There’s no doubt Director Steven Spielberg is teaching you something with his movies without you even knowing it. What you see up front are images taking you to another world, a story that makes you laugh or cry. But sitting just below this entertainment is a message. You don’t know it’s there but it’s something that sits in your mind weaving its way through until that moment in time where you remember that fateful piece of information. And without even knowing it Steven Spielberg has made your mind up for you.
Ready Player One is Spielberg’s latest blockbuster set in a futuristic but not too far-fetched 2045. Based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Ernest Cline released in 2011, Cline managed to build a world and Spielberg managed to bring the wonderful and cautious tale to life.
The world has had an energy crisis brought on by global warming and overpopulation. To escape this reality everyone heads to the Oasis, a virtual simulated world using goggles and clothing which can simulate what is felt in the virtual world.
The Oasis was created by James Halliday who when he died hid three keys leading to an Easter Egg which would hand over his fortune and the corporation and in turn control over the Oasis. Five years has passed, yet no one has been able to come close to finding the first key. That is until orphan Wade (Tye Sheridan) otherwise known as his avatar Parzival, manages to figure out the first clue. But along the way he is met with some resistance in the form of IOI lead by Noalan Sorento (Ben Mendelsohn). With Wade’s clan of which he found inside the Oasis, they take on Sorento who is doing whatever it is he can to win the game and take control of the Oasis.
The film is driven by the view point of Wade played by Tye Sheridan (X-Men-Apocalypse, Tree of Life, Mud) who plays a pretty straight shooter. He is oddly happier than he should be considering he’s an orphan living with his Aunty and her boyfriend who doesn’t like him. But what Sheridan does bring to this is an innocence and honesty that is harder to act than it is to actually be. And you could notice this in the Interview he gave to the Melbourne Audience at the premiere screening.
When asked if Sheridan would play the game in reality he said he would definitely play the game. “I think there’s something really fascinating escaping to a completely immersive world”, he said. And from all of Spielberg’s films which avatar would he play, despite taking longer than he should have to think about it and Spielberg giving him a hard time for taking so long, “Possibly be Jude Law from AI”, he decided.
While the film is split into two what with reality and inside the Oasis where Sheridan is playing an animated version of himself, Sheridan had his work cut out for him. Ultimately playing two versions of himself Sheridan had to manoeuvre the world of motion capture.
“Because you’re in a motion capture costume with reflective traction markers all over you, you kind of have to visualise and create the environment around you”, Sheridan said.
Behind the scenes you have another talented person leading the way, Director Steven Spielberg (Jurassic Park, Saving Private Ryan, Indiana Jones). It would be hard to imagine Ready Player One without the creative and adventurous mind of Spielberg doing something so visually amazing. Something that took Spielberg some time to bring to life.
“There were so many artists 8 to 900 digital artists. Character artists, background artists that painted the landscapes, artists that did nothing but focus on the details to make the Oasis seem utterly real. It took three years from the time I read the book and script to the time I’m sitting here talking to you. It’s the longest project I’ve ever been involved in”, Spielberg said.
Spielberg has managed to find a perfect balance between the visual splendour that is the Oasis and that of reality. A future reality where there hasn’t been that many changes from the current world, but enough to show technology has clearly surpassed anyone’s imagination.
The reality side of Ready Player One has an eerie sense of possibility for the current Earth outside of the movie itself which Spielberg agrees with.
“I watch my own kids today and they’re all kind of in a mini Oasis. Because they’re buried in their Oasis their whole world is right here in their hands. Imagine that portable Oasis that you can carry around with you suddenly being so totally immersive as you experience watching the movie that you are social networking but making eye contact”, Spielberg explains.
It’s easy to see just how close Ready Player One can be to reality. But while Spielberg says this is a fun film it also comes with a cautionary tale. “It is a place that we may not want to leave and that’s where it becomes a dangerous place. It almost becomes a super drug”, he said.
More often than not bringing life to a futuristic world or a virtual world to the screen can tend to break away from enjoying the film if it’s done poorly. It can bring you back to reality and make you realise how bad the CGI is so that you realise it’s just a movie. Spielberg and his team manage to bring a completely thought-up world to life and inside the Oasis you find yourself totally immersed as you watch the story unfold. There isn’t a moment where you find yourself thinking how it’s fake or unreal.
One of the great things about this film are all the references to some of the great games anyone who lived through the 1980s would remember playing. There are so many more references to the 80s including the music or the Back to the Future Delorean.
Spielberg was asked why there is such an obsession with the 1980s at the moment especially with all the references in Ready Player One. He explains that it was a care free time and with what is happening in the world right now “I think we feel that there have been times in the past that the present kind of forces us to return to”, he said.
This isn’t one of the greatest films ever made nor is it a new idea. What you have is a movie based on a game, but rather than games that have been made to films in the past you are living the game not playing the game. It’s different in that you are going between two worlds with the same characters. It’s about acceptance, love and using the virtual world in a way that betters your life, not control it.
It’s a cautionary tale to remember you don’t always know who you are talking to at the other end. A friendly reminder big corporation are in it for its self-gain, not your privacy. And finally, it’s fun. It’s a game where you can be anybody and anyone. Ready Player One tells a story that one day might very well be a reality and Spielberg has already planted the caution signs in your mind for that time.
Review by Jay Cook