Ready Player One (film)

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Ready Player One
Ready Player One (film).png
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySteven Spielberg
Produced by
Screenplay by
Based onReady Player One
by Ernest Cline
Starring
Music byAlan Silvestri
CinematographyJanusz Kamiński
Edited by
Production
company
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release date
  • March 11, 2018 (2018-03-11) (SXSW)[2]
  • March 29, 2018 (2018-03-29) (United States)
Running time
140 minutes[3]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$175 million[4][5]
Box office$582.2 million[6]

Ready Player One is a 2018 American live action/animated science fiction adventure film produced and directed by Steven Spielberg, and written by Zak Penn and Ernest Cline, based on Cline's 2011 novel of the same name. The film stars Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Lena Waithe, T.J. Miller, Simon Pegg, and Mark Rylance. The film takes place in 2045, when much of humanity uses the virtual reality software OASIS to escape the desolation of the real world. Orphaned teenager Wade Watts (Sheridan) discovers clues to a hidden game within the program that promises the winner full ownership of the OASIS, and joins several allies to try to complete the game before a large company run by businessman Nolan Sorrento (Mendelsohn) can do so.

Ready Player One premiered at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 11, 2018, was theatrically released by Warner Bros. Pictures in the United States on March 29, 2018, in 2D, Real D 3D, IMAX and IMAX 3D. It grossed $582 million worldwide, making it the ninth-highest-grossing film of 2018. The film received generally positive reviews, critics praised its visuals, brisk pacing, both Sheridan's and Rylance's performances, and the many cultural references from various media. The film was noted to have significant differences from the book; some critics said the film's plot was an improvement over the source material.[7][8]

Plot[edit]

In 2045, people seek regular escape from life through the virtual reality entertainment universe OASIS, co-created by James Halliday and Ogden Morrow of Gregarious Games. After Halliday's death, a pre-recorded message left by his avatar Anorak announces a game, granting ownership of OASIS to the first to find the Golden Easter egg within it which is locked behind a gate requiring three keys. The contest has lured a number of ‘gunters’, or egg hunters, and the interest of Nolan Sorrento, the CEO of Innovative Online Industries (IOI) who seeks to control OASIS himself. IOI uses a number of indentured servants and employees called "Sixers" to find the egg.[a]

Wade Watts is an orphaned teenager living in the slums, or ‘stacks’, of Columbus, Ohio, with his Aunt Alice. In the OASIS, his avatar, Parzival, is best friends with Aech, a virtual mechanic. One day, Parzival befriends Art3mis, a well-known Gunter, sharing a common interest in Halliday's history. They review Halliday's life from the Archives with help of its Curator. They learn Halliday had several regrets in life, including his unrequited love for Morrow’s wife Kira and losing Morrow as a friend after forcing him to sign away his part of Gregarious Games. Using this information, they solve the first two challenges of Anorak's game: a car race across an ever-shifting Manhattan cityscape and a search for Kira in the Overlook Hotel from The Shining. Aech and his friends Daito and Sho follow suit, the five becoming known as the "High Five" on the OASIS scoreboards.

Sorrento learns of Parzival's identity through OASIS mercenary i-R0k, and attempts to sway Wade into joining IOI, but he refuses. In retaliation, Sorrento has IOI's head of operations F'Nale Zandor bomb Wade's stack, killing Alice. Art3mis' player, Samantha Cook, rescues Wade, but they are soon found by IOI. Samantha is captured and forced into IOI's servitude, while Wade is extracted by the other High Five – Helen (Aech), Toshiro (Daito), and Zhou (Sho). The group tracks down Samantha's location at IOI, and they remotely help her escape, allowing her to assist them in the OASIS as Art3mis.

