Another victim of formula

‘Ready Player One’ movie falls flat


Warner Bros. Studios

In the virtual world of the OASIS, anything is possible, including an epic throwdown between the Iron Giant and an army of evil robots. Sadly, despite the limitless possibilities in the OASIS, it wasn’t possible for the “Ready Player One” movie to live up to its hype.

Ian Fertig, Staff Writer

Last weekend, when “Ready Player One” opened in theaters in the U.S., happy moviegoers got what they paid for: a classic, stereotypical action movie, stuffed to the brim with references to ’80s and ’90s culture but lacking any original storytelling or content. It’s certainly the movie we should have expected but not the one Ernest Cline’s novel deserved.

Random House Books

“Ready Player One,” published in 2011, was a smash hit from an author who had never written his own book before. Part novel and part love letter to the ’80s, “Ready Player One” tells the story of a VR gaming universe called the OASIS, where just about everyone in the polluted, dying world that is Earth goes to escape reality. In the OASIS, players can do anything, be anyone, and have an absolute blast avoiding their real selves. As the real world crumbles, the digital one thrives.

When James Halliday, the eccentric creator of the OASIS, passes away, he leaves the fate of his fortune — and the OASIS — in the hands of whoever can complete a series of hidden challenges inside his game. Players must find three secret keys, open three secret gates, and ultimately find the world’s best-hidden easter egg to inherit Halliday’s billions. Also, everything relating to the hunt is ’80s themed, because that premise wasn’t cool enough already.

Wade Watts, a teenager living in the sprawling slums of Ohio, is one of many to devote his life to finding Halliday’s easter egg. Joining the hunt alongside Wade and the millions of other gamers is IOI, a sadistic corporation determined to control the OASIS. Wade, being the story’s main character, is the first hunter to find one of Halliday’s keys, kicking off an epic adventure that spans across the digital world and the real one.

Cline’s novel is a masterful work that reflects both an immense level of talent and an immense obsession with 1980s culture. Cline takes readers by the hand and gives them the grand tour into a world of his making. He explains everything, always keeps the reader engaged, makes them laugh, and leaves them with the feeling that they’ve seen it all, even if they’re sad that the tour is over.

The movie, sadly, is just a Frankenstein’s monster of every action movie that came before it. The sum total of all the parts is cool, and fun to see at least once, but you know it’s just composed of things you’ve seen before.

Warner Bros. Studios

Despite the original setting (if we’re counting adapting a book to the big screen as being original), “Ready Player One” sticks to the same action flick formula viewers have seen a million times: the teenage orphan protagonist takes on some angry old villain/villainous group for the fate of the world. This hero (who, let’s face it, is usually a white dude) has a cool sidekick, an unnecessary love interest who is treated poorly by her role as the love interest, and some particular skill or ability that helps him ultimately defeat the bad guy. There’s also a wise, bearded mentor-type figure, a comic relief character, and enough cheesy one-liners to cause audiences to question if the script was written by professionals or nine-year-olds.

It’s worth noting that although sticking to the old action movie recipe creates a meaningless film, it doesn’t create an unsuccessful one. “Ready Player One” has so far had a great run at the box office, grossing over $50 million by the end of Easter Sunday.

“Ready Player One” was directed by Steven Spielberg, the man who directed the three good Indiana Jones movies, “Jurassic Park,” “Minority Report,” “Saving Private Ryan,” “Catch Me If You Can,” “Schindler’s List,” and countless more timeless movies. His works influenced modern cinema and are directly referenced in the “Ready Player One” book for their excellence. If only he had stepped out of the worn-out formula and provided audiences a new cinematic experience. By all means, he used his talent to make “Ready Player One” into a cool movie, just not a very special one.

All other complaints aside, “Ready Player One” was often a visual spectacle and a wonderful mashup of ’80s and ’90s pop culture. For every groan-inducing moment, there was something fun to see, like the Iron Giant fighting robots, the DeLorean time machine in a “Spy Kids 3”-inspired race (where the T-rex from “Jurassic Park” and King Kong make special appearances), a recreation of the Overlook Hotel, or a shootout in zero gravity.

In the end, fans of Ernest Cline’s book should go reread it instead of watching a beautiful story get the action movie treatment. Those who weren’t fans of the book but who are interested in spending some time eating too much popcorn and taking in some honest mindless action, go rent “Ready Player One” in a few months.