Ready Player One (Blu-Ray)
Steven Spielberg's adaptation of Ready Player One arrives on blu-ray this week, and its visually dense story looks better than ever. Is that enough reason to pick this one up, however? Check out my full review to see what I think about this week's new release.
Ready Player One is an adaptation of Ernest Cline's popular book of the same name, though it makes some pretty big changes from the book. The story follows Wade Watts in a future where the virtual world of the Oasis is ever present. In the game, players can be anyone/thing they want and participate in all manner of games, while essentially living in there.
Since the real world is something of a dystopia, where famine and ecological disasters have severely impacted the population. Most live in "stacks," a form of mobile home tenaments and wealthy corporations oppress those who can't pay their bills. The Oasis is an escape for all, and has grown to have direct impact on real-world economics.
When the game's creator, Halliday, passed away, he announced a competition to find his "Easter Egg" that can only be found by completing three challenges and acquiring the keys. Whoever completes the challenges and finds the egg will inherit all of Halliday's stock in the company and complete control of the Oasis. Where Wade sees the thrill of the challenge as a way to escape and, hopefully improve, his lot in life, the sinister company, IOI, sees it as a chance to fully control the Oasis and, essentially, the world.
Needless to say finding the keys are super difficult and Wade's struggle to find the keys, with the help of some friends, before IOI does forms the heart of the story. It's a mystery wrapped up in some engaging action sequences, ultimately with strong themes of friendship and doing the right thing. For the most part, the heart of the story in the film is almost exactly the same as the novel itself. It's all the little details (like how they found the keys) that have been pretty severely changed. Honestly, I think the changes are for the better, and the film does a great job of streamlining a story that kinda goes all over the place.
There's a lot to enjoy about Ready Player One and watching it is just a ridiculous amount of fun. Spielberg once agains proves he's a master at blocking action sequences (even ones built entirely with visual effects), and keeps you engaged throughout the film. The problem, however, is much of the story feels only surface deep. There are themes about coming together, regretting the chances not taken, and finding love, but they're just thrown out there. The love story aspect feels rushed and sudden, while Ben Mendelsohn's villain comes off more cartoony than menacing.
These things don't necessarily detract from the fun of the film, but they do make it a bit difficult when it comes to watching it more than once. I missed out on the film in theaters, so was definitely excited to check it out at home. While it didn’t hit the mark for me with the story, it does seem like a movie that rewards on multiple viewings. Since getting the blu-ray, I’ve only had a chance to watch it the one time, so perhaps I’ll find more depth in the story the second time around, when my eyeballs aren’t being dazzled.
Sight and Sound
I've talked about how other films are visually dense, but none of them seem to hold a candle to Ready Player One. Taking place mostly in the virtual world of the Oasis, each scene/frame is packed with visual information. There's always something going on at the edges of the frame and you can hit pause virtually anywhere and inspect everything happening. Hell, just watch one of the trailers and you'll know what I mean.
Thankfully the blu-ray transfer is impressive and does a great job of highlighting the impressive visuals in the movie. The image is clear and crisp, with deep blacks that don't crush. That means you can pause the video and examine the many video game/pop culture references in the frame without issue. This makes the action scenes even more impressive and easy to follow, while retaining its dazzling nature.
The sound transfer is equally impressive. With all the visuals going on, the accompanying sound effects could easily come across as overwhelming. Thankfully that's not the case and the surround sound does a great job of making you feel immersed in the chaos of the Oasis, while still giving proper priority to all of the dialog.
The Bonus Features
Ready Player One comes with these special features loaded on the disc:
· Game Changer: Cracking the Code
· Effects for a Brave New World
· Level Up: Sound for the Future
· High Score: Endgame
· Ernie & Tye's Excellent Adventure
· The '80’s: You’re The Inspiration
While they may seem like only a handful, the bonus features you can watch are pretty stout. The "Game Changer" is a nearly hour long documentary that takes an in-depth look at the entire film, from novel to screen. It offers some nice, detailed, looks at how certain scenes were brought to life and the efforts to do so.
"Effects for a Brave New World" is a 25 minute look at just the VFX in the film and how the complex set pieces were envisioned and crafted. It even has a cool look at how Spielberg used virtual reality to perform his pre-visualizations. The rest are smaller featurettes going into the nostalgic references and sound design, all of which are pretty interesting.
All told, there's a lot to enjoy on the special features that give deeper insight into Spielberg's filmmaking process for VFX heavy films like this, while also diving into the story. It's a stacked list of features that really add to the overall value of the blu-ray.