The third challenge requires one to play Halliday's favorite Atari 2600 game, in a castle on Planet Doom, which Sorrento has protected with a force field. Parzival recruits other OASIS players to help the rebels attack the IOI forces around the castle. Art3mis deactivates the force field, allowing Parzival to reach the console, but Sorrento activates the Cataclyst, a bomb that kills all the avatars on Planet Doom. However, due to having won a coin from the Archive's Curator earlier, Parzival gets an extra life, proceeding to play through Adventure to find its Easter egg; he is awarded the last key. Opening the gate, he is greeted by Anorak and given a contract to sign; however, he recognizes it as the same contract Morrow signed to turn over his part of Gregarious and refuses. Anorak changes forms to be Halliday, revealing that the contract was the final test to make sure Parzival would not make the same mistakes he did. Parzival is given the Golden Egg and control of OASIS.

In the real world, Sorrento and Zandor fail to stop Parzival before he wins; they are quickly arrested for the bombing. Morrow, revealed to have been the Curator, offers his services to Wade; he gladly accepts. Wade decides to run OASIS with the other High Five, agreeing to ban IOI from forcing people into servitude and to shut down the OASIS twice a week for everyone to spend more time in the real world. Meanwhile, he and Samantha move into an apartment together.

Cast[edit]

  • Tye Sheridan as Wade Watts / Parzival, a Gunter who wishes to win so he can leave the stacks.
  • Olivia Cooke as Samantha Cook / Art3mis, a well-known Gunter who works with various allies to ensure the OASIS is kept free and out of the hands of IOI, both inside the game and in real life.
  • Ben Mendelsohn as Nolan Sorrento, the CEO of Innovative Online Industries who seeks full control over the OASIS.
  • Lena Waithe as Helen Harris / Aech, a Gunter and long-time friend of Wade's who works as a mechanic in the OASIS.
  • T.J. Miller as i-R0k, a freelance dealer and mercenary often employed by IOI. He shares his name with a character from the novel, but is otherwise unrelated.
  • Simon Pegg as Ogden Morrow / the Curator , a co-creator of the OASIS, who eventually left the company. He is concerned about how many people have developed an unhealthy dependency on the game.
  • Mark Rylance as James Halliday / Anorak , the deceased co-creator of the OASIS who reveals an Easter Egg hidden in the OASIS after his passing that grants control over the OASIS to its winner.
  • Philip Zhao as Zhou / Sho, a Chinese Gunter and one of the "High Five". He is based upon Akihide "Shoto" Karatsu, a Japanese gunter featured in the novel.
  • Win Morisaki as Toshiro / Daito, a Gunter and one of the "High Five".
  • Hannah John-Kamen as F'Nale Zandor, IOI’s head of operations in the physical world and for their indentured servant programs.[9]

Additionally, Susan Lynch portrays Alice, Wade's aunt; Ralph Ineson portrays Rick, Alice's abusive boyfriend; Perdita Weeks portrays Karen "Kira" Underwood, Morrow's wife; and Clare Higgins portrays Mrs. Gilmore, Wade's neighbor.

Production[edit]

Development[edit]

Warner Bros. and De Line Pictures won an auction for the rights to Ernest Cline's novel Ready Player One in 2010, before it had been published.[10] Cline was set to write the script for the film, which Donald De Line and Dan Farah would produce.[10] Eric Eason rewrote Cline's script,[11] and Zak Penn was hired to rewrite the previous drafts by Cline and Eason. Village Roadshow Pictures came aboard to co-finance and co-produce the film with Warner Bros.[12] Steven Spielberg signed on to direct and produce the film, which Kristie Macosko Krieger also produced, along with De Line and Farah.[13] Ready Player One is Spielberg's first action-fantasy film since The Adventures of Tintin in late 2011.[14] Cline and Penn made several revisions while adapting the novel to film. Most of these changes were to eliminate scenes that would be uninteresting in a visual format, such as when Wade beats a high score in Pac-Man, or recites all the lines from the film WarGames.[15][16]

Casting[edit]

Director Steven Spielberg (far left) and Ernest Cline with the cast of Ready Player One at San Diego Comic-Con. From third of left: Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, T.J. Miller and Ben Mendelsohn

