SXSW 2018 Review: Ready Player One is a Pop Culture Extravaganza
Ready Player One was the secret screening at SXSW 2018 and I couldn’t think of a better place to premiere the film. Ready Player One was adapted from Ernest Cline’s novel of the same name and turned into a one of a kind film thanks to director Steven Spielberg. While almost all the big studio premieres got a lot of love this year, I don’t think the crowd was nearly as enthusiastic as the one at the premiere for Ready Player One.
The film follows Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), a poverty-stricken gamer who lives in what is known as the “stacks.” Watts is a big fan of James Halliday, the inventor of the virtual reality world known as the OASIS. After Halliday passes away, he releases a video that notifies all players of an Easter egg that he has hidden inside the game. The video further mentions that if someone finds the egg they will become the owner of his corporation and obtain the legal rights to all of his property. This prompts Watts as well his gamer friends to work together and track down the hidden Easter egg in order to stop Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn) from using the Oasis for no good.
Ready Player One is the type of film that must be experienced on the big screen with an audience. A groundbreaking visual spectacle that combines all types of popular media and rolls them into one massive and must-see motion picture experience. This is a film that audiences will see over and over again because there is so much to take in. There are so many films, tv shows, songs, action figures, and video game references sprinkled throughout the film that it is nearly impossible to catch all of them in just a single viewing. There are so many things happened in the film that even though my eyes were glued to the screen, I still felt like I missed a lot of the pop culture easter eggs that Cline, Penn, and Spielberg put into the film.
If you grew up between the mid-1970s to the late 2000s, there is something in Ready Player One that will make you feel excited and feel a sense of nostalgia while watching it. I don’t want to spoil any of the fun but there are several great moments that deal directly with classic films as well as characters that are very well known and highly regarded in popular culture. Because a lot of the scenes can be considered spoilers, it is hard to give you exact examples but let’s just say if you are a fan of a very popular horror movie than you will be on cloud nine when you see what Spielberg and screenwriters Zak Penn and Ernest Cline have done with that film in Ready Player One and that is just the beginning.
We live in a time where culture is constantly being discussed and celebrated so when watching Ready Player One, I couldn’t help but think about how great it is to see a big studio film with such a diverse and young cast. While Tye Sheridan’s Wade Watts is technically the lead character, his four friends especially Art3mis (Olivia Cooke) and Aech (Lena Waithe) get a nice chunk of screen time. What makes that even more noteworthy is that these characters are fully developed and each one of them gets their moment to shine, not just once, but several times throughout the film.
Every year that goes by Steven Spielberg continues to amaze me. While not every project has been a huge hit for the iconic director, Ready Player One will more than likely become one of his biggest hits to date. What Spielberg has achieved with this film is nothing short of amazing. You honestly have to see it to believe it. There have been so many films as of late that I would consider visual masterpieces but they all pale in comparison to this film. I honestly felt like I was actually in a video game for a good chunk of the film’s runtime. I found myself completely drawn into the Oasis and I think most who see this film will have a similar experience.
While I enjoyed the film on many levels, I do have to say that I did have a few minor issues with the film. Without going into to much detail, I felt like villains weren’t exactly the strongest. You can tell that Ben Mendelsohn was having the time of his life and he did what he could with the material he was given. I felt like whenever he was in the Oasis with i-R0k (T.J. Miller) that they didn’t feel very menacing but rather just looked like two cool looking baddies who talked a big game but rarely did much of anything. I would have also liked a little more screen time between Wade and Samantha. Sheridan and Cooke had such great chemistry and I wanted more of it. Lastly, I feel it would have been great to get a bit more detail about the lives of these characters outside of the game. I really enjoyed spending time with them but felt like I didn’t really know much about them.
At the end of the day even with its minor flaws, I do believe that Ready Player One will wow audiences and make anyone who considers themselves a pop culture fan incredibly happy. This might be a big budget studio film but it was clearly a passion project for Cline as well as Speilberg. Ready Player One is a love letter to all forms of media from cinema to video games. When watching the film, I couldn’t help but find myself smiling throughout. Ready Player One is a one of a kind visual spectacle that will surely be loved by millions all over the world. Bravo Mr. Speilberg for you, have truly outdone yourself once again. I cannot wait to revisit Ready Player One when it opens in theaters on March 29, 2018.
Scott ‘Movie Man’ Menzel’s rating for Ready Player One is an 8.5 out of 10.