Ready Player One is one of those movies where you’re not quite sure how to place it. A lot of your enjoyment will come from your love of video games and pop culture, and your disappointment will come from having too much knowledge of the book and you cannot separate yourself from it. But there is a lot more to Ready Player One than just being an adaptation of a book and a love letter to pop culture, much much more.
Title: Ready Player One
Production Company: Warner Bros. Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures, Amblin Entertainment, Amblin Partners, De Line Pictures, Farah Films & Management
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Produced by: Steven Spielberg, Donald De Line, Dan Farah & Kristie Macosko Krieger
Starring: Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, T.J. Miller, Simon Pegg, Mark Rylance
Based on: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Release dates: MAech 29, 2018 (United States) / MAech 29, 2018 (Australia)
Running time: 140 minutes
Rating: PG-13 (United States) / M15+ (Australia)
In 2045, much of Earth’s population centers have become slum-like cities due to overpopulation, pollution, corruption, and climate change. To escape their desolation, people engage in the virtual reality world of the OASIS (Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation), where they can engage in numerous activities for work, education, and entertainment. Users have discovered “Anorak’s Quest” hidden within OASIS, a game created by the late James Halliday, the creator of OASIS. The first to find the Easter eggs within Anorak’s Quest is promised full ownership of OASIS among other gifts. This has attracted a number of Gunters (“egg hunters”) to play the game. Innovative Online Industries (IOI), a video game conglomerate and manufacturer of most the virtual reality equipment used to access the OASIS, also seeks ownership of virtual reality world, and its CEO, Nolan Sorrento has amassed an army of debt-indentured players, known as Sixers (due to their six-digit identification), to seek the prize. However, to date, no one has been able to complete the first quest, finishing a vehicle race across an ever-shifting dangerous cityscape.
Wade Watts, an 18-year-old Gunter from Columbus, Ohio, lives in a slum with his aunt. In the OASIS, Wade goes by his avatar Parzival, and has partnered with Aech, a male avatar that serves as a virtual mechanic. He later befriends well-known player Art3mis after saving her from being “zeroed out”, which would wipe their avatar from the OASIS itself. Wade decides to study the virtual OASIS library to learn about Halliday’s personal life in hopes of finding a hint to finish the race. Wade learns that Halliday felt regret when he had to accept the resignation of his partner, Ogden Morrow, over a personal falling-out, with Halliday expressing his desire to “go back and fix this.” At the next race, Wade reverses from the start line, finding a hidden, safe path to the finish line of the race. He gains the first of three keys and a clue to the next quest. Aech, Art3mis, and brothers Daito and Shoto follow Wade to finish the quest, and the five appear atop the global scoreboards, becoming known as the “High Five”.
Tye Sheridan as Wade Watts / Parzival
Wade Owen Watts is the protagonist and narrator of Ernest Cline’s novel, Ready Player One. He is a poor orphan from the “stacks” surrounding metropolitan Oklahoma City. Wade names his OASIS character Parzival after Percival, the Arthurian knight famous for his quest for the Holy Grail, and dedicates his life to finding James Halliday’s Easter egg.
When it comes to character motivation and development, it’s a shame that Wade/Parzival/Z doesn’t really get much to go off from the get-go. Instead of being the poor orphan from the Stacks that has no better luck in the OASIS, he’s just another one of the “lost generation”, a generation of kids that have nowhere else to go but into the OASIS to live their lives. It’s a real shame that there is no real humanity or connection made between the character and the audience, because it almost loses the emotion from one of the more emotional scenes in the movie where his Stack of trailers is destroyed and his neighbor, a kind old lady who gives Wade food and shelter sometimes, is killed. In the film, not only is this connection ignored, but the neighbor appears fine after the stack is destroyed. Tye does his best to play both sides of the character, but there isn’t much there to be played. So this sorta came off as a “for a paycheck” performance than something to really get his name out there for future projects.
Olivia Cooke as Samantha “Sam” Cook / Art3mis
Art3mis is a famous gunter. She is first mentioned in Chapter 0002. She is the writer of “Arty’s Missives,” a blog dedicated to her seAech of Halliday’s egg. Wade/Parzival describes her blog as a collection of essays and Almanac interpretations, written in an endearing and intelligent voice. He then admits to having a crush on her, which is frequently addressed throughout the book and proves to complicate their competition.
