Saturday, April 14, 2018

Ready Player One: Something Spectacular You Need to See on a Big Screen

Movie Review: Ready Player One (2018)
Version: Theater ticket purchase

Being retired and thrifty, we rarely go to the theater to see a movie. When we go to the theater, it is to purposely see a film that is best seen on the big screen. Something larger than life, something spectacular, or something that can envelope you in its world by filling your vision with the screen. Such a film is Ready Player One.

Now, our daughter is really into video games and my wife and I are really into the sci-fi and fantasy genres, so this was all an added motivation to see this film. We were all well rewarded by the experience.

Ready Player One is the story about teen Wade Watts living in the harsh environs of the year 2045, when just about everyone escapes their ugly reality by playing video games using VR (virtual reality) technology. They become immersed in the gaming environment. You can be anyone going anywhere, playing any game. Watts chooses to escape in OASIS, described in IMDB as "created by the brilliant and eccentric James Halliday, who left his immense fortune and total control of the Oasis to the winner of a three-part contest he designed to find a worthy heir." The inventor has buried an "easter egg" in the game, and capturing it is goal of the game, giving the winner access to Halliday's fortune and control of the game. To capture the easter egg, one must first find a series of keys, which unlock a variety of abilities. The problem is, everyone in the world is after this easter egg, including a multi-national billion-dollar corporation that has turned its considerable resources -- money and intellectual talent -- to researching and figuring out the mysteries of the game. Along Watt's journey to unlocking the mysteries himself, he meets competitive gaming friends, all disguised as characters that hide their real identities, to help him as they learn to team up to win this game together.

There are portions of the game where you meet the live analogs to the gaming characters, and none of them are what you expect. One of Watt's most bad-ass competitor friends turns out to be an 11 year old boy, who is tired of being dismissed for his young age but is a fearless ninja warrior in the game. Another is a teen girl who is unconfident in her person because of a facial blemish but who is fearsome in competition. Still another is a rad Black woman who poses as a bulky muscular Black dude. The fourth is a skinny Asian nerd whose avatar is a skilled warrior. Watts himself is an orphaned teen who lives in a junkyard community with his aunt and her abusive boyfriend, but his avatar is an awesome smooth talking, easily mobile dude who cannot fail. All are metaphors for kids with self doubts in the real world but find strength and courage and abilities in this amazing world of make believe, and together they are like superheroes whom the world learns to cheer on as they battle the evil corporate empire to win the game.

I'm not listing the actors in this film because they are secondary to the characters. Sure, the actors make the characters, but even more so does the animation. And besides the exceptional scripting that makes for excellent storytelling, here the storytelling really is brought to life by the amazing animation. You are transported to a fantastic universe of the imagination (and here I use the word "fantastic" in its literal meaning) through the animation. Speaking of "easter eggs", this film is full of them. There are tons of visual references to game and animated movie characters and worlds all over the place. The movie makers must have kept the intellectual property lawyers busy big time keeping track of all the references, some pointed and some merely in the background visuals. You may have to see this film a couple of times just to spot them all. Others are intentional, such as the use of the Iron Giant as a prop during the competition. But the sheer imagination used to create and maintain the narrative arc of this film is astounding.

There are also subtle backstory references in this film that fans of this genre of story may appreciate. Jack Rylance, who plays Halliday, has been in another film to which this part may be a vague homage. I won't tell you what it is -- see if you can figure out what it is. I didn't catch it, my wife did. It's another kind of easter egg, if you will. Aren't these the kinds of things, the little bits of extra meanings great film makers put into films that mean something to lovers of film, which tell you as a viewer or audience that they care deeply about what they are doing; as a story teller that you are in this together in revealing the truths told in the film?

To try to sum up how the three of us felt about this film, let me say it was a total hit. The story line, the setting, the characters, the universe in which it occurs, and the full embodiment in which you are wrapped in which to experience it were one wonderful experience in cinema. To me, you really need to see it on the big screen. Save that, see it on as large a screen as you can if you see in when it comes out on DVD -- get the BlueRay version. Immerse yourself in and become part of that universe. You will be glad you did. Oh, and keep your eye open for all the easter eggs.

Ready Player One is a fun romp, a joyous visual journey, and a meaningful trek into a greater truth. See it!

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