A film’s (and its filmmakers’) sense of commitment to its premise and setting is often a tricky thing to fully deal with. On the one hand, the establishment of a milieu and a truly lived-in world is fairly important for the majority of films (certainly all commercial films) in order to draw the viewer into a more organic and visceral experience of the narratives developed. On the other hand, said milieu could very well feel toxic or put-on to a particular, simply by virtue of the events and figures it depicts.
Few films in the past few years have displayed this tenuous tendency as strongly as Ready Player One, Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Ernest Cline’s novel-length paean to video games, ’80s pop culture, and fandoms in general. Set in the year 2045, it depicts two worlds: the “real world” of a decaying Earth, principally the impoverished slums of Columbus, Ohio, and the limitless, virtual reality of the OASIS, filled with innumerable worlds and areas to explore. Wade Watts/Parzival (Tye Sheridan) functions as the viewer’s medium between these realms. As might be implied by his avatar’s name, he is on a quest: following the clues of the virtual world’s deceased creator James Halliday (Mark Rylance), he aims to uncover an easter egg that grants the finder full control of the OASIS. Through this process, he discovers foes – the megacorporation IOI– and friends – most notably Samantha Cook/Art3mis (Olivia Cooke), member of an underground group opposed to IOI – alike.