Ready Player One is a movie based on a book with more 80’s pop culture references you can shake a stick at brought to the big screen by the director who was responsible for a lot the 80’s pop culture referenced in the book is sort of meta when you think about it. Whether Ernest Cline knew it or not he was writing a novel prime for Steven Spielberg to direct.
Many of Spielberg’s movies, as a producer or director, from E.T., The Goonies, Back to the Future (Even though Michael J. Fox didn’t look like he was in high school Marty McFly was indeed in high school) and even Empire of the Sun have kids at the center of the story. The kids in these movies are thrust into extraordinary circumstances often pitting them against adults whose intentions are less than noble.
In Ready Player One, Wade Wyatt (named by his dad because it sounded like a comic book super hero’s alter ego) and his friends follow in the footsteps of characters like Elliot (E.T.) , Tim and Lex (Jurassic Park) and Sophie (The BFG) as they fight against forces that would at first appearance be greater than they are. However, like in the other Spielberg movies, the kids come together to defeat the bad guys, win the day, and live happily ever after.
Ready Player One is a good kids movie. In fact, it’s probably the best kids movie to come out in quite a long time. Some people may take offense at the description, but it’s indeed a movie for kids and young adults. There’s nothing challenging in the movie. James Halliday, the creator of the Oasis, planted Easter eggs throughout his Second Life MMORPG on steroids game before he died. Twenty years after his death and not one person had been able to crack Halliday’s first riddle. No one that is until Wade deciphers the most obscure of clues in an old Halliday video so obvious you have to ask, ” No one else figured that out in 20 years?”
The rest of the movie follows this same simple formula. Clues are easily found and riddles are easily solved. It’s a press play and repeat throughout the whole movie. The one bright shiny spot is the gang going through the Overlook Hotel from The Shining. Of course, room 237 plays a prominent role in cracking the “leap” clue. The whole scene is played for laughs, but it’s still amazing to see the CGI characters interact a la Who Framed Roger Rabbit? with the live action sets, characters (The Grady Twins), and sounds of The Shining.
If further proof is needed to show Ready Player One is kids movie take a look at the set. The “real world” action is set in a Columbus, OH that we are to believe is in a dystopian future. Sometime before the movie starts the USA suffered all sorts of calamities, economic failures, and just plain bad stuff. We can’t be for sure how bad things became because people can still afford all sorts of gadgets to go into the virtual world of Oasis. Yes, they live in trailer homes stacked on top of each other, but there’s no A Clockwork Orange or Fahrenheit 451 madness going on anywhere in the city. It’s dystopia light in the only way the mildest YA novels like the Hunger Games could imagine.
Yes, Ready Player One falls easily into the kids genre of movies. Unlike a lot of kids movies Ready Player One never talks down to its core audience. The movie isn’t dumbed down for a young audience nor does it insult. In fact, some kids may have ah ha moments when the clues are solved or cheer as Wade, aka Parzival, rallies the troops to fight Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn, Rogue One). There’s still plenty of fun to have even if kids don’t understand or catch a lot of the 80’s references. Adults of a certain age will also enjoy the movie. The only draw back is you may spend more time trying to catch all the 80’s Easter eggs scattered through out the more than 2 hour run time than to the movie.