Ready Player One by Steven Spielberg - A Visitor Review

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Directed by Steven Spielberg, Ready Player One is based on Ernest Cline’s novel of the same name which turned into the holy grail of pop culture of the 80’s. When the master filmmaker decided to direct the movie adaptation of it, eyebrows were raised since it was his return to the action & adventure genre after some time. The film is set in dystopian future where much of life happens in a virtual world called Oasis created by a James Halliday (played by Mark Rylance).

The cinematography, by Spielberg's long-time associate and one of the most influential cinematographers of modern cinema Janusz Kaminski, is an experiment which adds a layer to the narrative. The portions which take place in the virtual world are shot in digital and the real world portions are shot with 35MM film. The transitions and pacing between the two drives home the themes touched upon in this motion picture. The trademark lighting technique of his in retaining the brightly lit backdrop within the frame is also used in this film to great effect.

The music for the film by Alan Silvestri is very befitting, aiding in invoking a sense of nostalgia and also popular music from the '80s have been used to great effect. The score for the portions in the real world adds to the impact of the screenplay immensely while taking the audience for a walk down
memory lane.

Editors Michael Kahn and Sarah Broshar make seamless transitions between two worlds and blend them in a way to serve up drama, adventure on a level not recently seen. The visual effects play an immense role in the success of translating this screenplay into the white screen. Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) has joined hands with Spielberg in creating the virtual world of OASIS which is nothing short of spectacular. In terms of pushing technology, Ready player One is really a game changer.

The casting of the film is precisely done and is a throwback of sorts to ‘the Goonies’ which Spielberg wrote. The standout performance of the film belongs to Mark Rylance as Halliday. The kind of depth he brings to the character and with it the connection to the audience in a cinema hall is unparalleled. No wonder that he won the Oscar for Bridge of Spies.

The original writer of the novel Ernest Cline and screenwriter Zak Penn retain the essence of the original and improve upon it to make it more structured for a motion picture. If you are a Stanley Kubrick fan, you should not miss the film at any cost. Spielberg, who is also a fan of Kubrick must have been heavily involved in the writing of such parts. The future so imagined is written in a way which is close to reality, thereby adding a layer of social commentary and subtext to the narrative. The screenplay also has very interesting turns fully utilizing the ground on which it’s built on keeping the audience entertained all through.

The character development of the leads could have required a couple more scenes for rich rewards to be reaped later and the film touches on all the subtext and themes subtly instead of digging deep. But, all these appear to be a consciously made decision considering the tone, the genre of the film and the essence of the novel on which it’s based on. Due to these trade-offs, certain plot movements might become predictable and certain dialogues corny.

Much like the book, the film is filled with pop culture references. Some of the most noticeable ones include Back to the Future, King Kong, Lord of the Rings, Batman, Jurassic Park, Terminator, Thriller (MJ), Ninja Turtles, Toy Story and the Shining. For all the geeks and fans of the novel, just finding out all the references/ easter eggs would make it a mandatory visit to a movie theatre. Even for the general movie enthusiasts, there is enough to make one engrossed in the world of Oasis.

The movie touches on corporatization, greed, and the addictive nature of the digital world in the most entertaining way possible. The movie evokes nostalgia, brings out the child in oneself, and makes one feel pumped for the action and root for a bunch of kids. At the age of 72, Spielberg is firing on all cylinders and is at the top of his game. Without a semblance of doubt, he is the most versatile filmmaker working in today’s world. He has already more films lined up including the likes of Indiana Jones 5, West Side Story and Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara. Bring it on, legend!

Ready Player One is full on entertainment with a dark social fabric underneath tailored to fully satisfy everyone who enters a cinema hall. This is Spielberg in prime form delivering a visual spectacle with a heart. In order to describe the film, it’s best to quote the master himself who said at the premiere of the movie, “This is not a film that we made — this is, I promise you, a movie”. A must experience at the biggest screen near you!

Sriraman Srinivasan
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