"Never take off the mask."
"Never take off the mask."

Unmasked: “Ready Player One”

So, the time finally came. In wait of probably the biggest movie premiere for the last couple of years, I finally decided to sit down and write my impressions about another film which has become pretty popular in the last year and has gathered a fair amount of hype which comes from its source material that is basically the reason for this movie even to exist – Ernest Cline’s bestseller. It’s important to mention something, though, that might prepare you for what you’re about to read and see in the movie and which is the fact that there is a pretty high chance you will be disappointed (or at least to a certain extent) from what you’ve seen if you’ve read the book. But then again, the vice versa scenario might just appeal to your taste (if you’re into science fiction, games, Spielberg or at least one of the things related to the key aspects of the movie and if you’re not – why bother watching the movie at all then?*).

After everything said so far, I’d like to mention another important detail which profoundly impacts my review – I have NOT read the book and honestly, I haven’t heard anything about it until I found out about the movie (which is strange considering the fact it’s not only a bestseller but it’s also really suitable for my taste in literature). That’s why even from now on I’ll just ignore all the differences between the book and the movie not only because I’m not really familiar with the source but also because in the last few years I’ve gotten used to adaptations having nothing in common with the original version and often that didn’t mean that the movie was not good by itself, it just meant that it wasn’t a good adaptation of  the particular source (book, game, etc).

That is the reason why this paragraph of the review will be the only place where I will allow myself to be influenced by others’ opinions and that would be only because they’ve read the book. From what they’ve said I can deduce the following – the plot has pretty much the same concept, even though there are some differences and the main problem actually doesn’t lie in there but in the fact that the pop-cultural references, which are basically the hidden jewels of the source material, are not the same and have lost its charisma that makes them so special. Well, I’m inclined to agree with them but only to a certain extent. Read more to find out why.

This scene is actually as much realistic as it is pure science fiction, considering the rates with which virtual reality tends to be developing. I won’t even be surprised if by the 40s of this century VR reaches the story’s level and we see a real and working OASIS.

The director’s chair is occupied this time by the great Steven Spielberg and I’m pretty sure there is no one among you who’s never heard of him. Despite that, in the last years, honestly speaking, I haven’t been able to really like (or at least not that much) a creation of his and the only thing that truly impressed me during that time was “The Adventures of Tintin”. The project this time seems a little bit different though – I’m not sure it’s because of the fact that it is a bestseller’s adaptation, the author of the book is involved in the whole development and mainly in the scenario aspect or just because the whole setting and idea of the movie completely describes myself as well, a.k.a. a nerd. Well, I think I can now say that with their mutual help, Spielberg and his crew have done more than a decent job and the movie is impressive not only in its visual aspect (more about that later in the review) but it’s also obvious that a lot of time and resources have been invested into the directing part as the whole flow in “Ready Player One” is pretty smooth and straightforward throughout the whole movie and these more than 2 hours pass by without you even noticing.

As far as the plot is concerned, the movie can “boast” of pretty cliche plotline. In this case the only difference is that the main hero is not that much in the real world rather than in the virtual one but we have the main components for a generic story as a whole: he’s the first one to discover the secret which the creator of OASIS has hidden inside it and this gives the start of a long chase with his enemies who want the Easter Egg for themselves so that they can basically control the whole virtual reality. Furthermore, there is the online buddy of the hero, who of course turns out to be a gorgeous girl and who also knows just as much for the world as he does, as well as his other virtual friends who later on play a key role in both worlds and in the end everyone gathers up together to handle all the challenges, defeat the enemies and win the game in order to reach the inevitable happy ending. Or in other words, such a banal story (moreover, the messages of the movie, even somewhat scary but very appropriate for our time and probably for the future as well, are still not something that we’ve never heard / seen before or just ignored and at times sound pretty weird as well – “Reality is real.” … like, seriously, couldn’t they have come up with something smarter?) which doesn’t affect the movie at all, though, just because it’s intriguing enough to keep the audience’s interest alive and as predictable as it is, it still does great its job of including and presenting the tons of pop-cultural references.

And since I mentioned the pop-cultural references, well, we could write a separate novel about them (although it’s actually written already in a way in this exact book but never mind). The movie won’t even let you miss a single scene as the relations to other movies, games, books, etc. are literally in every minute of the movie and some of them require a pretty sharp eye which means only a moment of looking away would be enough for you to overlook them. This is the moment in which the hardcore fans of the book are divided due to the fact that a lot of the references are either altered or just completely omitted in the movie. Still, I find this to be pretty normal since first of all, they just can’t fit all of them in such a relatively short screen time and secondly, we’re talking about a 7-year gap between the publishing of the book and the release of the movie which is a lot of time for the people’s interests and expectation to change especially when we live in a time when the technologies and in particular, the game industry, are growing rapidly every day.