I don’t know what it was about Art3mis that irked me. I think the avatar design where she looks more alien and elf-like as opposed to the human form she takes in the book just threw me off. I was expecting more of a Jinx from League of Legends meets Tank Girl type of character in terms of attitude and look, but what we got here just seems like it was changed because “we couldn’t do it in this type of rating” thing. As for Sam, the person behind the avatar, I’m glad that they kept the Port-wine stain birth mark on the character, but even then Sam was more “Hollywood normal” than average girl next door that we had. Don’t get me wrong, Olivia Cooke does a good job at playing both sides of the character, but I think that this was one of the things that got more “Hollywood” than it should have been.
Lena Waithe as Helen Harris / Aech
Aech is Wade’s best friend, although the two didn’t meet in-person until much later, Wade claims that they’ve always shared a great connection. In the beginning, it is clear that Wade and Aech shared many interests — movies, music, video games, and the hunt for Halliday’s egg.
Probably one of the lower end of the performances. The trouble here is that when we see Aech, we are meant to get this overabundance of “male-ness” from the avatar, but what we get is more of an “I’m secretly in love with you” vibe from the avatar. You can see that it is a female behind the avatar by some very subtle movements and speech patterns. The scene where Parzival is getting ready for his date/hunt for the second key with Art3mis is a big giveaway to that. Not to mention, when it comes to the relationship and the mystery behind Aech, it’s never really explored enough to give the reveal that it is a female behind the avatar any real depth of shock value, it just happens in a weird moment where Sam contacts Helen and suddenly she (Helen) finds Wade in a back alley. Plus, let’s get this one out of the way because I know it’s going to come up… Helen is a lesbian and it is never touched upon in the film at all. It’s a slight shame, but given how mishandled this character was, I’m not going to get too up in arms about it like other media outlets would.
Win Morisaki as Toshiro Yoshiaki / Daito
Although reserved and cold initially, Toshiro befriends Parzival. He was a brother figure to Shoto, although the two of them had never met in person, they embarked upon the Hunt together and completed various elements of the Hunt in unison until Daito’s demise, both in the OASIS and in real life, at the hands of IOI.
Another character who remained really under-developed in Ready Player One was Daito/Toshiro. He appears out of nowhere in the real world with no explanation on how he got from Japan to the USA… Or we’re meant to assume that he’s just some major Otaku who lives in the USA already. It’s so vague that it’s annoying the hell out of me since we can obviously tell that Toshiro is Japanese in nature and mannerisms, but we have no other information about his character, and we never get anything about him once his introduction is over. I guess it is for the best since his character got changed a shitload. One of the biggest points of the film, which helps lead to the capture of Sorrento in the book was that Sorrento had Toshiro killed in the real world. But in Ready Player One (the film) he has a big sacrifice moment where he becomes a Gundam and faces off against a Sorrento piloted Mecha Godzilla, which results in Daito being “zeroed out”. It’s not as impactful as having the character die, but it’s a compatible moment I guess.
Philip Zhao as Akihide Karatsu / Sho(Shoto)
Akihide Karatsu was a Gunter who embarked upon Halliday’s Easter Egg Hunt alongside Daito. In contrast to Toshiro Yoshiaki, whom Akihide sees as a brother figure but is cold and untrusting of others, Akihide is more friendly to other gunters (namely those in the High Five) and connects with Wade Watts on a better level than Daito did. He reaches out to Parzival to inform him of Daito’s digital and physical death at the hands of IOI.
Complete waste of a character. There’s no connection between Sho outside of his partnership with Daito in the OASIS. In the real world, he’s a one-line joke of a character (“I’m 11 years old, get over it”) and that’s it. Even when Daito has his sacrifice moment in the third act, Sho doesn’t even care at all and just continues on in helping Wade get to the final challenge. It makes the character completely pointless.
Ben Mendelsohn as Nolan Sorrento / Sorrento
Nolan Sorrento is a high-ranking official of Innovative Online Industries (IOI), the multinational corporation that serves as an Internet service provider for most of the world and hopes to take over and monetize the OASIS. Sorrento is head of IOI’s Oology (the science of seAeching for Halliday’s Easter egg) Division, and serves as the primary antagonist of the novel; his employee number ID is IOI-655321. Though he works for IOI, it is revealed that Sorrento took the job only for the opportunity to destroy the entire OASIS (as revealed in Lacero) to “avenge” his sister and force people to face the world they’ve been neglecting.
