It’s About Connecting with the World: A Ready Player One Movie Review

Hanging out with your friends and dancing if you want to is the best. And for the people who don’t dance, and if they don’t dance, then they’re no friends of yours.
That’s just how hanging out goes.

There is something to be said about old school adventure games. They are all very low tech (or no tech) and require the group to be physically there to play, interacting with one another in real time. There’s a certain magic that happens with groups like this; a comrade, a bond, is formed.

That’s the basis behind Ready Player One.

The movie opens with a splash of music, Van Halen’s Jump, as the protagonist, Wade Watts, explains society’s down-on-their-luck attitude (to put it lightly), and the introduction to the Oasis. It’s there that we see groups of avatars interacting with one another. It’s where our lonely Wade interacts with his best friend, Aech. It’s where viewers see Wade and Aech, and a mass of gamers trying to beat the virtual reality video game to win Halliday’s competition.
Soon Daito and Sho arrive, and then finally Artemis, the rest of Wade’s crew. Suddenly you have a group of people wanting to dance the same dance as Wade, the kid who’s stuck in a gray lifeless void in the real world.

The movie does an amazing job blending sights and sounds as viewers are presented with colors, lights, and 80’s pop songs. This spectacular backdrop only makes the dialogue between the friends shine. You want to see what they’re all going to do next. You want to hear their inside jokes and inner heart fumblings.
And when the group starts to move further into the complex puzzle Halliday has left behind, you want to see what’s going to be around the corner. Who’s going to figure out the next clue?
Who’s going to win?

“Which part of your past were you trying to escape, Halliday.” The line comes from Wade as he’s contemplating Halliday’s clues. This line is striking because it brings up the theme of escapism, the phenomena where people bury their head in games, or books, or any other interest, and completely phase out the world around them.
Sounds exactly what the creator of a virtual reality video game where you can be anything you want would be feeling when wanting to create said virtual reality.
Why deal with anything out in the crumbling, cold, and unforgiving world when you can get lost with your friends on another adventure?

Adventure also becomes another piece of the thematic puzzle. As viewers watch Wade and his friends pick at Halliday’s memories, trying to find answers to his egg hunt, it becomes increasingly clear that Halliday wanted everyone to embrace the adventure. To embrace the game as this other life is to let in other people into the escapism.
And boy does Spielberg wield the two themes together.

The movie has small scale moments like Wade and Artemis talking on a rooftop in real life, or Wade, as his avatar Parzival, and Aech talking about girls and falling in love with said girls too quickly. It’s cute, brief but sweat, and fleshes out the characters. But then Spielberg delivers with his unveiling of the macro side of the Oasis. Large scale speed racing with many twists and turns, or battles taking place with tons of recognizable characters completely pummeling one another. It’s great, action packed fun with sweeping whispers of loyalty and friendship forming on the sidelines.


The search for the keys is frantic, breath taking, and at times, breathless. The pacing really takes off and fumbles at the beginning, almost way too eager to get us into the Oasis, and into the friendship and romance. Some people call it rushed, some call it forced, and some call it both. And I’ll give it to them, that’s definitely the case, but that also brings back the theme of escapism. If the outside world is so bleak, wouldn’t you too want to dive headfirst into another story and hope for the best when you come out on the other side?
It’s definitely a more positive way of looking at it in a weird existential scope…


But yes, the quest to find the three keys and to “save the Oasis, save the world,” 80’s campy rhetoric was really brought home by the entire cast’s acting. Everyone played their roles well, but there wasn’t a break out acting moment that really got me. Still, I definitely appreciate the actors sweeping in and out with their 80’s referential witty dialogue and behavior, but with the added spectacle of them acting in a virtual reality world. It’s a premise that easily could have sunk with cringeworthiness, but was honestly just good-hearted and fun.

Spielberg did bring the nostalgia that the book was known for to the big screen. Most of it are just characters or objects in the background that are not given any real depth to them. But honestly…that’s totally okay. We don’t need depth to them. We already know these characters, and we know why players in a virtual reality world in 2045 would choose them as their avatars. Viewers don’t need to be spoonfed preexisting backstories or knowledge. In fact, the trivia about those things were what gave the book such a divisive feedback in the first place. Instead, Spielberg chooses a few of the nostalgia factors and sets them up in a big way to further help the adventure feel vast and immersive. Seeing the Iron Giant get ready for battle in a frozen tundra is just as exhilarating as the cast of characters dealing with an 80’s horror movie simulator. The nostalgia helps the main story, and in that way is it given it’s own way to shine.


There was a certain spark of enjoyment I got while watching Wade, Aech, Artemis, Daito, and Sho, form their friend group while subsequently forming the additional clues to push on through the adventure. Each friend danced to their own beat, but together they could dance.

Ready Player One shows us with Wade’s adventure, and Halliday’s backstory, that the real world is the world where things matter most, even if you can get lost in another one.

And to be careful not to get lost when the journey acts like its out of this world, trying to leave the real one far behind.

We can all dance when we want to.

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