Having looked over director Steven Spielberg’s resume, there are very few duds in his career. He is a legendary director, handling every genre from action, science fiction, action, war and even comedy, all with amazing success. Ready Player One is what I would consider to be a fantasy, based on the novel by Earnest Cline (who co-wrote the screenplay for this film with Zak Penn) about a young lad who lives in Columbus, Ohio. He lives with his aunt and her loutish boyfriend in what is referred to as The Stacks which are cargo containers turned into make-shift homes for thousands of people. His only escape is The Oasis, a virtual reality world that people can “escape” to in order to be anything or anyone they want to.
When the creator of The Oasis, Halliday (Mark Rylance) dies he leaves behind a recording revealing that there are three Easter eggs or keys that would reward the finder of such eggs and keys complete control of The Oasis. They would also be the owner of most of Halliday’s stock which would be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. So it is a mad dash between the film’s hero Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) and his clan against the evil Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn) to see who can find the eggs and the keys first. I will spare you the rest of the plot and its players because there is nothing in Ready Player One that works.
Ready Player One was one I was psyched for. The trailers looked good, Ben Mendelsohn playing the villain I mean what could possibly go wrong? For me, everything. There was not a moment in Ready Player One that felt like a Steven Spielberg moment. I can point to a dozen other films from Spielberg and could tell you that they had that special quality that made those films special to people just like me. There is not a single moment in Ready Player One that had any heart or soul to it. Every sense of life has been stripped out of this film. This is a visually stunning but ultimately hollow film.
The acting is average, at best. Tye Sheridan is a fine actor but here, he is dull and not very compelling at all. Wade’s romance with Samantha (Olivia Cooke), his love interest, has about as much spark and heat as a Bic lighter. The story is creaky and is suffocated by the visuals and the character of Sorrento is so dumbed down that I never believed that he was going to win anything which eliminates any tension between Sorrento and Wade. Another thing; whose idea was it to cast TJ Miller’s voice for a monstrously huge and threatening beast I-Rok? The supporting cast led by Olivia Cooke is largely left alone with virtually no back story at all, but Ms. Cooke does what she can to help this film as it limps along.
All of the previews were careful to show all of the references to the 80’s that the viewer can connect with; the DeLorean car from the Back to the Future films, the Iron Giant, Freddy Krueger, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, you get the picture. But almost none of these are given more than a scant second or two. Only the DeLorean is shown throughout the film. There are references to other 80’s icons but every one of them, just about, is a passing fancy. Alan Silvestri’s score is sufficient and gave me some much needed pep to get through this mess. There is nothing in this film that worked for me and I never felt the sense of wonder that it was trying to convey. As I said, Ready Player One never felt like a Steven Spielberg film. It is silly, empty, dull entertainment with only beautiful visuals and a passable score that kept me awake. I guess every director lays an egg in their career. Spielberg has just laid his.
Ready Player One – *1/2 out of 5
Ready Player One – Rated PG-13 for action, language, violence
Ready Player One – Run time is 140 minutes
Ready Player One is now available on DVD, On Demand and subscription services. Check your listings for pricing and availability.