Ready Player One review: Spielberg translates the magic of VR to cinema

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Tom Chatfield
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Summary

  • General presentation of Ready Player One
  • Ready Player One Screenplay: A Movie Too Different From The Book?
    • A compacted and watered down scenario
    • From novel for geek to blockbuster for all audiences
    • A movie about VR versus VR?
  • Directing and staging of Ready Player One: Spielberg at the top of his game
    • The Shining scene: a great moment in cinema
  • Ready Player Two: the sequel to the novel soon to be adapted by Spielberg?
  • Critique de Ready Player One : conclusion
    • Good points
    • Negative points

Even Warner Bros. didn't expect such success. Since its theatrical release on March 28, 2018, generated $ 181,3 million globally. Note that the film grossed $ 61,7 million in China, which represents the best launch ever for WB in this market.



Adapted from the eponymous novel by Ernest Cline published in 2011, Steven Spielberg's is therefore a real commercial success. While the VR headset market is struggling to take off, this blockbuster proves that the general public is far from losing interest in this technology. But what about the cinematic quality of the film? Is he a future classic of the 7th art, or a vulgar concentrate of popular culture as quickly digested as it is consumed? Here is our opinion on the matter.

General presentation of Ready Player One

Director : Steven Spielberg
Producer : Steven Spielberg, Donald De Line, Dan Farah, Kristie Macosko Krieger
Director : Zak Penn, Ernest Cline
Main actors : Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, T.J. Miller, Simon Pegg, Mark Rylance
Soundtrack : Alan Silvestri
Production : Warner Bros
Based on the novel by Ernest Cline (2011)
Duration : 140 minutes
Budget : 175 million dollars
Release date : March 28 2018



Ready Player One Screenplay: A Movie Too Different From The Book?

To shorten it, the action takes place in 2045. Humanity must face overpopulation and a global energy crisis. To escape this sad reality, humans mostly take refuge in the Oasis: a virtual world in which anything is possible. Thanks to VR headsets offering real-world graphics and haptic combinations, users can experience all the sensations of their avatars.

This virtual world has been created by James Donovan Halliday, a genius inventor adored by the people. On the day of his death, a video previously recorded by him reveals that Halliday had everything planned and puts control of the Oasis back into play. To take power, it is necessary to bring together three keys scattered around virtual reality. No clue being provided, the only way to find these keys is to understand the psychology of the inventor, his past, but also his fascination with popular culture.

- keys are indeed scattered throughout the Oasis in the manner of Easter Eggs, these references hidden by developers in many video games. A large number of users will then embark on a hunt for keys to become masters of the Oasis. Among them, the young Wade Watts and his friends the band of the High Five, but also the evil multinational IoI and its leader Nolan Sorrento.

A compacted and watered down scenario

If these elements are common to the film and the book, there are a large number of differences. First of all, this film being a blockbuster, there is no room for any lengths. The spectator must not have time to be bored, and the action must follow. This is the reason why Steven Spielberg chose to compact the scenario and to ignore several elements of the original plot.



For example, in the book, after collecting a key, it is necessary to find the portal that it allows to open. In the movie, the portals appear immediately when the key is found and you just need to insert it into the lock. The nthe number of challenges to be met is therefore halved. Likewise, the student planet Ludus on which the beginning of Wade's adventure takes place completely disappears from history. The young protagonist is not even a student anymore.

Important changes are also occurring. Wade meets Artemis rather quickly in the real world, while the two characters do not initially meet until the end of the novel. Their temporary break-up and the ensuing period of depression for Wade are also obscured. After the destruction of his building and the murder of his family by IoI in the film, Wade is recruited by the Artemis Resistance and contemplates the city from a pretty flower garden in the heights. In the book, he changes his identity, runs away from his hometown, and isolates himself in an ultra-secure apartment with no windows to the outside. Much more depressing.

