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Yes, We Are Ready: A Review of Ready Player One

When Ernest Cline’s novel Ready Player One came out in 2011, I was enthralled by the book, hoisting it on my sons and anyone who would listen. An adventure/scavenger hunt of a story, celebrating geek culture, first generation video games, and 80’s/90’s cinema; it was set in a not too distant dystopian future. An immediate favorite, a part of me hoped it would never be optioned by Hollywood, as I’ve often been disappointed with how film adaptations of sprawling novels I love have turned out - David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas being the prime example of Why’d You Even Bother. And to be perfectly frank, when I heard Spielberg would be directing, I wondered if he was too old or if it would end up over-produced.


Well, call it regeneration or his Fountain of Youth; but Ready Player One is proof positive that Spielberg still knows how to have fun. With a vibe that’s more early Steven, echoing his Indiana Jones, E.T., and Hook forays; Spielberg shows us yet again, why his empathy for resilient kids from broken homes (Wade Watts as played by Tye Sheridan, with Parzival his OASIS avatar) is second to none. Shuttling between the bleak reality of 2045, and the virtual reality of escape that is the OASIS, Spielberg is uncanny in making both worlds real to us, the audience; and making us care about what happens in both worlds.


As we meet the creators of OASIS, James Halliday (played by late-Spielberg regular, Mark Rylance) and Ogden Morrow (Simon Pegg), we learn that Halliday passed away, but left an Easter Egg in his OASIS, with an unheard of prize for finding the elusive ‘egg’. There are three keys to collect and unravel the clues to the Egg, and in the years since his death, no one (or his/her OASIS avatar) has even earned the right to claim the first key. The villain in the piece would be a big corporation headed by Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelssohn); a rival tech that spares no expense in trying to assembly-line the takeover of OASIS via solving the puzzles.



When reading the novel, the immersive quality of the writing was pure joy; and while some shortcuts are taken in the film’s screenplay, as well as some changes in the plot development, the essence of the book is wonderfully retained. Especially brilliant is The Shining sequence. Artemis (Olivia Cooke), and Halliday (Rylance) are impeccably cast; and there is a joy in noting the various references and geek culture trivia. If there is a weakness, I would have to point to the somewhat anticlimactic ending, when Sorrento fails to stay true to character.



I can’t say the film supersedes the book as there still is added texture to the reading experience; but I do envy those who have not read the book and will watch the film. There is a childlike wonder to be experienced and Spielberg is the biggest child and geek on the page! Ready Player One opens March 31st, and it’s Easter Egg time at the cinema when this one starts its run. Welcome home, Steven; you phoned home and made it back.



Lead photo from @readyplayerone