The premise of movie characters partaking in a video game on getting sucked into one may seem mundane or hackneyed after the Spy Kidss, Jumanjis and the Maze Runners. And even if Ready Player One, a retropunk based on Ernest Cline’s best-selling novel of the same name appears to fondle with similar traits, be forewarned, for it’s unlike anything you’ve seen from this genre of late.
Set in the post-apocalyptic 2045 where virtual reality is actually a way of life; supposedly transcending the boundaries of research and into the annals of humanity’s association and companionship through the means of OASIS, an expansive VR universe created by the VR demigod James Halliday (Mark Rylance), Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), an 18-year old commoner from Ohio, is one of the gunters, or say, egg hunters, who’s on a relentless pursuit of the massive fortune that Halliday has stashed away in an inconspicuous corner of the universe before he breathed his last.
To claim it, one has to acquire three different keys that are threaded together by a trail of clues at each of the three laps that are interspersed with challenges of varying degrees. You have a gargantuan Kingkong playing the lumberjack during a motor vehicle race in the first, while there are seductively horrifying zombies performing ballroom dances in the other.
Whilst the narrative glides through one fascinating maze to another, what’s really to write home here is the visual nirvana on show encapsulating the pristine settings of OASIS, subtly designed gaming avatars of the characters and then some. With only three studios – ILM, Digital Domain and Territory Studio – helming the visual effects, the CGI and character designing have been hammed to the hilt with some really incredible work here that’s hard not to give in to it.
So with the supremely thrilling visual experience notwithstanding, director Steven Spielberg also ensures he powders the storytelling with just enough emotions and morality to regale viewers of all age groups. It serves as a timely reminder that even in an era where a technology like VR has taken over humanity, genuine human emotions still find solace in the inner recesses before certain circumstances bring it all to the fore.
There’s little live-action here, but whenever the scenes cut-back to, the actors on show do just enough to keep you hooked. The leads, played mostly by a talented group of youngsters, ensure the urgency of the challenge is never lost even in the realistic half of the phantasmagoria, while Rylance, Ben Mendelsohn and T.J Miller among others, make for a brilliant supporting cast.
Ready Player One isn’t only a nerve-jangling affair, but a thorough VFX and CG winner; rodomontading the kind of graphics that would put real video and VR games to shame. And in the process, Spielberg has added a new dimension to the movie-making that hasn’t been witnessed before, and won’t be, until the cows come home.