Film: Ready Player One
Cast: Tye Sheridan, Mark Rylance, Ben Mendelsohn, Simon Pegg, Olivia Cooke, Lena Waithe
Director: Stephen Spielberg
Rating: * * * +
Wade Watts, the intrepid cynic of Ready Player One, a spectacular dystopian fantasy sci-fi actioner adapted by Steven Spielberg from the same-named novel by Ernest Cline, feels truly alive in a tiny hideaway where he plays video games to his heart’s content.
Like Greeks of yore cocooned in the illusory comfort of Plato’s Cave, Wade seeks refuge from the 21st century’s cold reality. For, outside video gaming lies the real world of 2045: a Malthusian nightmare where, Wade, an orphan, is raised by an aunt in the slum “stacks” of Oklahoma. In his personal “cave”, Wade assumes the online avatar of Parzival; a name well chosen, for like the medieval Parzival, Knight of the Round Table who sought the Holy Grail (the Cup of Christ’s Last Supper) our Parzival travels across wondrous multiverses on a quest for three keys to the kingdom of inventor James Haĺliday (Mark Rylance) aka Anorak.
The winner of the keys will unlock golden Easter eggs to inherit the Halliday’s billion-dollar assets including Oasis, an online refuge for the impoverished from the war-torn aridity of global warming, famine and distress. Halliday had invented the competitive game using a battery of clues connected to films, TV shows, comics and of course, games. Viewers will have a blast spotting T Rex from “Jurassic Park” and the Batmobile, among other 80s nostalgia.
Intriguingly, Spielberg has excluded the Christian belief system from Wade’s kindly neighbour which is more pronounced in the book. The veteran director has also sanitised Wade’s godlessness. Not complaining. Only pointing out. After all, film-makers have creative licence to depart from the original source material.
As it stands, the most exciting ( and unnerving) is Spielberg’s re-creation of scenes from Halliday’s favourite flick, The Shining, which Stanley Kubrick adapted from a Stephen King novel. Parzival and his fellow gamers, best pal Aech(Lena Waithe), love interest Samantha aka Art3mis (Greek Goddess of the Hunt) Japanese warrior bros, Daito (Win Morisaki) and Sho (Philip Zha) have competition from Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), greedy boss of a global internet service provider.
The cast does its best-essaying characters who only skim the inter-personal. Both the multi-layered plot and character are overshadowed by the film’s AWESOME visual wizardry. Ultimately, Wade and pal make an informed if somewhat unsatisfactory choice which cannot be said of those enslaved by ignorance in Plato’s dark Cave. The veteran director has also sanitised Wade’s godlessness. Not complaining. Only pointing out. After all, filmmakers have creative licence to depart from the original source material.