble) have all but rewritten Cline’s book for the screen.
Very little remains and, without having read the book, I imagine the story makes very little sense. The guts have been ripped out, the essence of the characters, the reason why everyone is in the Oasis is just briefly mentioned, the fact that all these characters are huge geeks is only touched on.
So, what are we left with? We’re left with a very exciting, superbly visual feast that sees Tye Sheridan (Mud, Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse) as Wade/Parzival hunting down three keys that creator of the Oasis Halliday, Mark Rylance (Bridge Of Spies, Dunkirk), has left inside after his death.
The Oasis is a massive virtual reality world created by Halliday and Ogden Morrow, Simon Pegg (Star Trek Beyond, Mission Impossible Rogue Nation), and pretty much everyone in the world is online. The film doesn’t really tell you this, nor does it tell you that schools are now within the Oasis and a lot of jobs.
The one who finds all three keys that Halliday has left will inherit the Oasis and Halliday’s fortune. This, obviously, means big business is involved which is where IOI comes in to play.
They have an army of staff, some of whom are scholars, learning everything they can about Halliday as the clues around the keys are from Hallidays life, some of whom are gamers.
It’s a David V Goliath story as Wade teams up with his best friend Aech, Lena Waithe (Master Of None (TV)), love interest Art3mis, Olivia Cooke (Bates Motel (TV), The Limehouse Golem), Sho, Philip Zhao and Dalto, Win Morisaki (Sherry, Kamen Rider W (TV)) to take on the corporate evil ones.
The tasks to get the keys range from a race, which you’ll have seen from the trailers, the playing of a classic computer game and playing within a classic film, the name of which I won’t reveal as it’s a great addition in the absence of the two films that feature in the book.
Anyone expecting Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One book to be on the screen will be sadly disappointed. The story isn’t there, the size and scope of the Oasis is lost and, apart from perhaps Art3mis, the struggle to reach the keys before IOI doesn’t come across.
However, to focus purely on that would be wrong. Spielberg can only shoot what’s in front of him and what he’s provided with he shoots extremely well. It’s visually stunning, it ticks along at a great pace, it has great performances, Mendelsohn in particular shines.
Then there’s the references to other films, games, cartoons and more. Most of which are from Spielberg himself, which will be down to getting permissions more than anything, though if you weren’t aware of this it could feel like a lot of navel gazing on his part. I’m assured it’s not.
You can have a great time, particularly when it’s released on Blu-ray, to go through the film and try to pick them all out. From Back To The Future to Nightmare On Elm Street, Halo and many, many more.
Ultimately Ready Player One looks fantastic and, if you’ve never read the book, I imagine you can figure it out and watch it quite happily. However, if you have read the book and where looking forward to seeing it on screen, well, then you may well be disappointed.