Out of all the characters that they got right in Ready Player One it was Sorrento. Mendelsohn plays the asshole businessman character to perfection, always bordering on cartoon super villain but always keeping himself composed and menacing at all times. If there was anything that got to me was the use of a Superman avatar in a business suit look that he had in the OASIS. Superman is not a villain (Though some of my favorite stories are the ones where he is) and to see the image used like that just really annoyed me as a fanboy, but I understand the context of power that it means to the character. But overall, this was one of the best villain performances I’ve seen in quite a while that actually made me HATE the guy every time he was on screen.
Mark Rylance as James Halliday / Anorak
James Halliday is the main character and tech industry businessman in the backstory of Ready Player One. He was the creator of OASIS, a massive online simulation used by billions of people in the story’s dystopian future setting. When the story begins, the late Halliday has just willed a major prize to whosoever finds a unique, hidden easter egg in his VR realm, the OASIS. The terms of the will would give the finder his multi-billion-dollar fortune, along with administrative control over the OASIS itself.
There really isn’t much to say about this performance or characters. As Anorak, he is just there to hand over a key and move the heroes onto their next mission. As Halliday, there was a lot more personality and mystery to the character that made you want to just give the guy a hug for everything he did and means to the world at that time. A lot of this comes from Rylance himself, who delivers everything with this monotone, down-trodden tone that just makes you sympathize for him in every moment you see him. In the finale of the movie, you really feel like this was a guy who loved what he had built, but at the same time regrets ever building it because it all cost him the one thing he craved most: Social interaction and relationships with others. It’s at that point where Rylance really shines and is a great addition to the film.
Ready Player One is an orgy of references and nostalgia. In the book, everything was linked to the 1980s pre-gaming crash era. Though it did expand with a lot of the movie and TV references being from the later half of the 1980s and heading into the 1990s. In the film version, everything is updated to include a lot of references from the 2000s and some more modern stuff too just so it can appeal to today’s audience a bit more than it would if it kept the subject matter from the book. Though this must have been a nightmare of licensing for legal to go through before production could begin, the end result with companies from Blizzard, to Capcom, to EA Games, to Ubisoft and lots, lots more coming on board to have some character or franchise represented in Ready Player One was an amazing feat. This doesn’t include all the movie characters from Universal, Village Roadshow, Warner Bros Pictures and more that pop up too. All of this makes for a whole heap of “Oh my god! They included this character” or “Look over there! That’s this character” moments in Ready Player One to almost an overwhelming degree. Personally, I was so overloaded with references from the music, to the locations to the characters involved that I just started shaking with excitement. To be honest, this is what is going to make Ready Player One a day one must buy on Bluray movie for me when it comes out simply because I want to pause and go through all the frames just to pick up all those references and put them in some list or something later on down the track.
Something that Ready Player One did very well for us (I saw the film with my Girlfriend) was it created a world that seemed like it was actually possible with the way things are going with technology and also society. We could imagine living in the world where people are crammed into small spaces all the time, where trees and nature have given way to an overcrowded world in which the only escape from the terrible life you have was to escape into a virtual world where anything is possible. Hell, given the way VR technology is being adapted and built upon, something like the OASIS sounds completely possible within the next decade or so. This gives Ready Player One such a good grounding when it comes to watching and seeing things play out on the screen, giving a much more deeper connection to the characters and their plight than most would care to admit.
Visually, Ready Player One is just summed up in the phrase “Stephen Spielberg magic”. Spielberg is the only man on the planet who could create such a realistic world on the outside, but also an amazing fantasy world on the inside. Seeing things like the T-Rex appearing out of smoke to crush cars or King Kong jumping from building while blocking the sun with every leap is just magic to see. Even in the big battle scenes where things are overly crowded and just a mess, you get moments all over the place where characters just get a moment to shine and take center stage. No one else in the history of cinema could create such beauty out of chaos like Spielberg can, and thank you for that.
To call Ready Player One “Based upon the book” is a huge understatement; the proper phrase should be “Loosely adapted from parts of the book” would properly define it.
From the get-go there are changes all over the place in order to suit a film. The exclusion of a lot of Wade’s characterization and backstory is dropped in favor of making him just another kid who plays video games all day, Sam is changed to be more “Hollywood Ugly” than average Girl, Aech is completely screwed over as is Sho and Daito. Outside of Sorrento, Wade & Sam, there is no real character development or consideration. Then there are the changes to the Easter Egg Hunt itself. In the book, all the challenges related to James Halliday on a personal level, to get inside the mind of the man who created the OASIS. Instead, we get a bunch of things related to his business practices and relationships there, and the sacrifices he made to become the biggest IT guy in the world.
