A few years ago I was shown a book by a friend. He read me a passage and it was rammed with about eight different cultural nods from the 1980s. It seemed clumsy, like the author was trying to win favour from the reader by flicking their nostalgia switches until they forgot what was going on. I mocked the book and went back to my pint. The book was Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.
Those ‘clumsy’, shoe-horned-in references were actually part of a thick carpet of nostalgia that was entirely appropriate and intentional. From the moment I opened the book I was gripped face-first to it. I spent twice as long in the bathroom getting a few extra chapters under my belt. I even ignored videogames for a spell! It’s not often that I get so immersed in a book but this was one of the good ones.
When I finished it, I thought to myself “They should make this into a movie!” but then I realised that this weird, obscure adventure would likely never be adapted. It was too rammed with things that one studio could never get all the rights to. Too many different things that the legality of it would be staggering, nevermind doing the visuals justice on-screen.
So it came as a total surprise when a couple of years later I heard that Steven Spielberg was going to adapt Ready Player One! I nearly fell out of my chair. I had to see it! And see it I did!
Ready Player One is a movie (and a book!) about a kid who lives in a rather sad, broken near-future where many people have been forced to live in slums and piled up static-homes called ‘stacks’. To escape the drudgery of this life, almost everyone plugs into a virtual world known as ‘The Oasis’. Our protagonist, Wade, is one of these unfortunates and we see him both in the real world and as his avatar ‘Parzival’.
When the creator of The Oasis dies a hunt begins for three secret keys to find a hidden easter egg within The Oasis. Finding the egg means winning ownership and control of The Oasis. Inevitably, dark forces want the egg for themselves and Wade/Parzival is set against an evil corporation called IOI in a battle for ultimate control. Luckily Parzival is joined by a band of honourable comrades, know collectively as ‘The High Five’.
The movie is RAMMED with pop culture references both new and old. The world of the Oasis and the challenges the characters face are themed around the peculiarities of their creator and so are dripping with references and nods to music, films and games of significance to him. But the occupants of The Oasis, having seeming free reign to create their avatars in any guise they see fit, are anything and everything from Halo’s Master Chief to Streetfighter’s Chun Li are represented. I saw Harley Quinn, giant fighting robots, Battletoads and The Orin Giant to name a handful.
Overall it’s a slick sci-fi action movie that moves effortlessly between the psychedelic adventure of The Oasis and drab violence of reality without blinking an eye. It’s well paced and despite my ancient misgivings it actually hangs together so well that you forget the utter ludicrousness of it all. The movie does veer wildly away from the source material with some events and characters removed or replaced entirely but somehow the movie still totally does the book justice whilst keeping things speeding along.
We took our 9 yr olds to see the movie and despite many of the older references going over their heads, rather than baffling them it actually made them eager to try out some of this old stuff their dads were into decades ago. I’d definitely recommend going to see it, in fact I’m trying to drag Mum Geek to see it again whilst it’s still on somewhere!