This review is SPOILER FREE.
Ready Player One isn't an instant Steven Spielberg classic, but it is a ton of fun to watch, and the pop culture shoutouts aren't obnoxious.
Director: Steven Spielberg
Summary: When the creator of a virtual reality world called the OASIS dies, he releases a video in which he challenges all OASIS users to find his Easter Egg, which will give the finder his fortune.
There were quite a few worries going into Ready Player One for people unfamiliar with the source material. Was this movie going to be nothing but a bunch of shoutouts to old pop culture that only a few people were going to understand? How are they going to make us care about the fates of people in a game? For someone unfamiliar with the source material, was this going to be any fun to watch?
Well, while the best way to experience Ready Player One is going to be in a room full of fans, it's a film that the rest of the crowd can definitely enjoy as well. The Easter eggs and little details are subtle enough that fans looking for them will see them, but for everyone else they can pass by as background details. This is a movie people are going to pick apart frame by frame trying to find all of the details that they've missed.
On top of all that, the cast is a ton of fun. Tye Sheridan is very lovable as our protagonist Wade Watts, and they don't try to play up the fact that he's a nerd. He's awkward, but it's in a way that shows he doesn't have a lot of human interactions anymore — because no one really does in this world. He's asocial, but doesn't make gross comments to our female lead Samantha (Olivia Cooke) or anything like that. Ben Mendelsohn continues to be one of the best actors in the world if you want a stuck-up jerk to be your villain. Everyone is serious, but there are plenty of comedic moments as well. The Oasis looks incredible, and all of the avatars have this look about them that draws attention to the fact that they are digital. We aren't supposed to think they are human, so it avoids the uncanny valley.
The pacing is pretty brisk, and the movie keeps going pretty quickly. A lot of the world building is done in background details, and the "show, don't tell" is very well done. The scenes in this movie are rich in detail, but you can always tell what is going on and whom you're supposed to be following. The main characters don't get lost in a digital haze of obscure pop culture references.
While the pacing is pretty good, the run time does start to feel a bit long by the end. This is one of the rare movies wherein the third act feels a little long, which is odd. And while most of the references are background details, there are a few where the camera lingers on one or two things just a little too long, as if saying, "See this? We put this in here. Notice it!" instead of letting it happen organically.
Ready Player One is a solid entry into the three-star Spielberg club — which is a very good club to be in. While this critic can't comment from a book perspective, the hardcore fans in this audience seemed to leave very happy. For someone going in with only the barest of knowledge, it was fun to watch and will be fun to watch a second time — even if it might not change anyone's life.