The 400-Word Review: Ready Player One

By Sean Collier

April 3, 2018

Yes, I do have your keys!

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Ready Player One, the movie, is only nominally an adaptation of the book of the same name. The characters, premise and a few of the trappings are identical. (And yes, Ernest Cline adapted his own work, with help from superhero-flick veteran Zak Penn.) But few book-to-film journeys discard more in translation.

I’m pretty sure this was the right choice.

The thrill of Ready Player One — both the book and the Steven Spielberg movie — is that of pulpy and madcap adventure. Neither book nor the film could be mistaken for high art; this is Robert Louis Stevenson (Robert Louis Spielberg?) for the 21st century, a rollicking adventure (even if the physical world is traded for the digital). In that sense, subbing in a frenetic and visually stunning auto race where the book had a less-cinematic quest is a matter of turning written talk into filmed action.

It was a fun book. Now it’s a fun movie.

Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), known to the virtual world as Parzival, dedicates his time to the pursuit of a quest both existential and capitalist: The late tech billionaire James Halliday (Mark Rylance) has set up a series of secret challenges inside his sprawling MMORPG, the OASIS. The player that finds his hidden keys and literal Easter egg will inherit his fortune and control of the company.




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There’s an evil corporation, under the direction of the finkish Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), after the prize; they’d like to monetize the virtual world. There are mercenaries and armies; there’s also a tight-knit but nominally competing crew of lone rangers, including both Parzival and his rival/love interest, Art3mis (Olivia Cooke).

If that last bit didn’t clue you in: Yes, this is basically the wish fulfillment of every nerdy young man with an active Steam account, and not necessarily a demographically broad fantasy. (It must be said that the film handles such limitations a bit more deftly than the book.) To paraphrase a song a bit too late for the nostalgia in Ready Player One: If you don’t expect too much, you might not be let down.

Oh yeah — the nostalgia. Ready Player One has been unfairly derided as an exercise in crass reminiscence; it’s more of a commentary than pure tribute, albeit a limited one. Turn off your skepticism and smile: There will inevitably be a moment or two of pure joy for every viewer.

My Rating: 8/10

Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at pittsburghmagazine.com/afterdark


     


 
 

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