Article by John Grafman
Images provided by Warner Brothers
The underlying story of Ready Player One is pretty straightforward. A kid, living a hard-life in a desperate world, risks his life entering a global competition to win the three keys in the all-encompassing virtual reality game called Oasis. The Oasis is escapism on steroids. Inside the Oasis, anyone can become anyone they desire. The winner of the keys will inherit a vast fortune, and the ownership of the Oasis.
At its heart, Ready Player One, like so many other sci-fi, action adventure pics, is an epic story of good versus evil.
Now, if you want to make a blockbuster movie, it doesn’t hurt deriving bits and pieces and even broad concepts from previous successful films. Intentional or not, Ready Player One smacks of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Wizard of Oz, and Star Wars. So, right from the get-go, this movie is borrowing from the best.
As this is a Steven Spielberg movie, the audience gets samplings laced throughout of his prior works and collaborators in a comically distracting fashion. This is reminiscent of the Jaws reference in Back To The Future 2. And, there’s also a liberal dosing of 80’s memorabilia and music too, sparking interest in the senior members of the audience.
On top of all this, it isn’t taxing anyone too hard to find the connection in the plot between the youth movement of today and the action on the screen (which was impossible to envision when producing this).
Meeting the ticket buyers’ expectations of what the world looks like in 2045, there’s a healthy helping of digital graphics and a virtual reality universe. Certainly, the dazzling visuals are casting a spellbinding shadow over the theater-going public. While that may be enough for satisfying the majority of the audience, the auto enthusiasts are being treated to an extra helping of brilliance that could only take part onscreen.
In the VR game Oasis, the hunt for the first key unfolds as a virtual reality race that’s as good as it gets. Right from the start, the lead character, Wade Watts’ alter ego Parzival, materializes the DeLorean from Back To The Future as his chosen ride. The DeLorean, sans Doc Brown and Marty McFly, springs into action in a manner not too dissimilar from how the lightcycles come to life in Tron. In other words, pretty cool!
Parzival and cohorts battle nearly unbearable odds against the industrial complex, known as IOI, led by Sorrento.
The racing is wide open with everything from the Bigfoot truck to a slick crotch rocket-esque motorcycle, and everything in-between. The track itself is wildly fantastical, like something out of the Speed Racer movie. Not to mention there are obstacles unique to this VR challenge. Sure, all races have obstacles, but how often do those happen to be King Kong? Stir into the mix is Joan Jet and the Blackhearts’ “I Hate Myself For Loving You”, and this easily becomes one of the standout scenes.
There are other vehicles that are sprinkled throughout the movie that are not in the Oasis, but part of the real world set in 2045. Curiously, these aren’t pushing the envelop of creativity. Maybe this was intentional, showcasing the gulf between actuality and virtual reality. Or, perhaps it was just a matter of keeping it simple for production purposes. There’s also the chance in another 27 years we will be seeing that these designs are spot on. Regardless, most car fanatics expect a bit more.
It is easy to get caught up in the 80’s artifacts and the transportation elements. However, Ready Player One is chock full of futuristic design ideas. Spielberg and company is providing food for thought, as he did in The Minority Report. Yet, this release doesn’t have the dark seriousness found in the Tom Cruise movie, and some of the production reflects that.
Depending on the bias of the ticket holder, they’ll either be loving or hating all of that. However, this is more than a collection of actors, concepts and props. Ready Player One is a digital artistic achievement sure to be mesmerizing everyone with a heartbeat. This can be compared to Disney’s Fantasia, in that Ready Player One is a treat for the senses taking us to places we could never venture without the aid of moving pictures.
The Magic Behind Ready Player One
Industrial Light and Magic is supplying the artistry for the visual effects and animation, which is a significant factor in bring the wow-factor out. Digital Domain is providing extensive additional visual effects, along with Animatrik, Virtuos, and Aaron Sims Creative. Pre-visualization work is being credited to The Third Floor, Inc., and Frame Store. This includes Digital Domain, along with the visual production.
The beauty and splendor in several scenes will hold up well against critics that poo-poo any lesser aspects of this movie. This is thanks to a small army that was employed to create silver screen magic, and the goal is handsomely achieved. Bringing together a team of excellent talent can change the world as we see it, or create entirely new ones! And that’s the real key to winning!