Monday, August 20, 2018


Like so many others when I first saw the trailer for READY PLAYER ONE I sat mesmerized. Images of multiple pop culture characters flew by so fast that I wasn’t able to keep up with all of them. There was Freddy Kruger, Chucky, The Iron Giant and so many more. My first thought was I can’t wait to see this movie. But I missed it at the theater and waited for it to come out on DVD which it has. The end result? Not bad but not near what I’d hoped for.

The movie takes place in 2045 and the world is not much worth noting. People live in hovels constructed of trailer homes stacked on top of one another, at least in the Columbus neighborhood our hero Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) lives in. The only escape people have from the problems in their lives is a virtual game that almost everyone plays called the OASIS.

In the OASIS people can be and appear any way they choose. Gender, looks, stature, even humanoid or alien life forms can be the person you are here. Co-created by James "Anorak" Halliday (Mark Rylance) and Ogden Morrow (Simon Pegg) the game offers escape for everyone. But something is about to change.

With his death Halliday announces Anorak's game, a chance for anyone to win control of OASIS and the money that would come with it. The game is set up with Easter eggs, hidden items that provide specific clues that must be found to reach the all-important golden Easter egg. Three keys located within OASIS will provide the means necessary to find the final golden egg.

Wade is one of the best players there is using the avatar (chosen character) of Parzival. Along with several friends he sets out to find the eggs before anyone else. Along the way they add an additional member to their crew, a young player named Art3mis that Wade is attracted to. The crew sets out to accomplish their goal but have competition that is less than fair.

Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), the CEO of Innovative Online Industries (IOI), is looking for the clues as well. His goal is to take over the game and control of all online users in doing so, earning him and IOI billions in the process. To achieve this he employs a huge team of "Gunters", specialists who can decipher the clues they find combining their knowledge and computers as well as hundreds of "Sixers", an army of players who make a combined effort to prevent anyone else from achieving the goal of finding the eggs.

As Parzival/Wade begins finding the keys first, Sorrento and his team focus on taking him and his team out of the playing field. When they discover his real life location they do so there as well as in the online game, destroying his home and those around it in an explosion intended to kill him. Now Parzival/Wade not only has a reason to win to save the game but to avenge the death of his aunt and to stop Sorrento from total domination.

From the sound of things the movie would seem to be a winner and it did well at the box office. But while I enjoyed it well enough it didn’t seem like a movie I would want to revisit. To start with while the pop culture icons was an enjoyable feature at first the fact that some images came and went so fast that you couldn’t keep up and that they were popping up from the beginning to the end of the movie began to take its toll. The novelty of it wore off quickly and with that it became more of a nuisance rather than a plus.

The next issue I had was the length of the movie. At a running time of 2 hours and 20 minutes it felt too long. Scenes that would have had a nice flow to them felt like they took too long to finish and thus felt like padding to me. Eventually I found myself thinking let’s get on with it and waiting for the story to move forward. Others I’ve talked to who read the book felt that it wasn’t long enough and that more items should have been included. Had the film done so and lasted 3 hours I don’t know if I would have finished it.

The acting is great for all involved, both in their onscreen performances and as the animated character voices inside the game. Then again the fact that so much time was spent in the game with CGI animated characters also felt like a drag for me. I don’t think I’m quite ready yet for a mix of CGI and real actors in a movie just yet. One or the other, fine but the combination also wears thin after a while.

In the end it wasn’t a bad movie just not one that I enjoyed as much as I had hoped I would. And I doubt that I’ll ever sit down and watch it a second time. But for the fans who loved it I’m sure they’ll be out buying copies left and right. Me? I think I’d even pass up picking up a used copy of it. Still if you haven’t seen it and it looks up your alley it is worth a rental at least. 

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