For the better part of 5 decades, veteran film maker Steven Spielberg has made arguably some of the best films ever made. With a movie back catalogue that touches the length and bredth of nearly every genre, its certainly the perfect archetype for any budding film fans collection.
Fast forward 50 years and just over 60 films later and its no real surprise that one genre in particular stands out as the bread and butter of his portfolio; Sci-Fi. With plotlines that consistently map the struggles of the underdog, his stories are known for their striking visuals, absorbing stories and heartwarming moments for all the family to enjoy.
With Ready Player One, we are thrown headfirst into a world suffering at the hands of overpopulation, corruption and climate change. With things falling apart on the outside, the inhabitants of Earth have all but given up, with their only chance of escape being the virtual reality world of the OASIS.
After the creator of this magical world dies, a video emerges of nerdy entrepreneur James Halliday (Mark Rylance), announcing the existence of a hidden Easter Egg concealed somewhere in the ever expanding universe he created (think hidden golden ticket from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). The prize for finding this Egg – total control and ownership of his absurd fortune.
Visually, the film is one of the most beautiful things you will see in the cinema…as long as you opt for the 2D version. Clearly a master of visuals, Spielberg’s skill behind the camera is recognisable from the offset, building a world that’s not only filled with all the nostalgic squidginess one would have hoped for but also one that feels believable, leaving many of it CGI competition in the dust.
Despite its immersive visuals however, its the he plot where things come a little unhinged. In order to unlock the Easter Egg, each combatant must first find 3 keys, essentially spoon feeding the 3 act plot to the audience with one of its many, MANY moments of exposition. The result when paired with its overwhelming commitment to nostaliga is a film that gives itself very little room to breathe. The first two acts (2 keys for anyone counting) washes past in a wave of fury that – while incredibly fun – creates a unwanted void for the third act to essentially grind to a halt – an odd feeling that really has no place in a world full of so much explanation.
The central protagonists are also heroes by destiny rather than heroes by trial. While they are all brought to life by some incredibly fine actors, the narrative journey is driven by weak transitions and lucky moments of ‘in the right place at the right time’, essentially having their arcs predictably carved out for them rather than allowing time for the audience to see the characters evolve.
For fans of the legendary film maker, Ready Player One embodies all the splendor of a Spielberg classic – it’s set in a fantastical world, its lead by a group of underdogs and its steeped in all the morals any parent could wish for. For those wanting to scratch at more than just its shiny surface however, you might be left a little disappointed. 3 out of 5 stars.
Check out what we thought of last year with our top 10 of 2017:
Top 10 films of the year – The Big Dudes perspective!