Then there are the challenges themselves. The first one, instead of being a tribute to Halliday’s love of Atari and Dungeons and Dragons, is changed to a high-speed race with a special way to win. Sure it makes things more exciting to watch, but there was a deeper meaning to finding the dungeon on the Educational planets of the OASIS as Halliday provided free education to all people within the programs. The second challenge, instead of being a tribute to Zork and Blade Runner, it was a themed challenge to find Halliday’s missed love inside a copy of The Shining. Then the third challenge, which was cracked before our main heroes could actually do anything, was the one to feature the Atari game Adventure and finding the first ever Easter Egg in order to win the final key. All of this leads to another thing, it’s all about the keys. There are no challenge gates involved in the challenge, which leads it things just being yet another race.
One thing you’ll notice in the section above where I talked about characters, I didn’t mention three of them. Two of them being I-Rok and F’Nale, who have very prominent roles in Ready Player One: The Film, and Og, who has a big role in Ready Player One: The Book.
The reason for this is that I-Rok is completely changed in the film version, being this big badass looking bounty hunter guy instead of the noob that hangs around with Aech and Parzival for the credit of knowing them. While T.J. Millar does a great job of playing I-Rok, it’s the fact that outside of being this big bad bounty hunter in the OASIS, there is nothing to his character. He is primarily around to do the bidding of Sorrento as well as use the in-game commands that Sorrento doesn’t know how to do himself. There is no characterization here worth noting and it’s shame since it turns a few good moments from the book into non-existent moments in the film.
As for F’Nale, she is the director of the “Loyalty Center” where people are forced into working for IOI. Outside of that, she is the more “Black Ops” side of IOI, kidnapping, hacking, killing, etc. She has no personality except that of being the token bad person. Yet at the end, she can’t even do her job right for most of the film. She only succeeds in one raid that leads to the capture of Sam and getting her locked into IOI; which backfires when Sam escapes and helps bring down things from the inside. F’Nale has nothing to with the book at all and is a completely original character for the film.
Now we get to Og, or Ogden Morrow for those who have read the book. Morrow, played very well by Simon Pegg, was the other half of the combo that created the OASIS. From there we know that Marrow and Halliday had a falling out, but we are given no real information as to why they had a falling out. In his OASIS avatar of Og, Marrow was a DJ at the nightclub that was featured in both the film and the book, except that he doesn’t actually appear in the film in the club at all, which is a real let down since it was a great scene in the book. Instead, we find out that Marrow was the Curator, an Ask Jeeves style seAech engine in the Halliday Journals, a museum of all things James Halliday. In the real world, we only see Marrow in flashbacks and in the finale of the film once Wade has been given control of the OASIS in the game itself. It’s a real shame to see a talent like Pegg being given a role that should have been a lot larger in scope than it was given.
At the end of it all, Ready Player One is a loose but really well-done adaptation of the book of the same name. However, you really do need to go into the movie with either no knowledge of the events of the book, or trying to forget as much as possible about the book as you can. This version of Ready Player One is done in a more Hollywood tone, mixed up and recreated with viewers in mind who need to have all the flash and spectacle shown before them instead of having to imagine the world for yourself. Visually Ready Player One is an overflowing river for the senses, with there being cameos all over the place from just about everything imaginable, though it’s amazing that for someone so heavily featured in the book, Stephen Spielberg has actually removed a lot of the references to himself and his movies, leaving in those that really needed to be in there.
If you’re a fan of the book, you’re going to walk away thinking that you needed to see more as a lot of the plot got left on the cutting room floor, especially when anything background related or anything related to Aech, Daito & Shoto. If anything, those who know the book would call for this to be a two-part film, just so it could cover everything properly. On the other hand, those who didn’t like the book due to some controversial content matter, or whatever might actually enjoy this version of the plot since it tones those things down to almost non-existent status.
This is a movie that I think might work with the general crowd, though that is up to debate given the reference given nature of the subject matter, yet at the end of it all this is more of a love letter to all things from the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s; something that those who grew up in that era of gaming and pop culture would understand. I still think it’s worth a watch either way, and it’s going to definitely be a Bluray must buy.
Ready Player One is a nostalgia addicts dream, with almost every moment you spend in the OASIS having something or someone referenced that’ll make you excited. While the characters outside the mains are left for dust, what you are left with is a good story that is relate-able and highly possible. If you’ve read the book, do what you can to disconnect yourself from what you know before walking in, this is an adaptation in a very loose form; but magically done in a more Hollywood tone for a more general audience.