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Review: Ready Player One (Ewan Gleadow and Ryan Easby)

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Ewan Gleadow’s Review

For whatever reason, I had very high hopes for Spielberg’s latest, Ready Player One. Video game movies or movies about video games never work, they just don’t. So, when you’ve got a movie featuring prominent video game characters, popular movie references and a whole host of other pop culture variety, it’s a project that’s doomed to drown in its own nostalgia.

My main problem with Ready Player One is that it has no substance beyond being eye candy for nerds like me. A whole host of cameos from some of pop culture’s most prominent and beloved characters. Well, I say cameos, the majority feel like full-blown plot points. Most crushingly are the scenes featuring one of my favourite movies of all time, The Shining. What could’ve been a nice little nod to the work of Stanley Kubrick was stretched into a half hour of half-decent CGI on an identical looking set to progress the plot in some minor way. If you’re going to reference films from the past, be sure to stick to the source material.

Speaking of the plot, it’s not the worst thing imaginable, but it doesn’t take itself seriously enough to work as a drama and doesn’t go goofy enough to work as a comedy. A blend that simply doesn’t work in the slightest, it’s a shame to see some extremely talented people flounder around in a plot that has so many plot holes and misdirection, it’s borderline impossible to enjoy.

The casting doesn’t much help. From Simon Pegg painfully making his way through the movie with a sudden American accent to Mark Rylance being miscast as an old, weird looking nerd, the problems don’t stop when they get to the main cast. Tye Sheridan is completely dull, he reminds me of a discount Dane DeHaan, who in turn reminds me of a knock-off Ansel Egort. Sheridan doesn’t convince me with his acting abilities either, and I’ve yet to see a movie where he does so.

With the supporting cast, there are similar problems. Ben Mendelsohn is always a nice surprise, but he’s the face of a bland corporation, in turn making him bland too. He has no character arc, direction or anything that would signify any significant character design or thought. The same problem appears with T.J. Miller, who appears as just another henchman.

I think my main reason for disliking Ready Player One so much is that it feels cheap. A cash in on already established brands with a plot loosely connecting the need to pull all the old Back to the Future props out of storage. A lot of praise has been made for the visuals, and it’s nothing really all that special. It’s nice to see video game and movie characters animated in this way, but it doesn’t blow me away like Christopher Robin or Solo: A Star Wars Story did. Spielberg revolutionised the use of CGI with Jurassic Park, but he seems to be the most prominent abuser of it too, with Ready Player One being evidence of that.

Based on a book I’ve heard dreadful things about and have no desire to read, Ready Player One is a true mystery to me. I don’t get why it was made, and for the most part, have shunned the movie in its entirety. Still, spending six quid on the DVD hasn’t made me feel all that much better about this whole situation, especially since I had expected to really enjoy this one.

Totally redundant, a big mess of what I could only consider drivel that appeals to masses of people who pretend to like movies because they can play spot the movie reference. Ready Player One is some of the most disappointing films to ever be made, and it’s mostly because of its sole reliance on pop culture.

2/10

 

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Ryan Easby’s Review

I was very surprised as to how much I enjoyed Ready Player One. I’ve read the book and didn’t really enjoy it at all. Yet this is a drastic improvement on the book of the same time, but then again, it’s not very hard to improve upon “I would argue that masturbation is the human animal’s adaptation. The very cornerstone of our technological civilisation,” is it?

Ready Player One is an absolutely gorgeous film, in no small part thanks to Spielberg’s incredible direction. It cannot be overstated how damn good the CGI in this film actually looks, how much you feel like you’re inside a video game. But anyway, time to get into the specifics of the feature. This is what should have won best visual effects at The Oscars, not First Man.

Ready Player One is set in a dystopian future where people use virtual reality to escape their everyday problems of poverty and the grim reality of their living conditions. RP1 is about Wade Watts (Also known as Parzival in the virtual world) teaming up with his friends from the virtual world to find a hidden item in the game that will give the finder total control over the Oasis, the virtual space in which everything in the game takes place. It’s a simple plot, but an effective one. The only real issue I have with the plot is quite how cliched the romance sub-plot between Wade and one of his friends, Samantha Cooke, is. It’s not bad, per se, but it’s boring and it’s been done better many times before.

The cast is pretty good too. Tye Sheridan is wonderful as Parzival, he manages to make the character his own and add to what characterisation existed in the original novel. Olivia Cooke is a delight as Samantha Cooke (known as Art3mis in the Oasis), even if the romance plot between her and Parzival is a low point in the film. Ben Mendehlson as the villain of the piece, Nolan Sorrento, is the true highlight of this film. Mendehlson is as amazing as ever and a true delight. T.J Miller is alright as I-R0K I guess? It’s not that I think Miller is a bad actor, it’s just that I think his inclusion in the film was wholly unnecessary.

Cinematography-wise, this film is absolutely stunning. As you can see from the image above, everything in the Oasis is rendered in amazingly realistic, but never uncanny valley, CGI. The contrasting elements between the beauty of the Oasis and the grim, dark reality of the real world are wonderfully done. The film has its drab and boring moments, but they’re few and far between and are contrasted by moments of such beauty that I find it hard to muster the will to care.

Frankly, the biggest issue with this film is the fact that the plot of the film is pretty generic, even from a movie about video games. It doesn’t take enough risks to be considered truly great, and the twists and turns it does take aren’t subversive and surprising enough. And as I’ve previously mentioned, the romance sub-plot is very much your run of the mill romance subplot, and it just started to bore me after a while.

Overall Ready Player One, while extremely flawed, is a fun experience for anybody who has nostalgia for old media, be it games, films or television shows, yet also works independently as its own film separate from the whole nostalgia-bait angle. Way better than the book, check this one out if you’re ever looking for something new to watch.

6/10

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