In 2045, life is so bad, most people spend all their free time in a virtual reality world call the OASIS. In the OASIS, you can be anyone you want to be and do anything you want to do. Players spend real money on virtual upgrades as well as hardware upgrades to fully experience their virtual reality. If you die in the OASIS, you can respawn, but you lose everything you have collected. Those who have lost everything can work off their debt in Loyalty Centers run by Innovative Online Industries – “IOI”.
The OASIS was created by Ogden Morrow (Simon Pegg) and James Halliday (Mark Rylance). When Halliday died, he broadcast a message to all the players about a quest he created within the game. The first player to collect 3 hidden keys and find the Easter egg would win ownership of the OASIS and a substantial fortune.
Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) goes by the name Parzival in the game. He is one of the relatively small group of Gunters – as the Easter egg hunters are called – still searching for Halliday’s prize many years after it was first announced. Although they have not officially “clanned up”, Parzival works with his best friend Aech (Lena Waithe) and two other players, Daito (Win Morisaki) and Sho (Philip Zhao). At3mis (Olivia Cooke), a legendary gamer, begins working with the group as they search for the keys.
IOI’s CEO, Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn) has other plans. With his army of gamers, they ruthlessly search through the OASIS, looking to win the challenge. If he wins, Sorrento plans to monetize the OASIS, bringing him unprecedented wealth. With his VR henchman, i-R0k (T.J. Miller), and F’Nale Zandor (Hannah John-Kamen), head of IOI operations, Sorrento will stop at nothing to gain control of the OASIS. When the in-game challenges start to have real world consequences, the stakes become even higher.
Ready Player One is based on the 2011 novel of the same name. The film is a nonstop pop culture explosion that has something for just about everyone.
With the majority of the film spent in the virtual reality world of the OASIS, we don’t see much of the actual cast. Instead, they are represented by their in-game avatars. With the film filled with so many pop culture references, it isn’t surprising that if relies heavily on popular movie tropes. Tye Sheridan is the typical hero. He comes from the slums of Columbus, Ohio with nothing going on in his life besides the game. And, of course, he is taking on the big, evil corporation run by the stereotypical villain played by Ben Mendelsohn, who fills the role perfectly. The rest of the cast, primarily Olivia Cooke, Lena Waithe, Win Morisaki, and Philip Zhao, work well together and give life to their avatars. T.J. Miller, a mercenary in the game, gives it his typical witty performance, adding an extra layer of humor to the film.
The film is pretty amazing visually. You will spend a good portion of the film spotting all sorts of call outs to every genre – science fiction, fantasy, horror, video games, you name it, it’s in there. It is really impressive the sheer amount of subtle and not-so-subtle references. The trick to finding these, especially the more subtle ones, is that the OASIS is full of nonstop action that comes at you at break-neck speeds. It can get a little busy at times, but given that it is a massive world where anything is possible. When the film ventures into the real world, it isn’t as exciting. Again, it follows all the usual action movie tropes. It makes it a little predictable, but it doesn’t really take away from the film.
While it isn’t a perfect film, Ready Player One is an exciting, fun ride. It is one of those films you just sit back and enjoy with its constant barrage of nostalgia. The imperfections are few and far between and can easily be overlooked. You will definitely need to see it in the theater, otherwise you won’t be able to keep up with everything going on.