Ready Player One Movie Review (Spoiler Free)
Spielberg’s big screen adaptation of Cline’s successful sci-fi novel is nothing but a pale shadow. The effects look nice, the characters are flat!
Genre: Action / Adventure / Sci-Fi
Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Lena Waithe, T.J. Miller, Simon Pegg, Mark Rylance, Win Morisaki, Philip Zhao, Hannah John-Kamen, Clare Higgins, Susan Lynch & Ralph Ineson.
Run Time: 140 min.
US Release: 29 March 2018
UK Release: 28 March 2018
German Release: 05 April 2018
Steven Spielberg’s newest blockbuster is the film adaptation of Ernest Cline’s sci-fi novel of the same name, with Cline also co-writing the movie script together with Zak Penn. As an absolute fan of the novel, I was looking forward to seeing this tale come to life on the silver screen, especially once hearing that Spielberg was attached to the project to direct it. Once the first trailer was released online, though, I was not sure what to expect. So, as soon as this film was released I went into the theatre with lowered expectations.
In a dystopian futuristic world, teenager Wade Watts (Sheridan) spends his time in a virtual reality world known as the OASIS. When the eccentric creator James Halliday (Rylance) dies, he leaves his fortune to the first gamer who’ll solve his riddles and finds the digital Easter egg. Wade decides to join the hunt with his friends, as do millions of others and is soon hunted by the evil corporation IOI.
Book adaptations usually vary from their counterpart, as a movie needs to compress the written narrative in a shorter time, yet it is natural to compare the conversion with the original source. While I usually don’t mind dramatic changes as long as these serve a good story, I was disappointed with the vast amount of adjustments made in Ready Player One, as the original novel elements would have made for a better tale.
Critical aspects that give the characters more depth in the book, are simply left out or have been exchanged, to suit the American movie industry. Then there is the fact that for the first twenty minutes, most of the story that surrounds the OASIS software or the main character’s life is summarised via monologue. This made it hard to focus on the story presented on the screen.
That said, Spielberg and Cline managed to integrate the core plot well into the script. Some of the pop-cultural references are updated to make them relevant to our time and it also includes some well-placed humour. The narrative serves a good portion of nostalgia; adding characters, as well as movie and game references from my childhood and youth that reminded me why I love these mediums. I also need to give Spielberg the benefit of the doubt, for handling all of those references with the highest respect and care!
The characterisation of the personas in this film is weekly developed, compared to those in the novel. The exploration of relationships (be it friendship or love) and the topic of reclusive youth, spending their time online rather than meeting in real life, is brushed over fast or barely existent.
Tye Sheridan’s Wade (a.k.a. Parzival as he calls his avatar) is nothing like described in the book, where he is a shy, overweight and abused teenager who feels insecure even in the virtual world due to lack of money and experience, as one needs credits to level-up. In the movie, however, he is a cocky and okay-looking young man - both in the real world but especially online! Sheridan gives a good performance but it is the lack of depth that hurts the character. His abusive home is shortly explored, though, not enough for the audience to build sympathy for Wade and the clumsy build-up to a relationship with Art3mis was rushed.
Olivia Cooke stars as Art3mis/Samantha and does steal each scene she is in! I was more invested in her story than in Wade’s but having said that, her character is completely rewritten for this adaptation. What is possibly most frustrating about her character, is the big speech she gives Wade about falling in love with a complete stranger online, when he knows nothing about her, stating that she is completely different from her avatar. Once the viewer gets to see her real character, however, one can’t shake the feeling of hypocrisy, as Samantha is a sweet-looking young woman.
Ben Mendelsohn gives a great rendition of the villain Nolan Sorrento. This character is a money-fixated slime-bag, who would never dare to make his own hands dirty out of fear of repercussions and his own incompetence. Finally, there is Lena Waithe as Ache. She is possibly the most accurate depiction of one of the characters from the novel and her performance was good.
Being a Spielberg film, there was never a doubt that the cinematography would be anything but amazing and James Kaminski did a wonderful job as director of photography. The action segments are absolutely epic; especially the huge battle sequence at the end, as is the adrenaline-pumped race at the beginning of the film. The movie is well lit and the different colour spectrums used, serve as a perfect contrast between reality and the virtual world. Considering that the majority of this picture is taking place in the virtual realm, the vast addition of CG effects felt natural and did not distract from the overall plot. The digital recreation of Kubrick’s The Shining is especially memorable!
Verdict: The silver screen adaptation of Ready Player One left me pretty cold, compared to the brilliant novel by Ernest Cline. Spielberg directed a good science-fiction blockbuster, for the largest part, even though a lot of the story was changed from that of the source material. While I usually wouldn't complain about changes made to the narrative, as adaptations from novels need to compress the story, this sci-fi tale made crass modifications that simplified the film but didn’t benefit the plot. The characters are weakly developed and the romance is rushed. Tye Sheridan gives a fine performance, though, out-shined by Olivia Cooke, whose persona is more interesting. That said, the cinematography and effects are brilliant, as are the nostalgic references. Ready Player One makes for an all-right and fun spring entertainment but is not really worth watching more than once. I will give it a 7.0 out of 10.
I would like to know what people thought of Spielberg's cinematic version, especially if they read the book first. So please leave a comment below. Thank you very much for reading this review.