This isn't the only “watered down” passage in this Warner Bros.-produced rewrite. In the book, Daito is murdered by IoI, and the High Five maintain a rivalry until the end of the story. In the film, none of the protagonists die, and the five main characters team up throughout the adventure in joy and good humor. It is also not specified that Wade's father was a thief and that his mother was an addict who prostituted in virtual reality.


From novel for geek to blockbuster for all audiences

Several passages have also been edited to add action to the feature film. Thus, in the book, the first key is hidden on the planet Ludus, within a reconstruction of a role-playing crypt. Wade and Artemis are the first two gunters to find the key thanks to their intelligence. In the movie, the key is given to the winner of a frantic car race. Wade also wins the event thanks to his intelligence and his research on Halliday, but the approach is radically different. On the contrary, certain action scenes summarized in a few lines in the novel are put in images here for long minutes.


In order not to lose the Western public, several references to Asian popular culture deemed too sharp were also truncated. The Japanese character of Ultraman who occupies an important place in the novel is replaced by that of the Iron Giant, taken from the eponymous cartoon produced by Warner Bros in 1999.

Finally, the film does not just refer to the popular culture of the 80s as was the case in Cline's novel. In order to speak to the youngest, the blockbuster also highlights current popular culture:, or Michael Bay's.

Faced with these many biases, some will no doubt blame Steven Spielberg for moving too far away from the original work. However, it must be acknowledged that the American director has managed to adapt this novel into a family and universal blockbuster in a masterly way. Despite the scriptwriting shortcuts, the watering down of the subject and the effusion of action, the spirit of the book is respected.

A movie about VR versus VR?

There are already a good number of films dealing directly or indirectly with the themes of virtual reality. Among the best known, mention may in particular be made of and. However, comes out in the cinema in a particular context: in 2018, virtual reality is no longer a futuristic technology or a philosophical concept. Virtual reality headsets are accessible to the general public, and the imaginary world described is perhaps much closer to the real world than you think.

In fact, even more than when the novel appeared in 2011, it is able to take a critical look at virtual reality, its challenges, its dangers and its opportunities. There is of course an obvious critique of capitalism and its darker aspects. Where Halliday created the Oasis as a childhood dream, a refuge from real world problems and an ideal universe accessible to all, IoI sees it only as a vein to exploit, a lucrative opportunity.

Le film reflects well how money tends to corrupt even the most beautiful projects. Some may find this message a little cliché, even hypocritical, coming from one of the biggest studios in the film industry, but it is still a good moral for children. We salute in particular the final redemption of Sorrento who gives up assassinating Wade when he sees his tears of joy.

However, also takes a critical look at virtual reality. The message is straightforward: even in a world as sad and devastated as the one in the film, virtual reality cannot replace the beauty of the real world. Regardless of the level of realism and the possibilities offered by VR, the real world is still the only place where you can eat a good meal ... and find love. At the end of the film, the protagonists decide to close the Oasis two days a week to force humans to spend more time in reality. This decision is not mentioned in the original novel.

Directing and staging of Ready Player One: Spielberg at the top of his game

The novel focused primarily on the intelligence of the main character while multiplying the references to the history of video games and popular culture of the 80s. The film in the end is more like an action packed film in computer generated images.

However, even without being particularly a fan of blockbusters, we must admit that the result is impressive (especially in IMAX 3D). The film cost almost $ 175 million, and it shows. From the first minutes, the tone is set with the formidable introductory scene describing the Oasis through a visually stunning camera traveling.

During this scene, and more broadly throughout the rest of the film, Steven Spielberg manages to translate all the magic of virtual reality into cinema. Despite everything, at times, it still feels like watching someone play a video game rather than watching a movie. This problem is inherent in CG movies, but after all, it arguably wouldn't have been possible to shine a light on the endless possibilities that VR has to offer with images captured in the real world.

