December 5, 2023

Gabbing Geek

Your online community for all things geeky.

Geek Review: Ready Player One

It's that pop culture smorgasbord from Steven Spielberg and Ernie Cline.

I have a reputation around the Gabbing Geek offices as someone who hates nostalgia.  That isn’t exactly unearned.  I don’t care for sticking to the pop culture past simply because it came from the past.  Ernie Cline’s novel wasn’t bad, but I didn’t care for it as much as, say, Ryan.  It seemed to be a series of nonstop 80s references around a plot that wouldn’t have looked out of place in the 80s only set in cyberspace.

Well, Steven Spielberg directed a movie version of the book.  I’ve seen it.  Watson has seen it.  Jenny has seen it.  Ryan has seen it.  One of them also reviewed it before, and now it’s my turn.

Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) likes nothing better than to surf the world of the Oasis, a virtual world where most of the people of the world want to hang out.  Why?  The rest of the world sucks and no one wants to fix problems anymore apparently.  But five years earlier, Oasis creator James Halliday (Mark Rylance) died, leaving behind a quest to find an Easter Egg within the game world that would grant the lucky person who found it Halliday’s fortune and control of his company.  Wade is a loner, but there are others.  Some work in groups, and many work together for profit-obsessed competitor company IOI, led by CEO Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn).  Wade, an obsessive, figures out the first puzzle and soon it’s off to the races as he tries to stay one step ahead of IOI and win over another hunter named Art3mis (Olivia Cooke).

Spielberg, working off a script co-written by Cline, doesn’t have the most faithful of adaptations.  It follows the spirit of the book but not so much the letter of the story.  That’s probably for the best.  The tone is actually fairly lighthearted, with the Sorrento character in particular played mostly for laughs.  There’s one really impressive set piece, but much of the movie is only light fluff.  Fortunately, Spielberg has a confident hand when it comes to this sort of thing.  For me, though, I ultimately couldn’t bring myself to care about the Oasis.  That was true for the book and for the movie.  It just seems like a really pathetic thing to fight over when the bad guy’s main goal seems to be simply to flood the virtual world with pop-up ads.  It’s a fun movie, but not a particularly substantial one.  8 out of 10 sudden appearances by giant robots.