Ready Player One (RP1) from director Steven Spielberg premiered last week and became the top move of the weekend. As a fan of the book, I was looking forward to the film though I fully expected it to have flaws. What I found was the movie delivered on both the positive and negative things I expected.
Action – RP1 delivers on some great action scenes, as long as you are a fan of clearly CGI action (I say this because I am sure there are people out there that would complain about it.) Starting fairly early with an action sequence that shows a bunch of different vehicles and a big race, was smart. I would say that all of the major action set pieces (the race, the horror, the finale) we well done.
Nostalgia – While the action delivers in RP1, nostalgia is even more key to the success of this movie. Some might see the use of nostalgia as cheap but it is a level of cheapness I am willing to deal with. I don’t mind reveling in my nostalgia and this movie packs it in. One thing I really like is that, unlike the book, they diversify the roots of nostalgia to several decades, which can help to hit more generations with the nostalgia. The book is heavily steeped in the 80s but the movie branches out much further featuring things like Halo and Overwatch (both decidedly not 80s but also released around 15 years apart.)
World building – It felt a little narrow. Maybe I know what Cleveland is like. I don’t know that it really made me feel the world though. This may have a lot to do with the limited time they had to tell their story.
Character design – I can’t put my finger on it but the character designs did not do it for me. Perhaps because they were kind of cartoony whereas I can see myself wanting a more realistic art style if I am playing in a fully immersive VR experience.
Storytelling – Everything was so condensed and that made the movie feel like they had more to do than they had time to do it. I know Parzival is a nerd and that nerds a socially inept and fall in love at the drop of the hat (I don’t actually believe this), but the speed with which he falls in love is jarring. Maybe they thought they could get away with condensing things because of society’s notion of nerds (as I stated above) but it made it feel cheap to me and I can’t help but believe that someone as talented as Steven Spielberg could have done this in a better way.
Explanations – Hoooooo boy. This was rough in spots. There is a lot of talking to lay the groundwork for the story. Too much for my liking, in fact. Not only was it very talky but there were points where they really wanted to hold the viewer’s hand. One particular scene (the office scene) was perfectly done to illustrate what was going on without telling you. It then immediately told you what they just showed you. I cringed and then my eyes rolled so hard they burst out of the back of my skull.
Not much to say here that I have not already said. The movie is worth seeing. There is a good chance that I will watch it again but it is far from a favorite. The movie had potential to be better than it was but what it ended up being was something kind of dumb that I could have a little fun with while eating popcorn. I think my five year old son will love to see it in around 8 years.