Three actresses were top-runners for the role of Art3mis: Elle Fanning, Olivia Cooke, and Lola Kirke;[17] In September 2015, Cooke was announced as having been cast in the coveted female lead role. In January 2016, Ben Mendelsohn joined the cast.[18] In February 2016, Tye Sheridan was confirmed as playing the lead role of Wade, after a lengthy nationwide casting call failed to produce an unknown for the part.[19] In March 2016, Simon Pegg joined the cast.[20] In April 2016, Mark Rylance joined the cast,[21] and in June 2016, T.J. Miller, Hannah John-Kamen and Win Morisaki also joined.[22][23][24][25] In July 2016, Philip Zhao joined the cast,[26] and Lena Waithe, Ralph Ineson, McKenna Grace, and Letitia Wright were later also announced to have been cast.[27][28][29][30]

Filming[edit]

Production was set to begin in July 2016.[23] Screenwriter Zak Penn tweeted on July 1, 2016 that the first week of filming had been completed.[31] In August and September 2016, filming took place in Birmingham, England; this included Livery Street in the Jewellery Quarter area of the city, which was extensively used, including the van chase that takes place towards the film's end. The chase was edited to make the street appear longer than it actually is. The backpackers hostel Hatters, also on Livery Street, was used for internal filming for a basement scene. The Ludgate Hill Car Park lot on Lionel Street, in which caravan homes were partially built was also used and a planned explosion there caused some local business and homes to call emergency services, as no prior notification were given by the production team. Other locations in the city included the former industrial area of Digbeth, in a rooftop scene that overlooks the Birmingham City Centre skyline. Some of the city's landmark buildings were erased and replaced with CGI buildings to create a dystopian Ohio in the year 2045.[32][33] Principal photography ended on September 27, 2016.[34][35]

Visual effects and post-production[edit]

Spielberg worked with Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) to oversee the film's visual effects, meeting with ILM for 3 hours three times a week.[35] He has stated that "[t]his is the most difficult movie I've done since Saving Private Ryan."[35]

A significant part of the film takes place in a virtual space based on the Overlook Hotel in the film The Shining. This was mostly a digital recreation of the film using high-quality telecine of the original film, giving them some freedom of new camera angles and shots that could be generated from this recreation. The final film includes a combination of the original footage from The Shining and ILM's additional work. Only a few scenes in this sequence which involved real actors, such as the appearance of the Grady twins, required them to construct a faithful reproduction of The Shining's set for the actors to interact with. Finally, the sequence was post-processed to introduce film grain and other aging effects to make the new footage indistinguishable from the original film.[36]

ILM also had to faithfully produce digital recreations of several of the cultural references that appear throughout the film, including the DeLorean time machine, the Iron Giant, Chucky, and King Kong that was modeled after the 1933 version of the character.[37] The Tyrannosaurus rex from Jurassic Park was also recreated using the same base model that ILM had previously created during the original film production.[37]

Cultural references[edit]

Ready Player One, as in the book, pays homage to popular culture from various time periods, mainly the 1970s and 1980s but also extending to the 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s; reviewers have identified well over a hundred references to films, television shows, music, toys, video games, anime and comics from these eras.[38][39][40] Cline did not have any issues with these copyrighted elements when he published the book, but was aware that securing all necessary rights would be a major obstacle for a film adaptation. This task was eventually made easier thanks to Spielberg's reputation in the film industry.[15] Spielberg and producer Kristie Macosko Krieger spent several years securing the rights for the copyrighted elements used in the film long before filming began, knowing that some scenes would not be possible without certain copyrighted elements.[41][42] In the end, Spielberg estimated that they managed to get about 80% of the copyrighted elements they wanted[15], noting that in some cases, the filmmakers were able to secure rights for some but not all the characters they wanted. In negotiating with Warner Bros., they could not secure Close Encounters of the Third Kind from Columbia Pictures, despite the latter being one of Spielberg's first films as director.[43]

