Ready Player One — When Geek Culture takes Center Stage

(Originally written on April 4, 2018)

When the first trailer for Ready Player One was released, the internet instantly became like moths to a flame. A film about a vast virtual world? A ginormous amount of references that point to various movies, music, video games, comics and anime? And if that wasn’t enough, the talented and creative Steven Spielberg at the helm as director? I was immediately sold on the combination of fresh ideas mixed with nostalgia that could seemingly do no wrong. But does it live up to the hype?

I personally thoroughly enjoyed the movie, but probably because I am a geek for video games and anime (among other things). Just seeing the premise alone from trailers, it is clear who the film caters to the most: gamers. Does this mean people who aren’t as versed in video game culture, or geek culture as a whole, won’t be able to enjoy the movie? I think they still can with what’s offered here, but a lot of references may go over their heads. However, I did appreciate how the movie balanced the nostalgia from all mediums, not just video games. All I will say is there are many references from different eras up to the present, but the 80’s are given a lot of love.

So the plot of the film mainly deals with and takes place in an enormous virtual world called The Oasis, a place where everyone goes to escape the real world and become something or someone they’re not (much like our world today with online games and such). It isn’t until a message is released around the world from the deceased creator of the Oasis stating he has hidden an ‘easter egg’ inside his creation, and that whoever finds it will inherit an immense prize, that the story begins to move forward. I’d like to think the film uses more of a the journey is more important than the goal type of approach as we watch Wade Watts (played by Tye Sheridan) and his friends attempt to reach the end goal while facing obstacles along the way.

The pacing felt great, with a good balance of scenes that take place both inside the virtual world and in reality. I gotta hand it to Mr. Spielberg and his crew for creating such a vibrant, exciting and dynamic world. Words don’t do it justice at all. The visual element in this film is striking for a number of reasons, a primary one being how it presents many different elements (characters, etc.) from different mediums people enjoy, as well as tapping into that sense of nostalgia (particularly for people who grew up in the 80’s and 90's).

All that aside, I must give credit to the actors and actresses for giving such enjoyable performances. Overall the relationships felt believable, especially with some key interactions between characters. And I’d like to believe that that is one of the more important aspects this film is presenting: being able to build a connection with other people. In a society where the majority find shared meaning and interests while being plugged into a virtual world, I felt a great significance when the players finally met outside in the real world.

There are also moments where characters’ choices have real dramatic weight to them, leaving feelings of regret or frustration. However, this doesn’t mean the movie is only filled with drama. In fact, there’s a good amount of humour and a sense of wonder throughout, as Spielberg incorporates so well into his films.

So if you’re looking for a fun movie to watch, I highly recommend Ready Player One. For those who are well-versed about certain pop and geek culture, this will be an amazing treat for you. If you don’t know about many geeky things and are worried about how you won’t get many of the references, I suggest you just let yourself be taken for a ride in this world of pure imagination.

- A. Shin

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