Ready Player One – Non Spoiler Review

Bottom Line Up Front: 3 out of 5 Stars. A fun popcorn movie well directed by Steven Spielberg with great special effects and fast moving story. While still in that “Young Adult” genre that usually turns me away from films like this, there is enough for the adult crowd to keep one happy throughout the film.

Now the more in depth stuff:

While many have told me my reviews are often way too long, I’m going to continue to do as I do and go into a few things that most people don’t need to read. Everything you really need to know is in that first paragraph so only proceed at your own risk. No spoilers or anything, but I will go beyond a cookie cutter review you could have simply gotten off of Rotten Tomatoes.

First let’s give a quick plot review without revealing any spoilers. Ready Player One takes place in the future where a virtual reality world called The Oasis has taken over as the main mega corporation on the entire planet and is basically the Internet of the future. The creator dies and leaves behind a virtual treasure hunt for control of this virtual world. Our hero and friends race against an evil corporation and others in both the virtual and real world as they hunt for the prize while discovering love and friendship along the way all hoping to be crowned victor and have total control of The Oasis.

Now then, I hate to be that guy, and I am usually the first to roll my eyes when someone else says about a film what I’m about to say about this one, but I can’t get around it. There really is no other way to state what I truly feel about this movie… So, here it is, that clich√© that will forever mark me as an ostentatious nerd with no social life:

Ready Player One – The book was SO much better.

There, I said it. You may proceed with your scorn…

The book gives so much more depth to characters that while other films based on books don’t need it, this movie is so deep and relies on intertextuality and references to really enjoy the story, this movie falls short as it can’t even come close. Most of this was probably due to licensing issues as the book references properties not owned by Warner Brothers (the main producers of Ready Player One) so while Freddie Kruger, The Ninja Turtles, Harley Quinn and other characters were used, they couldn’t use a great many things and characters that were integral to the book. For example Blade Runner, Light Sabers from Star Wars, Transformers as well as a thousand other things and characters which were folded seamlessly into the narrative of the book were not seen in the film.

And as the extreme pleasure of flashbacks and characters from my childhood are missing from the movie that were in the book, this took away from my main enjoyment of the film. Sure it was fun to see the Iron Giant or the Delorian, but the link between the 80’s and the main plot of this hunt for an Easter Egg didn’t quite connect for me as well as it did in the book. Here you simply saw Batman climbing up a glacier in the background and it wasn’t really a part of the movie other than that 2 second smile because you recognized him.

Another shortcut the movie took was everything took place in a very small part of the world. The five heroes of the film all live in the same city and in fact like a couple blocks from each other. This made the movie feel very small which it shouldn’t have. This after all is to determine control of the Oasis which the entire planet depended on, not just this one neighborhood in Columbus, Ohio. The “High Five”, which the heroes were known as, in the book were from Ohio, Canada, a nomad traveling all over the East Coast and the last two from Japan. This may seem like a small difference, but the book gave a more global view of things where the movie seemed to all take place in one city block and the odds were never really that severe.

Also, in the book they were all solo hunters and it was danger, circumstance, hardship and plot which drove them together where the movie seemed lazy and luck more than anything else which drove them into a team. This left the actual hunt seem easy and small where in the book it was intricate and very hard. The movie seems to all wrap up in a weekend where the hunt in the novel lasted years. Sure it was the same 3 keys they were trying to find, but the hoops and ladders they had to go through in the book to get a key was extremely more difficult and in the movie it actually seemed pretty easy.

Also, there is a major character death in the book that the movie doesn’t use. This was integral to the book and I am sad that the movie played it safe and kept it kid friendly in this aspect. I mean ,I get it, they want wide appeal and more of a family film, but the danger and seriousness was missing and I think the movie was lesser because of it.

I realize this is turning into a book review and not a movie review but I just love this book so much and wish the movie was better but I’ll stop now and get back to the film. (PLEASE GO READ THE BOOK!)

Steven Spielberg directs Ready Player One and does a very good job. I think directors should be invisible and not their style overshadow the film itself and Spielberg is a master of angels, slow pans and camera placement. He filmed this in a very old-school reminiscent style and you get an 80’s film vibe even though it’s full of CGI. Not an easy task but I really did feel like I was watching one of his earlier films. This is a nice look and he handled the story very well. He even put the old Amblin Entertainment logo on the front of the film which was cool to see again.

The soundtrack was ok. While there were some 80’s staples, a few key songs were missing and I think they actually played it too safe with song choice. The original soundtrack by Alan Silvestri was very good and like the direction style, called back to 80’s movies. As with the sound design and editing, all well produced and executed. You can tell professionals made this movie and took their time and care putting their all into their work.

The 3D is pretty good. There are parts of this film I can’t imagine in 2D so if you get a chance, do go see Ready Player One in IMAX and in 3D. Especially the first chase scene as seen partly in the trailer. This is a spectacular race and should be experienced in 3D and in the theaters.

The part where the movie falls flat for me (besides missing plot threads) was the acting. It was ok. This is not an adult film, it’s a kids coming of age story, so the High Five actors did fine. I wish (again going back to the book) they stayed more true to the characters as described in the novel as a lot of the depth and back story was missing ¬†but for a popcorn movie I guess they were fine, just not great…

In fact, that takes me back to the beginning and my entire review for the movie. It was fine, just not great.

And it could have been.

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