–  Why are you staring at me? Is there something wrong?
– Oh, no, I was just wondering … well, are you a ginger or a redhead? For research purposes, you know …

And this is actually one of the main reasons why “Ready Player One” is a movie for the mass audience. There was just no way that game events like “Minecraft” and “Overwatch” (and not only them) which completely changed the gamers’ view on their specific genre wouldn’t find their place among the hundreds of hints in the movie towards foreign works of art. The simple yet understandable for everyone story, the inclusion of recent trending games and movies so that the movie feels modern and wanted and the OASIS which is a means of escape from reality and which, unfortunately, looks more and more realistic even nowadays (and which, as far as I know, is much more detailed in the book or at least as far as its infrastructure, social groups, etc. are concerned) are the main motivations that drove Spielberg and Cline towards almost altering the original storyline and making it more compelling and accessible for people of all ages (and, as it looks, also towards advertising the author even further as currently a sequel of the book is in the works).

Visually the movie looks plain awesome. The gamers’ part of you (to which I also belong) will be completely satisfied and left with the feeling that we ourselves are in this world and have the opportunity to do whatever we want and be whoever we want to be. The experience Spielberg has in creating stunning effects and the visionary thinking of Cline have spoken and we see a very well recreated OASIS with lots of different and unique creatures and great CGIs when including characters from other universes. Along with the beautiful virtual immensity goes a perfectly hand-picked old-school soundtrack which subtly manages to combine the trends from our parents’ time with the essence of the book and the feelings an old Atari console, for example, awakens. It also aims to appeal to the younger generation who have probably never heard of Bee Gees but will be quietly singing “Stayin’ Alive” on the way out of the cinema just because it has been played in some of their favourite moments.

Another reason for the movie to look so fresh and innovative is the absence of too many famous actors who have already proven themselves (except Simon Pegg or Ben Mendelsohn, for example) but it’s obvious they’ve been cast to represent this older generation whose time has almost come to an end and make way for the young, talented and promising adults such as Tye Sheridan and Olivia Cooke. Parzival and Art3mis, as their nicknames in the movie are, respectively, are pretty good choices and properly get into the nerdy characters they’re supposed to, handling their duties even better than expected. In the background are the other ones who don’t really have that much time or that many appearances in the movie to show their talent but still leave the audience with a good impression. I really liked how Spielberg trusts his actors and takes the risk of putting them under great pressure and giving them the hard task to “carry” the movie on their shoulders in order to satisfy the people’s expectations. Well, I’m happy to say that the young generation doesn’t disappoint and it seems that there’s still hope that Hollywood won’t turn into a full parody in the very near future.

Tracer, Chun Li and N more characters from other games and movies in an epic battle to conquer your mind.

There probably is something else I can say but I believe that what I’ve written so far should give you at least a general idea what to expect and not to expect from the movie (well, if you’ve wanted to watch it, I guess you’ve already done it so now you might be reading this just to hear a different opinion but if that’s the case, I would be really glad). The truth is that however different the movie is from its source, it’s still a complete nerdgasm and I’m pretty sure that you won’t feel indifferent about it no matter what background or knowledge in the area of electronic entertainment you have. Who knows, it might even make you read a little bit more and unleash your imagination as I plan on doing – reading not only the original material but also Cline’s next book which has a similar concept – “Armada”.**

“Ready Player One” succeeded to a great extent in reminding me why I love going to the cinema and why I started writing in the first place, namely because sometimes there are movies for which a lot can be said or will be said in the future and this one just might have the potential to be one of them. Spielberg’s creation can offer something for everyone and it’s only a matter of personal desire for you to find your own Easter Egg in its world, as long as you’re discerning enough to find the key leading to it yourselves. Well, players, are you ready for some gunting? Get ready, ’cause the adventure’s about to begin!

8.1 / 10

* – Even though this is not necessarily true as one of the people with whom I watched the movie is not even a fan of any of the mentioned above and still enjoyed that one a lot.

** – At some point I might come up with the idea of writing something more and maybe giving a little bit of a different opinion than the current one but that might be when I’ve already read the book. Anyways, if I ever reach that stage, I’ll make sure you’ll be able to read it here as well, so stay tuned.

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