All original written content is (c) 2018 Mike Pascale. Visual content is (c) its respective owners. Bru-Hed art is ©2012 & a trademark of All Ages Media/Mike Pascale.
It’s 2045 in Columbus, Ohio, and life is sucky, scummy, dreary and drab. Pretty much everyone plugs into a virtual-reality video game called The Oasis (which apparently stands for Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation) created by shy nerd James Halliday (Oscar-winner Mark Rylance, the Big F***in’ Giant in THE BFB) with his partner Ogden Morrow (fan fave Simon Pegg). After the main nerd checks out, he offers a series of challenges to find hidden keys to win an “easter egg” which gives the winner his fortune and complete control of the Oasis. Main playa Parzival/Wade (Tye Sheridan, aka Cyclops/Scott Summers from X-MEN: APOCALYPSE) and his band of buds try to win before a killjoy CEO (Ben Mendelsohn, aka Orson Krennic from STAR WARS: ROGUE ONE) of killjoy corporation IOI gets it first, in a race that turns reality on its head.
Written by Zak Penn and Ernest Cline, from the novel by Cline. Directed by Steven Spielberg.
- Fans of pop culture (especially the ’80s), will have an easter-egg-gasm finding and identifying all the bits both big and tiny from TV, movies, music, gaming and toys that are packed into this thing. You almost can’t tell the paid sponsorships from the intentional due to all the references. Pascale, the pop-culture geek, saw a lot more than I did (I caught Doritos, of course, since I was munching on some while watching) so I’ll let him give a starter list. But it’s still fun even if you only catch a few.
- [MIKE: Other than the obvious/giant characters that you can’t miss, which I won’t spoil, a few others I saw were the ’60s Batmobile, TMNT, Spawn, Halo, Space Invaders, Madballs and a bunch of DC superheroes like Superman, Wonder Woman (logo) and Raven, as well as the cover of a DC COMICS PRESENTS comic book. But there are dozens to find!]
- Good music! While they lost points for missing the top ’80s rock album of all-time, AC/DC’s “Back In Black,” they gained for including Twisted Sister, Joan Jett and Van Halen. Plus some quick movie-theme stuff when certain characters show up.
- Of course, we have to mention the special effects and action! Super well-done as you’d expect/want. The video game characters and universe are intentionally just imperfect and “CG”-like so you can tell it apart from reality, as it wouldn’t have worked if it was exactly the same. All the characters and cars looked great from what I could tell. And the action! Hoo-boy, just the initial auto-cross game was worth seeing it on the big screen. (Totally pulled me into the flick and made me feel part of the action, even without 3D!) But there’s a lot more, especially for the climax in the Oasis. Wowza.
- Also lots of decent fight scenes and explosions and sets that add to the realism and putting you into both the dystopian “real” world and wild VR one.
- Casting: I liked everyone, pretty much. Parzival’s pals (Olivia Cooke, Lena Waithe, Phillip Zhao and Win Morisaki) were more of a blast in the real world than even their Oasis characters. A favorite was T.J. Miller (Weasel in DEADPOOL) as the hired baddie I-Rok (another ’80s reference for Chevy Camaro fans) and the hottie Hannah John-Kamen (Sophie from the new TOMB RAIDER) as the corporate witch-badass F’Nale. Rylance nailed the childlike-yet-borderline-annoying-and-almost-creepy tech creator.
- If you don’t mind VR babes, Parzival’s main-pal Artemis (spelled “Art3mis” to be pretentious) has one skinny-but-killer butt.
- Story was decent in terms of pacing and keeping the plot moving. You knew everyone’s motivations right from the get-go with little-or-no subplots and major life-lesson/character-dev crap to get in the way of the action. And some of the ways the challenges are solved are pretty clever.
- Uptight PC-types will rejoice that there are two women (one ginger and one black) and two Asians that are heroes, and the villain is a white male. All white dudes over 40 are pure evil, y’know!
- For those wanting to catch all the “eggs” during the first viewing, forget it. Everything is just too fast, and there are many scenes with a dozen or more references at once. You’ll drive yourself (and everyone else watching near you) nuts if you start calling out everything you recognize, so DON’T. Save it for the DVD at home, okay?
- Glaring omission of any Marvel characters. Yeah, I know this was a WB film and they own DC, but they had Jim Henson characters which are owned by Disney, like Marvel is. If Marvel said no, why? Do you think moviegoers would actually not see the next Marvel film because of a micro-second shot of a character in this one? If WB didn’t ask because of competition, come on! If you can use Skywalker Sound and Disney Studios for recording, you can at least sneak in a Spidey or X-logo somewhere. Are you so paranoid of Marvel and think your superhero movies suck so bad that any viewer seeing a Marvel character for a split-second will ruin your franchises? There’s no logical reason either way.
- The first 15 minutes, at least, was all exposition. It was needed (and thankfully visually entertaining), but still a lot. Parts of the story, especially near the end, got kind of confusing/convoluted. Wasn’t sure what certain things meant or why one of the main characters lowered their gun at one point.
- We hear the “S” word several times, but really get only a few lame (and small-sized) VR cleavage shots. Apparently no one in the real world takes off their clothes or wears anything tight and skimpy.
- SUSPENSION OF DISBELIEF DEPT: There’s a dude with a gun who’s surrounded by a crowd. Rather than just rushing him and grabbing the pistol, they slowly part like the Red Sea for Moses. Dumb. And the cops basically show up in only one scene, despite all the mayhem and murder going on. But minor stuff.
- It’s two hours and 20 minutes long, so slowly nurse the soda so you don’t have to take a pee break.
- Spielberg did not want to include his own films so he wouldn’t look like a selfish jerk. (Thankfully his crew kept trying to stuff in and a couple slipped through).
- Parzival the avatar looks kinda douchey and unimpressive compared to his friends, and the cool character H’s (spelled “Aech”) voice-effect sometimes makes it hard to understand.
- NO end credit scenes, before, during or after. Guess they figure all the easter eggs were enough.
One of the best flicks of the year, even more fun than BLACK PANTHER. Just because it’s such a thrill-ride and fun to spot all the references. You MUST see this in the theater, and if you see only one 3D flick this year, READY PLAYER ONE has to be it—it’s the first one I actually wished I’d seen in 3D (even though it’s still a blast without it). But you’ll also want to grab the DVD so you can pause, pause and pause some more, by yourself or with your buds, and pick out all the pop-culture fun…heck, make it a drinking game and you’ll be blasted after the first hour for sure!
P.S.:That Pascale dude loves pop culture and can draw any character you want! Be anyone you like, or have the original made into a drawing to hang on yer wall. Mention this review and get 80% off shipping! Just ask Craig here!