After months, nay years, of waiting, Nate McKenzie finally gets to see how the film version of Ready Player One levels up...
Read about our own Project RPO here
I have impatiently anticipated the release of Ready Player One since the announcement that the legend himself, Stephen Spielberg, was taking helm of the expansive project. I have expressed worries about what would become of Ernest Cline's love letter to pop-culture and I waffled between excitement and dread. In the end, I decided to judge the movie based on its own merits instead of how closely it resembled the source material which I revere.
How do I feel after having watched the movie?
Let me put it this way:
Ready Player One isn't everything that I dreamed it would be... but it is everything that the book has always been and everything the movie was always going to be.
It is beautiful and overwhelming, a true spectacle that demands repeat viewings. Throughout the film, you are washed in nostalgia and rinsed with reminiscence. Catching the references is like playing with bubble-wrap: you do one, then another, then two or three at once. The next thing you know, you're grasping at them, a handful at a time, craving that satisfying popopopop until you're jumping up and down on those little plastic bubbles making them explode. Then they are all gone. The thing about bubble-wrap, though, is the thing about Ready Player One - when it's over, you want more.
Much like the book, the silver-screen version of Ready Player One is not perfect. There are flaws in the pacing, some of the acting is on par with an after-school special, and the story is pretty much completely different (which is something I feared but then came to terms with weeks ago). The love story between Artemis and Parzival was injected into the story line with all the skill of a palsied nurse. Ben Mendelsohn as the video game villain Nolan Sorrento failed to conjure the same level of disdain as the novelized Nolan Sorrento, coming across as inept and insecure rather than malevolent. F'Nale Zandor (Hannah John-Kamen), Sorrento's hired muscle, was about as useful to the film as Foxxy Cleopatra was to Austin Powers in Goldmember.
Nonetheless, the film is glorious to observe. Pure enjoyment and thrilling adventure more than make up for any and all flaws. Industrial Light and Magic created 1,500 digital scenes for RPO and every one of them is as immersive as if you were viewing them through an OASIS visor. Specifically (without spoiling anything) that set piece halfway through the movie -you (will) know the one- literally dropped my jaw. The hair on my arms stood on end and an electricity coursed through my body when I realized what was about to happen. Those scenes will forever be one of the coolest sequences in film history.
Although this is very clearly "Steven Spielberg's Ready Player One", the heart of the book still beats to the same cadence as that of a young boy from Ashland, Ohio. Spielberg, Cline, and co-screenplay writer Zak Penn earnestly pay due homage to an eclectic mix of cherished sources spanning across numerous genres, and they do so without pandering or (more importantly) being exclusionary. Ernest Cline wanted to share with the world all the movies and video games and music and comics that helped him push past the trials of adolescence. Seeing the book come to life on-screen was pure movie magic.
Writers can't help but sprinkle a bit of themselves into their characters and Cline did just that in the book. But what struck me in those final scenes of the film was not how much Cline put of himself into Parzival, but, rather, how much of James Halliday is a part of Ernest Cline. Parzival, you could say, is Cline's avatar, a mask; his fantasy manifestation of what he dreamed he could be. But it is James Halliday that truly represents what Cline has always been and was always meant to be.
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Image - IMDb