‘Ready Player One’ intertwines nostalgia with virtual reality

In my opinion, there’s no better feeling than watching someone grow. One’s growth is not only good for self but can also inspire those around them. I’ve mentioned in past reviews about how much I enjoy catching people on the upswing of their careers (before they get famous). This has happened many times in both music and film. So when I heard Ready Player One was hitting theatres and saw the star of the film was Tye Sheridan, I immediately marked it as a “must-see” to close out the month of March.

The year was 2014. The month was April. The place? The red carpet of the Atlanta Film Festival. I interviewed a young kid about his role in the festival opener Joe where he played alongside Nicolas Cage. My team and I met him, his mother, and his aunt (I think) before the film started. He and his family left quite an impression on my team and I and from that evening forward we were fans. It was one of those feel-good moments where you just knew, “He’s gonna make it.” Plus, it helps when your first two films feature Brad Pitt and Matthew McConaughey.

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From L to R: Tye Sheridan answering our questions on the red carpet of the Opening Night of the 2014 Atlanta Film Festival and answering questions from the audience after his appearance in “JOE” (Malcolm Lewis/TPR)

See how I’m talking to you in the present but just a few minutes ago I took a blast to the past with Tye Sheridan? That’s preparation for your Ready Player One experience. You’ll be basking in virtual reality greatness while getting drunk off of nostalgia.

The most recent project from director Steven Spielberg, the film goes off on an adventure through imagination, VR (Virtual Reality), and video games while balancing life’s regrets and biggest gambles.

Our adventure takes place in the year 2045 in Columbus, OH. Narrated by Sheridan, we’re introduced to the protagonist, his character, Wade Watts. Wade, like everyone else around the world, escapes reality by putting on his gloves and goggles and takes comfort in the Oasis. Living amongst the poorest of the poor in “The Stacks” (named for its trailer units that are stacked vertically) and having survived a major riot called the “Bandwith Riots”, you could see why everyone wanted to escape reality by heading into the Oasis (the VR world where you could go anywhere, do anything, and be anyone).

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A scene from Warner Bros. Pictures’, Amblin Entertainment’s and Village Roadshow Pictures’ action adventure “READY PLAYER ONE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

The Oasis was created by James Halliday (Mark Rylance) with help from Ogden Morrow (Simon Pegg). After Halliday’s death, a video was released with a pre-recorded message from Halliday to the world: He would leave his mass fortune and total control of the Oasis to the winner of a three-part contest he designed before his passing. But the challenge was so difficult that no one had ever finished the first of the three contests. To give this some perspective, this is the equivalent of Apple releasing a video of Steve Jobs saying he’d leave his Apple Fortune and control of the company to anyone that solved a three-part riddle (except, in this case, the ‘fortune’ in question would be in the trillions).

So with trillions of dollars at stake, the entire world takes note but only a portion take the risk of the competition. Like a video game, in the Oasis you can buy upgrades like armor and weapons and use coins as digital currency. Wade is one of the few who is willing to take the risks involved to beat the game and take over the Oasis.

Once inside, his avatar is Parzival, a young boy who looks like Tidus from Final Fantasy X. He leads a group of friends who call themselves The High Five. The group consists of Aech (Lena Waithe) pronounced like the letter “H”, Sho (Philip Zhao), Daito (Win Morisaki), and the loner who eventually joins the group Art3mis (Olivia Cooke). They have many rivals in the game but their main foe is Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), the head of a company called IOI that wants to take corporate control of the virtual paradise.

Arguably the best feature of the movie is the tidal wave of nostalgia. Since you can be anyone you want in the Oasis you’ll see an onslaught of old-school characters from Battle Toads, Ninja Turtles, and Spawn to the Friendly Giant, Sonic the Hedgehog, and everyone’s favorite knife-wielding doll Chuckie. Spielberg even gives a nod to his old pal Stanley Kubrick by having one of Halliday’s challenges take place in his favorite movie which happened to be The Shining.

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Olivia Cooke as Samantha Cook in Warner Bros. Pictures’, Amblin Entertainment’s and Village Roadshow Pictures’ science fiction action adventure “READY PLAYER ONE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

Once you come down from the nostalgia wave, your opinion on the film will ultimately be decided by your taste for VR. Some people will love it, purists will critique it to no end, and others will say there was too much. My only gripe is that the avatars went deep into fantasy and science with little to no explanation of what was happening or how.

I give Ready Player One an 8 out of 10. Get comfortable because I didn’t mention that the wave of nostalgia spans two hours and twenty minutes. Because I’m a gamer who also watches cartoons, I was immersed in greatness the entire time. But if you have zero interest in gaming or comics or anything ‘nerdy’ you might die a slow death. Also, if you’re sensitive to lights or quick transitions you might want to sit this one out (or try to avoid the two race scenes and the nightclub).

I can save the world on an Atari 2600? Count me in!

-Jon J.

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