April 3, 2018 – This is a movie that probably should be viewed in a virtual reality environment. I saw it in 3D which is the next best thing. This is a gamer action movie with many references to pop culture, movies and video games. Here's an example. A giant virtual reality robot, based on the robot in the animated film “Iron Giant,” falls into molton lava. As he sinks below the surface, his hand comes up out of the lava with a “thumbs up” sign, which is a nod to the heroic robot in “Terminator 2: Judgement Day.”
There are a large number of game and movie references like this in “Ready Player One,” which is set in the future, but the references are from our past. This movie is based on a novel by Ernest Cline, which I have not read. Although the plot of this film is similar in its broad outlines to that of other recent movies based on young adult fiction, like “The Hunger Games,” it has better character development than most other films of this genre.
In this dystopian future, most people are hooked on interactive video games set in a virtual reality realm called “The Oasis.” There is a game called “Anorak's Quest” within the Oasis games which has a prize of great fortune: Ownership of the company that owns Oasis. Anorak's Quest was put in the Oasis by its creator, the late James Halliday (played by Mark Rylance of “Bridge of Spies”). The game is designed to find a worthy successor to run the company.
Nobody made it to first base in Anorak's Quest until a young gamer, Wade Watts (played by Tye Sheridan of “X-Men: Apocalypse”) figures out how to get the first of three keys which provide clues to win the game. Wade immediately becomes a target of Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”) the CEO of Innovative Online Industries. Sorrento seeks full control of Oasis.
Wade's main ally is his best friend in Oasis, the Avatar Aech who he has never met in real life, along with the avatar Art3mis (Olivia Cooke of “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”) and several others who have formed an underground resistance to Sorrento and his forces. Wade teams up with this resistance in an attempt to wrest control of Oasis from those who would pervert it into a cash cow that would suck the souls from the players.
There are a number of plot twists in the film relating to who is real and who is not, the nature of reality and consciousness, and the sometimes surprising differences between avatars in the game and their alter egos who operate these avatars in the real world. Maybe this movie appeals to gamers. It certainly seems aimed at that audience. I am not a gamer, but it sure does appeal to me. I especially liked the way the film ended.
There is a very interesting conversation between Wade's avatar, Parzival and Aech. Aech warns Parzival about falling in love with the avatar Art3mis because he does not know who is operating this avatar. It could be a man, warns Aech. When the real people behind several of the main avatars are revealed, this conversation becomes more interesting, with some social implications.
As you would expect from a Spielberg film, the production values are first rate, with great special effects and great visuals, especially the stunning way the digital world of Oasis appears. The acting, and of course the direction, are both solid. This film rates a B.
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