Okay let’s get it out of the way…yes this film contains yet another dystopia, with another adolescent hero, who at some point will become the spearhead of a resistance movement against a tyrannical regime. But don’t hold it against Ready Player One, as veteran director Steven Spielberg is both forgiving and aware that audiences are familiar with this trope and doesn’t bog us down with an overly intricate explanation.
It is the year 2045 and as usual, humanity has peaked in all the things that stop the world going around in a nice way; pollution, corruption and a number of wars have taken its toll on the Earth and most people live in slum like ghettos. Suffice it to say, life for the average human being majorly sucks, however there is one saving grace – a complete and fully interactive universe via virtual reality and anyone who can access it, would rather spend most of their time there, than in the real world.
The VR world is called the OASIS which stands for Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation…and now you know why an acronym is used, as no human with anything important to do in life, can say that 3 times in a day and say they have done anything productive. The OASIS is everything to the mass population. Everything that you aren’t or can’t be in real life, can be afforded and realised in this VR space and it gets even better. Power-ups and coins accumulated in the OASIS can have real life benefits, you can upgrade your real life, by what you do in your fake one. However, there is a down side, negative outcomes in the OASIS also have an impact, where your life’s assets however meagre they were in the first place can be lost or completely destroyed.
Innovative Online Industries (IOI) is a company that has cornered the market on VR equipment, both real and in the OASIS and headed by the megalomaniac CEO Nolan Sorrento, the company through his vision, seeks to gain control of the OASIS, so he can monetize it. IOI, always pushing for dominance and subjugation, already have a conniving loyalty scheme in which citizens that incur and owe debt, are forced to use their labour power within the OASIS to pay it off. Nolan being an unscrupulous, corrupted, poor excuse of a human being, riggs the labour in such a way, that those working off their debt, will incur penalties and other faux charges as they go along no matter what you do. The aim of IOI is to keep people in slavery until they die or until they extinguish you through other nefarious ways.
The actual inventor of the OASIS, James Halliday is sadly no more, but before his untimely death, Haliday placed 3 easter eggs in the OASIS, that would give the finder of them, the keys to the entire virtual kingdom. In the beginning of this revelation, many users rose to the challenge, but a lack of success over the years led to interest petering out. This all changes when Wade Watts, a teenager from the slums, finds the first key, reigniting the fervour for the quest. It also brings Wade’s existence to Nolan’s attention and from here a race and a battle begins to get the 3 keys and either maintain the freedoms of the OASIS or have it become monetised and enslaved.
Well Is It Any Good?
I have to be honest, I have never watched a film that felt like my head had been blown off. The virtual world that we are immersed into is a frenetic, chaotic, visual treat for gamers, nerds, sci-fi and fantasy heads, anime geeks, retro fans and frankly anyone who has eyes and a fast enough CPU in their head to process what is coming at them in pretty much every scene. You will find yourself in fits, pointing at characters you’ve spotted in every single scene. People remember what it was like to watch Star Wars: A New Hope, Superman, Tron, The Matrix and Avatar in a cinema, well add this one to your list because what has been put on film here, is an absolute marvel.
Spielberg has created action sequences so intricate and complex, that I don’t think there is a human being on this planet, who’s neurological functions, working at optimum speed, could process the gamut of on screen action. On top of this, Spielberg has created a world that references EVERYTHING! Everything of significance in pop-culture is in this film. Mr Swagger who sat next to me was wondering how much the licensing would have cost, to have all these famous characters, pieces of tech and icons from pop-cultuer in the film. I said they couldn’t have possibly paid for all of that, as there would be no budget left to make a film, even with it $175million dollar kitty.
Performances vary for RPO, but the acting by all was adequate enough for this type of movie. And though Wade/Parzival played by Tye Sheridan is the main hero of the film, I actually felt more of an affinity with Olivia Cooke’s character Samantha/Art3mis. I imagine that just like playing a video game, audiences will have a character that they are drawn to more than another, but in saying that, the supporting cast were valuable to the proceedings. Ben Mendelsohn as Nolan Sorrento was perfect, probably the best actor in the picture and the High Fivers – Wade’s crew contributed to the humour and body tingling heroic moments. The real world drama is not exactly captivating and in one sense you might say it’s not supposed to be, in contrast to the OASIS, but personally I think that this is an accidental by-product of the OASIS scenes being so amazing, that for the most part only the finale in the real world is both funny and interesting.
The overall message of RPO is not placed in the film subversively, it is a blatant message about the good and bad parts of gameplay and interacting in alternate realities and I support it. Yes, we can use technology for fun, for learning, for blowing off steam and for living out dreams and fantasies. But as the inventor Haliday conveyed, the real world is where everything really matters.
Ready Player One Is Out March 29th