Call it what you want—from “Twilight for guys” to a modern-day Charlie and the Chocolate Factory—but the Ready Player One movie delivers a visual cinematic treat that’s nothing but a helluva good time.

The year is 2045, and because the world is just too darn horrible, people all over the planet have turned to the seemingly last good thing in their lives—the virtual game called the OASIS. Created by the eccentric genius James Halliday (Mark Rylance), the OASIS is escapist pleasure at its finest—a virtual world where you can literally be anyone, anywhere.

But after Halliday’s death, an intense winner-takes-all quest is unleashed that the creator had apparently created before his demise. The quest involves finding three hidden keys unlocking three gates that lead to the ultimate treasure—not just in-game but also in the real-world. The Easter egg prize for the winning “Gunter”—or “egg hunter”—is every single penny of Halliday’s vast wealth, plus total control of the OASIS.


Now, that can’t be good, can it?

As expected, an evil corporation hell-bent on monetizing everything wants to stop at nothing to get a hold of that prize, which is where Tye Sheridan’s Wade Watts and his ragtag band of gamers come in. Everyone wants that Easter egg for his or herself, but all for generally magnanimous reasons—to keep the spirit and essence of the game, for one.

The premise of the movie itself is intriguing, and as a gamer myself, I found myself wishing I could freeze-frame the cinema screen to locate every single pop culture reference I could find (and THERE. ARE. LOTS.). The book itself, when I read it last year, was an ’80s-culture-references overload, so much so that I actually found it quite tiresome as the chapters dragged on and on and on about all these mundane details. The film, on the other hand, successfully manages to include all these references and more without it being too alienating especially to those who don’t really feel the 80’s vibe.

Director Steven Spielberg does an incredible job at improving upon all the many, many, many flaws of the book, turning the Ready Player One movie into the box office hit it is today. While there isn’t really anything too stellar about the cast’s acting (except for Simon Pegg and Mark Rylance, but I’ll get into that later), or any drastic improvement from the original characters’ boring flatness in the book, the movie shines in its Spielberg-ized fast-paced action peppered with great humor and proper emotional beats.

The nostalgia is strong without being too overbearing, and the graphics do their best to deliberately remind you not to get too lost in the OASIS. The effects are breathtaking, but just a little bit short on looking like the real thing, because the movie doesn’t want you to forget that what you’re looking at is just virtual reality—and that’s an incredible feat to me.

Now, about that standout performance from Simon Pegg and Mark Rylance, who play the partner-creators of the OASIS in the Ready Player One movie. Rylance (as Halliday) has got the socially awkward yet intellectually brilliant recluse down to a T, adding loveable quirks and a deeper layer of melancholy to the otherwise two-dimensional character. Pegg, despite his short screen time, beautifully portrays the surviving-partner’s sorrow, grief, and quiet resignation perfectly, as the film gives him a deeper involvement in the story—one that wasn’t in the book but is definitely a welcome and inspired addition to the depth of the plot.

If it isn’t obvious enough, I absolutely loved the film way better than I did the book—which is mostly due to the fact that the movie version majorly deviates from the book, but in a really good way. The Ready Player One movie is much more coherent, more solid, and makes a better emotional connection to audiences than Ernest Cline’s book ever did for readers, in my opinion. In fact, I’ll probably make all my fellow bookworms gasp all aghast and stuff when I say that this is the first time I have ever felt that the movie, indeed, is truly better than the book (For shame! I know! I’m sorry!).

Even the haphazard and totally senseless romance in the book was enhanced in the film. And while it’s still not the greatest love story of all time, the so-called relationship between Wade and his online crush Art3mis (Olivia Cooke) makes a tad bit more sense than what was described in the original source material. It just goes to show you that a good idea alone isn’t enough to make a hit—fantastic storytelling and proper execution are huge factors too.

Overall, Spielberg definitely delivered on all my expectations and more (Cameos! Mechs! Nerd-gasmic and geek-tastic galore!). The Ready Player One movie also stresses a very important point that despite all the bells and whistles of the virtual world, there’s still really nothing quite like the real world—something that Halliday himself wistfully had to grapple with.

But if you’re not into that kind of thing, then at least come for the cameos—and stay for the guaranteed, action-packed good time!

 

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Spoiler-Free 'Ready Player One' Movie Review
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