I saw Ready Player One over the holiday; I had not read the book, and still haven’t, but I reckon the rule still stands that the book is better than the film.
I have however seen Spielberg’s work in the past, and I know that one flaw in his work, on occasion – I am not so bold as to completely slam one of cinema’s greats – is that it suffers from mediocre dialogue. In a less visually impressive film – maybe it wouldn’t be so noticeable, however it let the film down because the visual effects were so fantastic. Honestly, I was warned by my cinema partner that, in his words, it was going to ‘look amazing, but sound terrible’, and I struggle to disagree. The dialogue was just, mediocre at best, but flat and out of place at worst.
If I was being very harsh, I’d say the visual effects save this film – it suffers from rather mediocre acting from its central character, Wade Watts otherwise known in the Oasis (the video game world that the people of Earth have effectively immigrated into) as Parzival, a reference to the knight who finds the Holy Grail all by himself. This reference is because the entire film revolves around finding three eggs, hidden by the deceased creator of the Oasis, a sad old man called James Halliday – finding these eggs will turn ownership of the Oasis over to the winner.
It is not the fault of anyone involved in production really, but the VFX within the Oasis makes the acting on the real people outside of the Oasis look a bit amateur. In a film of this scale, you would expect some impressive performances, but honestly, I didn’t leave the cinema excited by any of them. I did however leave thinking ‘wow, those avatars were amazing’ – just take a look at Parzival and his friends within the Oasis, but out of the Oasis, the cast, made up of relative unknowns (something I was genuinely thankful for as unlike Johnny Depp’s casting in the new Fantastic Beasts The Crimes of Grindelwald, I wasn’t distracted or taken out of the story by seeing some very recognisable face screened large in the middle of a fight scene) lacks chemistry in places and most of them are outshone by an 11 year old boy who manages to steal the scene whenever he’s present. The worst offender is arguably the shoehorned love interest subplot, which feels forced, unnatural and annoying. The villain of the film, a rival of Halliday’s in the gaming industry comes across as more psychotic business man than anything else, particularly when *spoiler* at the *spoiler* – unsurprisingly this doesn’t happen because the Wade is crying at a golden egg….. for some reason….. My best guess is – it’s just so beautiful?
What shocks me about this book to film adaptation is that the author – Ernest Cline – was involved in writing the script. Now, like I said, I haven’t read the book, so I can’t vouch for how accurate the translation was – but you’d hope that with the author on board, the dialogue might be a bit better than it was, no?
Anyway, I have a nagging feeling that this film will go down as another Avatar. Visually stunning but solely memorable for the visuals – not the story, even as an adaptation of an influential novel, and this film doesn’t even have the ability to say ‘we did it first’ to technological advances such as motion capture, which Avatar does. I like to praise films, rather than tear them down – I don’t make feature films so I cant imagine how much work and thought goes into the process, and so it isn’t my place to say that something is entirely terrible – but you will have noticed I said the phrase ‘visually impressive’ or something to that effect a lot… and that’s because I genuinely can’t say much more for this Spielberg adventure.