Monday 2 April 2018

Film Review: Ready Player One

Don your VR headset and journey into a world of pure imagination in Ready Player One, the latest film from Steven Spielberg.

From Stranger Things to rebooting Robocop and Ghostbusters, it's clear paying homage to the 80s and its pop culture aesthetic is back in a big way. The apex of this trend is Steven Spielberg's Ready Player One, an adaptation of Ernest Cline's much talked about novel of the same name.

Set in the 2040s, Ready Player One envisions a bleak future where citizens of overcrowded and impoverished slums live out their wildest dreams in the Oasis, a VR universe with infinite possibilities.

A vast online video game with its own economy and society, the Oasis was created by revered developer James Halliday (Mark Rylance), who on his deathbed revealed the platform's ultimate purpose; a treasure hunt of riddles and quests to find three keys, which in turn reveal an easter egg which grants total control over the Oasis. It's essentially Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory for the gaming generation.

However, no-one has solved the quest as of yet. Several years have passed and this is where our hero, Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), enters the frame. A Halliday obsessive, Wade lives his life in the Oasis as his anime-esque avatar Parzival and yearns to find the easter egg as its centre. Along with his online friends Art3mis (Olivia Cooke) and Aech (Lena Waithe), Wade soon finds himself in a race against time as IOI, a nefarious organisation led by Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), throws all of its collective weight behind the Halliday quest in an attempt to exploit the Oasis and its vast reach.

Ready Player One is brimming with pop culture iconography from the last 30 years, with everything from Batman and Street Fighter to Back to the Future and Star Trek referenced, alluded to or homaged. Savvy viewers will most definitely get a kick from seeing the likes of Battlestar Galactica, Knight Rider and the Serenity flash across the screen.

Those who have ever picked up a game controller will also find a lot to love; like Scott Pilgrim vs the World and Wreck-It Ralph, Ready Player One oozes with video game aesthetics and ideas. That said, it does feel like this referential stuff weighs the film down at times; the sheer volume of stuff littering the frame is suffocating, especially when the film careens through its dizzying third act.

However, if any filmmaker deserves to upend a toy box and have at it, it's Spielberg. And more often that not, the veteran director makes it work. A car chase through the streets of New York that includes the likes of King Kong and Akira is wonderfully chaotic and a set piece that sees Parzival and his friends racing through the Overlook Hotel is destined to be an all-time brilliant Spielberg moment, up there with his best.

Alan Silvestri's score, which at times draws from his own Back to the Future score, is fantastic, and recalls some of Spielberg's best films from the 80s and 90s. The direction from the Beard himself puts you in the thick of the action; this is Spielberg at his most energetic and his most fanciful, which sees the camera spinning and racing through the colourful action set pieces. The VFX, which mash so many different pieces of pop culture together, are particularly impressive; the mo-cap on the Oasis avatars is seamless and the in-game worlds leap from the screen.

It's just a shame then that Ready Player One struggles to connect on an emotional level as much as it does on a purely visual one. Wade Watts isn't the greatest or most compelling protagonist, so even though Sheridan shares some potent chemistry with Cooke, his arc and the overall story in Ready Player One is strangely vacant and vapid.

Wade remains strangely static throughout the film whilst Mendelsohn's villain is the typical sneering capitalist we've seen umpteen times before in, you guessed it, almost every 80s film ever. The film doesn't do enough to explore the band of merry misfits that Wade teams up with on his adventure – when it does, it goes off like gangbusters.

The Verdict: 7/10

Fun but fairly flimsy, Ready Player One is like skipping a hearty meal and eating dessert for dinner. That's not necessarily a bad thing; who hasn't indulged from time to time? Some colourful action and a narrative jam-packed with pop culture keeps this otherwise slight affair afloat.

Ready Player One is in cinemas across Australia now.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...