S&S Reviews: Ready Player One (2018) Partial Spoilers
The year is 2045 in Columbus, OH. The world has moved forward technologically, but in other ways...miles backward. Remember Back to the Future Part II?
"These days," our hero Wade Watts tells us, "reality is a bummer. Everyone's looking for a way to escape,..."
One solution is the Oasis: a virtual reality (VR) world that allows you to be wherever you want, whoever you want, and do whatever you want. Salvation! Right?
Oh, and even better, the late designer of the Oasis, Halliday, has hidden a secret inside the VR world. And the first to find it will be rich and powerful!
Everyone else is jumping in...should we enter this 2 hour and 20 minute, 175 million Spielberg-saturated nostalgic film?
Let's see! (Partial spoilers ahead, as some scenes are described, but not the ending!)
>>WHAT IS IT ABOUT?
Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), along with his friends, race to solve Halliday's puzzle in the Oasis to earn a fortune and the power to control the virtual world. The problem, of course, is that everyone else is trying to find the clues and earn the prize as well, including Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), leader of the big and bad corporation Innovative Online Industries (IOI) who has assembled an army of players and scholars to be the first to arrive.
Watch the trailer. The film is rated PG-13.
>>WHERE TO FIND IT?
It's on Redbox right now. You can also rent it on Amazon.
>>THE STAGE & STORY PERSPECTIVE
I had lots of fun watching Ready Player One in the theaters...by myself. (No need to feel sorry for that last part. I'm a happy introvert.) While I wouldn't call this a great film, the visuals impressed me, the story engaged me, and the premise got me thinking. I also enjoyed the host of Spielberg and Zemeckis allusions. And, unlike Annihilation (which I reviewed last time), Ready Player One offered some heart with its thrills. I did care for our hero Wade Watts (almost immediately) and disliked our villain Nolan Sorrento.
Personally, I found the film thought-provoking. Here's a dystopian world that is filthy and dehumanized, and the salvation they turn to is a virtual paradise. What seems to make it paradise is that you can do whatever and be whoever you want to be--always a scary opportunity!
The opening scenes are gut-wrenching, as we get to watch image-bearers surrender their real lives for virtual ones to be people they think will make them happy. That VR technology not only exists today but is available and (relatively) affordable to the consumer, which reinforces how frightening a future like this really is.
I can't help but think of Ray Bradbury's excellent and prophetic 1951 short story, "The Pedestrian." Maybe before you watch Ready Player One you should read his story, or not watch the movie at all and just read Bradbury's works.
I have a few critiques. There was some unnecessary language and subtle sexuality that I didn't care for: a reason I can't heartily recommend the film to families or my students. Also, there's a terrifying scene from The Shinning...in which Wade, his friends, and we(!) enter Stanley Kubrick's frigid fictional world. If you've seen the film, you can probably guess what you're in for! Finally, at times I did feel the film was bloated in sections and could have been edited down. As Bob Hoose comments in his Plugged-In review (see below), Spielberg's message -- he does have one and it's a good one -- is overwhelmed by the busyness of the film itself.
In conclusion, Ready Player One feels like a dystopian Goonies, though the former posits more questions to consider. I left the theater pondering the draw technology has on us -- the youth and adult. Our culture without any hesitations tells us that we can be whoever we want to be -- it is up to us to choose based on how we feel. And no one has the right to contradict our choices--no matter how divergent they are from what has been the norm traditionally and biblically.
Technology can throw these doors of freedom wide open so we can purse the desires of our hearts! But, friends, that is not salvation. That is a horror film. For the "heart is deceitful above all things" says the prophet Jeremiah (17:9). We need someone to realign our hearts, so we will desire to be like God. Then we can be who we are designed to be.
Ready Player One stirs more questions which I don't have time to bring up, but if you see the movie, please let me know how it provokes you to think about our world, our fallen condition, and our Savior.
>>What do others say?
Watch his 1 minute and 46 second video review.
Keeping families in mind, Focus on the Family reviewer Bob Hoose gives it a two and a half rating (out of five).