Plot: As the world crumbles around them, people seek solace in a virtual world known as the Oasis, which has become the social hub for mankind and offers the chance to be and do whatever you can imagine. This world was created by Halliday (Mark Rylance), an awkward, but visionary designer who sparked a global treasure hunt upon his death, as he left the keys to this kingdom up for grabs. The first person to solve a series of pop culture scavenger hunts will inherit control of the Oasis, the most valuable resource on the planet. While countless people, including corporations have mounted efforts to solve the puzzles, no one has even cracked the first stage. But Wade (Tye Sheridan) is more driven than most, as he loves the Oasis and the pop culture that inspired Halliday, so he devotes his life to putting the pieces together. When he is able to figure out the first riddle and blow open the entire hunt, he also draws the attention of those who would rather see him dead than allowed to win. Can a simple fan like Wade really solve this epic treasure hunt and take control of the entire Oasis, or will he be stopped by the corporate forces that are desperate to seize that world?
Entertainment Value: Although most movies based on books tend to be fall short of the source material, Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One is a massive improvement over the book it was inspired by. A lot of sweeping changes were put into motion here, to the point that even if you didn’t like the book, you might find a lot to like here. The narrative is simple and not all that memorable, but I appreciated the alterations made that ensured most of the book’s more insufferable sections were excised, replaced with more interesting elements. The basic narrative is not a problem here regardless, as the movie is about pure nostalgia and Spielberg makes no effort to hide that “remember that?” is the driving force of Ready Player One. The scenes are packed with references to pop culture threads, some prominent and others buried in little visual touches, so there are a lot of details to soak in. The constant flood of pop culture references is the movie, so while the narrative is competent, it is clear the film is meant as a nostalgia play and it works in that sense. So if you want depth or originality, you won’t find it here, but those who thrive on nostalgia or just want to see pop culture overload, Ready Player One is a brisk, reference loaded experience.
The cast here is solid, but given the focus on pop culture references and nostalgia, the real stars of Ready Player One are the characters, vehicles, and little touches taken from other works. This can be as simple as a quick use of a gun from Gears of War or the prominent placement of the Iron Giant, but the movie overflows with these kind of references to other properties. I have to think most of the fun for a good portion of the audience is uncovering various little inclusions, or just basking in the appearance of one of their personal favorites. You can’t blame the cast for that, as it is tough to compete with Mechagodzilla, the Overlook Hotel, or a tidal wave of well known, beloved pop culture elements. On the human side, Mark Rylance is quite good as usual, but Olivia Cooke was the standout from my perspective. Tye Sheridan is rather generic, but that average person dynamic works well in the role, while Ben Mendelsohn is a capable corporate villain. But as I said, the cast takes a backseat in this one, overshadowed by the sheer volume of nostalgia on showcase.
The Disc: The movie’s visual design is impressive, so this 4k treatment from Warner Brothers really lets it come to life with remarkable presence, with incredible detail levels and razor sharp clarity. Suffice to say even the smallest of references will be crystal clear here, so this release is ideal for those hunting down every last visual touch. The colors are dynamic and vibrant, contrast is flawless, and the movie just flat out looks beyond spectacular here. The extras include featurettes on the film’s visual effects, the pop culture references, how the music was created, and cast & crew interviews.