Ready Player One

‘Ready Player One’ Review: Culture Popped

'Ready Player One'

Movie Rating:


As the influence of nerd culture continues to spread throughout the entertainment industry, I’ve started to become bitter toward it. I like my entertainment to stand on its own. I don’t want to see it milk the nostalgic teat of its predecessors. ‘The Martian’ bugged the hell out of me, so when I learned the premise behind the equally popular book ‘Ready Player One’, the eye-rolling and groans started up. However, I forgot one key thing: ‘Ready Player One’ isn’t just a nerd blockbuster; it’s a nerd blockbuster from one of the best filmmakers to live. I never should have doubted him.

While some may contest that ‘Ready Player One’ is a commentary on social/economic classes, unstoppable and powerful corporations, and the effects of the entertainment industry, it’s really just an extremely fun movie about video games.

In the not-too-distant future, the world has become so overpopulated that everyone – from kids and teens to adults and seniors – escapes reality and spends their waking moments in an online Virtual Reality world called the OASIS. With the potential to earn actual money (“credits”) in the process, some have made careers out of gaming.

When the creator of the OASIS (Mark Rylance from ‘Bridge of Spies‘ and ‘Dunkirk‘) died several years earlier, he announced three hidden keys within its endless worlds. Any player to complete three seemingly impossible tasks and obtain all three keys will find the prized Easter Egg, which will give him or her full ownership and control of the OASIS. The goal is to keep the OASIS out of the hands of greedy corporate stooges and give it to a fan that truly understands and appreciates it for what it is and what it could be.

Tye Sheridan (‘Mud‘, ‘X-Men: Apocalypse‘) plays the lead. In the real world, he’s known as Wade, an orphan who lives with his aunt in an impoverished neighborhood. In the OASIS, he goes by the avatar Parzival and works as a career key-hunter who not only loves the OASIS, but feels a deep connection with its late creator. Anytime that Wade steps into the OASIS, we’re taken into a completely CG world that’s loaded with pop culture references. Some are prominent and in the forefront, while countless more are embedded in the background as Easter Eggs. Nerds will be on the hunt frame-by-frame for years with this one.

When Parzival becomes the first player to find a key, he and his friends make it onto the OASIS’ leaderboard, gaining the attention of not only the other key hunters, but the evil corporation that wants to own the OASIS and fill it with paid advertising. With an employee army dedicated entirely to beating Parzival inside and outside the OASIS, they’ll stop at nothing to win.

After playing a slimy corporate ladder-climbing villain in ‘Rogue One‘, Ben Mendelsohn was an obvious casting choice for the same character type in ‘Ready Player One’. While Olivia Cooke showed her acting chops in ‘Me and Earl in the Dying Girl‘, neither she nor Sheridan get too much to work with here. The most impressive members of the cast are Rylance and Simon Pegg, who plays the business partner that helped launch the OASIS. Pegg is a crowd-pleaser in comedic roles, so it’s a very nice surprise to see what he can do in a fairly subdued role.

More than half of the movie takes place in the OASIS, making ‘Ready Player One’ pretty comparable to ‘Avatar‘. The majority of what you see on-screen is CGI – but as much as I hate purely CG movies, considering the OASIS is supposed to look like a video game, I found it entirely fitting and not at all annoying or distracting. And as much as I didn’t want to wade through a 140-minute flash flood of pop culture references, the screenplay has a whole lot of fun with them. They’re not just used for coolness’ sake. Most of them serve a purpose. I’ll refrain from spoiling it, but one sequence plays with a well-known property in such a fun way that I will never forget how much I laughed and smiled as the sequence unraveled.

I look at ‘Ready Player One’ in the same way that I look at ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. the World‘. It’s not for everyone. If you’re not into or don’t know much pop culture, then you’re likely not going to be as entertained as those who are. Several sequences and countless references will fly right over your head. I fear that anyone over 50 years of age will hate the ride that the movie takes you on. But if you get it, you’re going to love it.

‘Ready Player One’ is the perfect specimen for a summer blockbuster. It’s pure entertainment. You won’t learn a life lesson from it, but you’ll walk away with some electricity coursing through your soul. As a huge Spielberg fan, I love seeing him back in his prime all-out fun state. ‘Ready Player One’ is easily the most entertaining popcorn-chomping moviegoing experience that I’ve had since ‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle‘.


