Ready Player One isn’t just a love letter to our childhood nostalgia, it’s an an inappropriate pic and several graphic texts about what we want to do to nostalgia when we have it alone that involve candlewax, a goat, and a livestream. I know that comparing a movie to what is basically a sketchy Craigslist hookup probably isn’t the best way to begin what I assure you is a positive review, but Ready Player One knows what to do with its nostalgia and that’s to exploit it.
Set in the future of 2045, Ready Player One introduces us to a world where reality bites and everyone retreats to an online virtual world called The Oasis. There, Wade Watts – otherwise known as Parzival – and several other millions of gamers seek the three keys to unlock an in-game Easter Egg that will turn control of The Oasis to the winner. Needless to say, this puts Wade and his online friends in a lot of jeopardy when they start winning the keys, both in the game and in real life when douchbag corporate seek to possess The Oasis for themselves.
I see lots of movies because I enjoy movies, but I honestly can’t remember the last time a movie made me as stupidly happy as Ready Player One did. Some may look down on the commercialization and packaging of nostalgia, but I challenge anyone who loved them all those years ago to sit stone-faced as Serenity takes to the sky again or as notes from the Back to the Future score plays upon using a Zemeckis Cube. Try not to smile as Freddy and Jason share a battlefield with Street Fighter and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and fight along side The Iron Giant and Overwatch. It’s impossible for even the most cynical among us to not get the smallest measure of delight from that kind of thing and, if you say it doesn’t, you either have no connection to popular culture or you’re a liar. Flux capacitors and Frag Cannons must be encoded into our DNA.
The world of The Oasis is a dream come true for Easter Egg hunters and every frame is packed with them. Honestly, I could watch this movie ten times and discover something new. Even in the real world, they’re littered about. Strangely enough, though, it doesn’t distract from the story. The Easter Eggs populate the world, but they don’t overpower it.
The story is interesting and a mirror on our times. It’s a little more than ironic that a statement about the commercialization of nostalgia and the internet would be made in a movie that commercializes nostalgia and the internet, but honestly… it’s a catch-22. What are you going to do? Complain about using pop culture in the adaptation of one of the biggest pop culture referencing books of all time? Sit the heck down.
I know what you’re wondering… where’s the negative? There’s always a negative. Well, the movie does a very large information dump at the beginning through a narration that is jarring and strangely lazy. You can tell there’s probably a way longer cut out there from how fast and furious the scenes and exposition comes where they had to cut and condense. It’s a little annoying, to be honest, and really gets the movie off to an awkward start, but it recovers pretty quickly.
What can I say? I enjoyed it. It’s a masterfully made movie that juggles likeable characters trying desperately to learn how to make connections, it features an amazing techno-fantasy world populated by everything you love, it’s clever as hell, and it has some amazingly shot action sequences.
But, that’s Spielberg for you. The man has not lost his touch in the last near-40 years he’s been making movies and he is truely one of the masters. Spielberg juggles characters in the real world and The Oasis with the skill of someone who knows what the hell he’s doing and, in doing so, you can tell that Spielberg is revisiting some of his own favorite moments of pop culture. Heck, the scene that takes place in the Overlook Hotel is just masterful from the recreation of the sets to the music… it also didn’t hurt that Spielberg and Stanley Kubrick were friends. I guess this is like saying hello to a deadly departed pal.
In a sense, though, that’s what Ready Player One is for all of us. Oh, hello Battletoads. Hello Halo. Hello Batgirl. Hello all my old friends. It’s so good to see you again.