The Shining scene: a great moment in cinema

Like the novel, Steven Spielberg's film plays the card of nostalgia with many references to 1980s pop culture. In cinema, the spirit of the 80's is also transcribed through a soundtrack composed of the greatest hits of the time. However, if the book focused exclusively on this period of history, the film also opens up to contemporary culture.

Furthermore, just as Ernest Cline refers to geek culture and the great classics of video games, Steven Spielberg as a filmmaker expresses his love for the 7th art through winks to cult films. More precisely, the director signs a vibrant tribute to Stanley Kubrick's film.

In the novel, to open the portals, the protagonists must replay, scene by scene, the films and, emblematic of the “geek” culture. In the film, these films are therefore replaced by Kubrick's. The characters of the film are integrated into the original scenes, giving rise to a real cinematic abyss.

Le terrifying character of is derided, when the character of Aech who has not seen the film tries to play with the famous binoculars in the elevator, only to be carried away by the torrent of blood, and finally find refuge in room 237 and come face to face with the living death it shelters. The film's final scene in the hotel grounds then takes on a video game feel, and the characters must dodge the ax blows of Jack Nicholson and a giant version of the zombie woman. A great moment of cinema, which will certainly mark the spirits.

Ready Player Two: the sequel to the novel soon to be adapted by Spielberg?

When New York Comic Con 2020, Ernest Cline has revealed the cover and title of the sequel to his novel: Ready Player Two. The synopsis has also been released.

THEaction takes place a few days later that Wade Watts aka Percival won the competition organized by James Halliday. The protagonist then discovers a secret hidden by the creator of the OASIS.

It's about a technological advance making the virtual world 1000 times more wonderful… and addicting. This discovery is accompanied by a new quest, a new challenge launched by Halliday to find an ultimate "Easter Egg".

However, the main character will also have to face an extremely dangerous new rival. This time, all of humanity will be threatened. This new novel will be available November 24, 2020.

At the sight of this synopsis, we may be surprised to many similarities with the first opus. The main character is the same, and he must once again save the OASIS while searching for a secret hidden by its creator.

Has the author chosen the easy way by repeating exactly the recipe that made the success of the first volume ? Hopefully not. In nine years, Ernest Cline has certainly had time to prepare an exciting storyline with many twists and turns. It will take a few weeks to read the book and get to the bottom of it ...

Regarding a film adaptation of this sequel, nothing has been confirmed for the moment. However, since its theatrical release in 2018, Ready Player One generated $ 582 million of receipt at the box office. So it seems logical that Hollywood bounces off this success.

Recently, in an interview with the ComicBook website, actor Tye Sheridan who plays Wade Watts in the film confessed to having loved working on this project and hopes with all his heart that a sequel will be produced…

Critique de Ready Player One : conclusion

As fans of virtual reality and fans of the novel by Ernest Cline, we were waiting for this adaptation to the cinema firmly. We were not disappointed. We find in this feature film all the magic of Steven Spielberg : humor, adventure, emotion, action, spectacle and fantasy. All the ingredients are there to make the blockbuster a cult film for a whole generation of children, as they were or in their time.

The film may be criticized for playing the card of nostalgia to the point of overdose, and some will find that this gigantic potpourri of pop culture gives a feeling of chaotic jumble. It is also possible to deplore a certain lack of scriptwriting depth compared to the novel. Despite everything, Ready Player One remains excellent family entertainment and a great way to introduce the general public to virtual reality… and its future.

Good points

  • The magic of a good old Spielberg
  • A nice introduction to virtual reality
  • The Shining scene

Negative points

  • A less deep scenario than in the novel
  • A film in computer generated images
  • Watch out for the nostalgia / pop culture overdose

8.3

Scenario: : A slightly simplified scenario compared to the novel but still captivating.

Production : : An intense action movie in CGI, with several great passages. From the Spielberg in all its splendor.

Staging: : Majestic plans and traveling.

Soundtrack : : A very nice soundtrack made up of hits from the 80s, even if we regret the absence of John Williams.

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