  1. “but as much as I hate purely CG movies, considering the OASIS is supposed to look like a video game, ”

    FWIW, I always felt ‘Gamer’ did a great job of making a virtual/real world hybrid. It didn’t look like a cartoon, but it had elements that made it feel like a video game.

  2. Csm101

    Does anyone else think the young man starring in this movie kind of looks like a young Spielberg? There’s a scene in which he’s wearing glasses and I thought he looked just like him.

  3. Ryan

    I am one of the only people I know that thought the book had its heart in the right place, but that it ultimately stunk. It was all surface level fan service. None of it made any sort of logical sense. I assume I’ll feel the same about the movie (even though it looks like a lot was changed)

    • Pedram

      This was MUCH better than The Last Jedi. Rather than ruin childhood memories, it celebrates them. I loved all the 80s and pop culture references, but it’s also a fairly fun movie without it.

      • DarthGilman

        I enjoyed both The Last Jedi and Ready Player One. As far as The Last Jedi, I like that they made a new story and considered new points of view instead of simply rehashing the first movie (“‘member Tatooine? I ‘member! ‘member when Skywalker was originally Starkiller? I ‘member””). The Force Awakens is literally what we would have gotten if, after A New Hope, Lucas just cashed out and let the board at 20th Century Fox make “Star Wars II”- directed by some tv director.

        • Pedram

          Yeah I doubt that most detractors of TLJ just wanted the same thing again like most proponents of the film seem to indicate. That’s pretty much the main defense: “you just wanted the same old thing again like TFA, but TLJ was brilliant because it did something different!”
          I could go on about TLJ’s many flaws, but it’s all been said before. Let’s just agree to disagree on this one. Glad you enjoyed it.

  4. Barsoom Bob

    Hey Jude, I thought the same thing but notice he wrote it as The Martians. Maybe it is another movie, which I am not actually familiar with ? It may also be that it is not the nostalgia but the rampant popularity of the novel before seeing the movie.

  5. Barsoom Bob

    I saw it too last night. The Last Jedi comment was on the money. Why are the critics falling all over themselves for this movie ?
    As if the as mentioned CGI Final Fantasy characters weren’t bad enough, the beginning and the end battles look like out takes from the World of Warcraft movie. I don’t care who is that crowd of fighters, it is meaningless and has no emotional weight. The real world story is hardly better, simplistic and cliched spruced up with a lot of techno jargon.
    And then after showing all this beauty and excitement in the “virtual world”, where the young player wins the big money and control of this huge business, they try and end the movie telling us maybe we should spend more time in “reality”. LOL
    That being said, it is Spielberg at the helm so it is consummately made just with some really bad design choices. The set piece for the second key almost is worth the whole cost admission. Stevie does about a 10 minute riff at the Overlook Hotel, including room 237, that is just undeniably great. That sequence goes to real life photo quality instead of CGI because they are inside the film inside the Oasis.He then put his characters and the story action into everything that you are familiar with at The Overlook. That was just f-ing brilliant and a loving tribute to the original director.

    • Luke Hickman

      The score is great. It contains micro motifs from the classic ’80s scores that you might miss if you’re not listening closely. It also uses a lot of ’80s pop hits. All in all, it’s pretty solid.

  6. Luke liked this a full star better than I did. It’s a fun movie, but it doesn’t have the depth that other Spielberg movies have had. The characters here are fairly thin, and I wonder how easy the movie is going to be to follow for those unfamiliar with Cline’s novel (I think I was subliminally putting the pieces together without the information actually being on screen – much like the Harry Potter movies).

    Is it worth seeing? Yeah. Will you want to see it again? Maybe.

    • Elizabeth

      What’s so hard to follow? It’s basically the same plot as The Goonies. Mean, rich developers (IOI) want to take control of the Goon Docks (OASIS) so the Goonies (High Five) go on a quest for treasure (the easter egg) to stop them.

      Heck, it even ends basically the same with the Goonies appearing to lose only a last minute revelation reveals that the Goonies actually got the necessary treasure to stop the greedy developers.

    • Pedram

      I had no idea what was in the novel, and I didn’t even know much of the premise (hadn’t even watched the trailer) and yet, I didn’t find the movie hard to follow at all.

  7. I didn’t realize that I lost the ability to “enjoy the ride” over 2 years ago. That’s a shame since I was looking forward to seeing this movie with my two teenagers. 🙂

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