SXSW Film Review: Ready Player One

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Written by Tracy Fuller

Spielberg Captures The Heart of Life in Ready Player One

Ready Player One, the novel by Ernest Cline, on screen is a brilliant merger of the mind of Steven Spielberg and the adoption of the screenplay. Here is a film that any pop culture fanboy will cherish. With it premiering at this past year’s SXSW Film Festival, the anticipation was quite high.

“I didn’t make this movie just for gamers, I made this for everybody,” says Steven Spielberg.

The film is set in a dystopian trailer park, year 20145, in the city of Columbus. Within the trailer park stacks, characters like Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), a real-life nobody, resides. In the virtual reality world, the Oasis, Watts finds himself to be more than a nobody.

The Oasis is the primary way of life in the future, providing entertainment, fantasies, ambitions, and ways to achieve a certain financial status. The Oasis is a world where gaming is life. Watts bares some remarkable friendships with some of the gaming elite in the alternative VR world. He spends most of his time living strapped into his VR headset, immersed in the Oasis.

In the Oasis, Watts is surrounded by pop culture references that have become a way of life. These references stem from game creator, the late James Halliday (Mark Rylance). Following his passing, it is announced that Halliday built one final game in the Oasis known as Anorak’s Quest. The mission calls for players to find three keys through a set of smaller objectives. Upon finding all three of Halliday’s keys, they will be granted the celebrated Easter Egg. This egg will give them full power and ownership of the Oasis and its assets in both worlds.

Watts becomes the first person to receive one of the coveted keys. In doing so, he draws the attention of legendary gamer, Art3mis (Olivia Cooke). He also becomes a mark for the Innovative Online Industries CEO Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn).

The combination of Steven Spielberg, cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, and the team at Industrial Light & Magic, knock this one out of the park. Capturing the VR setting and its potential to the big screen is not an easy task. The Oasis is phenomenal; every landscape that you encounter in this film is full of pop culture references.

One of the things I enjoyed most about this film, is not the incredible visual appeal and abundant references, but also the heart that Spielberg captures in this film. The message ultimately conveys that no matter how hard you try to design an artificial life, you should not lose sight of what the real world has to offer.

Spielberg does capture Halliday’s character showing the struggle of following your heart and chasing your ambitions. Not to mention the fellowship and bonds you acquire in life. There is so much emotional overtone mixed into the story that you end up leaving the theater feeling better about life.

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