Thursday, July 26, 2018

Ready Player One - a science fiction quest

I thought when I saw the trailers that I might enjoy Ready Player One - and now I've finally watched the movie. In a tiny nutshell, I thought it was great. I'll be watching it again.

Here's the blurb for the book.

"In the year 2045, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he's jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade's devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world's digital confines—puzzles that are based on their creator's obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. 

But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade's going to survive, he'll have to win—and confront the real world he's always been so desperate to escape."

I wasn't a teenager in the 80's but I was a geek, a nerd, a computer programmer, and a player of video games. My favourite was Space Quest, with its hilarious nods to pop culture like the cantina scene in Star Wars, the Blues Brothers, and the monster in Alien to name just a few. Those types of references are all through Ready Player One and the graphics are, of course, amazing.

Ben Mendelsohn does such a great villain. It took me a while to work out where I'd seen him before (Rogue One) but this time he speaks American. His character, Nolan Sorrento, comes across as a greedy coward, quite willing to confront the enemy – provided he has the advantage.

Mark Rylance is convincing in the role of James Halliday, a socially awkward genius who is happiest in his own world.

Wade and his friends are, I think, prettier in the movie than they were in the book, but it all works for me.

Overall, the story is a lesson in the power of simplicity. It's a quest, a group of adventurers seeking a prize that is also coveted by the bad guys. There's a deep theme running through the narrative which should speak to today's generation, and us older folks watching on, too. The technology for the film's virtual world is only a shade past where we are right now, as fits the time frame. 2045 is only 17 years away, and the first release of Halliday's virtual world, the Oasis, was in 2025. That's just a few short years away. The movie's dystopian real world is only a sleep past a nightmare as a potential future.

In this depressing future people – all sorts of people – escape to the Oasis, where they can be anyone, be anywhere their imagination can take them. Therein lies the problem. Wade's friends in the virtual world are avatars, just like himself. They may be very, very different in real life, as he is himself. It's a lesson worth remembering even in 2018.

There's a strong romance thread in the movie, both between Parzival (Wade) and Art3mis, and in Halliday's life which provides clues to attainment of the prize.

Steven Spielberg is so very good at these feel-good SF movies, going right back to ET. His Indiana Jones movies have that retro feel as well, when the villains were well defined Nazis and the world was a simpler place. They're just the sort of movies I like. Fellow-blogger Donna S. Frelick saw the movie at the theater some time ago. I think she liked it, too. Here's the link to her review.

Did you enjoy Ready Player One?


  1. I enjoyed it, too. I can definitely see this sort of virtual reality escape universe happening in the future. We're almost there now.

    1. Yes, we are. Let's hope we don't have people living in piles of trailers.

  2. Thanks for the review. I'll def try this one.

    Just watched 'Thor Ragnarok' and aside from Chris Hemsworth and bits of humor, it was a tiresome exercise. Blaaargh.

    1. I'm not into the Avengers stuff - although I did enjoy 'Black Panther' and 'Wonder Woman'. RP1 would have to be the best movie I've seen in a long while.

  3. Loved the book and loved the movie, too (reviewed both here). So nice to see an original idea in SF (well, the concept was original, even if the references were all from the 80's) taken to the screen and done so well!

    1. Ditto. I've read the book now, too - which (as you know) is very different. I've done a post about that for next week.


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