Blade Runner, which was integral to the plot of the book, was off-limits as Blade Runner 2049 was in production at the same time as Ready Player One; as a replacement, the creative team had the players play through the events of The Shining, which Spielberg was able to secure the rights to as an homage to his friend Stanley Kubrick.[15] While Cline's original work heavily used the character of Ultraman, the rights over the character were still under legal dispute, requiring them to replace Ultraman with the titular robot from The Iron Giant and RX-78-2 Gundam.[44] Spielberg recognized that his past films were a significant part of the 1980s popular culture cited in the book, and to avoid being accused of "vanity", he opted to remove many of the references to his own work.[45] Cline stated that he believed Spielberg wanted to avoid self-references to films he directed, due to the criticism he received for his film 1941, which lampooned his own previous works Jaws and Duel. Cline said he had to convince Spielberg to include some iconic elements, such as the DeLorean time machine from Back to the Future, which Spielberg conceded as the film was one he produced rather than directed.[46] Spielberg also allowed the Tyrannosaurus rex from his own Jurassic Park to be included.[37] Cline also asked ILM to include a reference to Last Action Hero, one of Penn's first screenplays, without Penn's knowledge.[47]

Music[edit]

On June 9, 2016, Variety stated that Spielberg's regular collaborator John Williams was planning to compose the film's score.[48] However, in July 2017, it was reported that Williams had left the project to work on Spielberg's The Post instead, with Alan Silvestri hired to take over scoring duties for Ready Player One.[49] The official score was released by WaterTower Music as a two-CD set on March 30, 2018,[50] with vinyl and cassette releases projected for the summer.[51] At Spielberg's request, Silvestri references his own music from Back to the Future within the film's score, as well as quoting the music by Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind from The Shining for the film's sequence at the Overlook Hotel.[52]

The film also includes licensed music from the 1970s and 1980s, which appears on the digital-only soundtrack album Ready Player One: Songs from the Motion Picture.

Release[edit]

Ready Player One was initially scheduled to be released on December 15, 2017,[53] but was pushed back to March 30, 2018, to avoid competition with Star Wars: The Last Jedi.[54] In January 2018, it was announced the film's release date had been moved up one day to March 29, 2018.[55] The film had its world premiere at the Paramount Theatre in Austin, Texas on March 11, 2018 (as part of the South by Southwest Film Festival).[4]

Warner Bros. Pictures distributed the film worldwide, with Village Roadshow Pictures distributing in several overseas territories.[56]

Home media[edit]

Ready Player One was released on digital copy on July 3, 2018, and on 4K UHD Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, Blu-Ray, and DVD on July 24, 2018.[57] The film debuted at the top of the NPD VideoScan First Alert chart for the week ending on July 27, 2018.[58] It retained the No. 1 spot on the chart for the week ending on August 4, 2018.[59]

Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

Ready Player One has grossed $137 million in the United States and Canada, and $445.2 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $582.2 million.[6] Made on a production budget of $175 million, with about $150 million more spent on global marketing costs, the film needed to gross at least $440 million in order to break-even.[60]

North America[edit]

In the United States and Canada, Ready Player One was released alongside God's Not Dead: A Light in Darkness and Acrimony, and was projected to gross $40–50 million from 4,100 theaters over its first four days.[61] It made $12.1 million on its first day, including $3.75 million from Wednesday night previews. It ended up grossing $41.8 million in its opening weekend (for a four-day total of $53.7 million), marking Spielberg's biggest debut since 2008's Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.[62] In its second weekend it grossed $25.1 million (a drop of 40%), finishing second behind newcomer A Quiet Place ($50 million).[63] In its third weekend the film made $11.2 million, coming in fourth behind Rampage, A Quiet Place and Blumhouse's Truth or Dare.[64] In its fourth weekend the film made $7.4 million, finishing sixth at the box office [65] In its fifth weekend it grossed $2.4 million, a drop of 67% from previous weekend and finishing ninth.[66]

Other territories[edit]

Worldwide, the film was released day-in-date in 62 countries, including China, where it was expected to make $100–120 million in its opening weekend.[61] It grossed $2.9 million on its first day from 11 countries, including $980,000 from Korea.[67] In China the film made $14.75 million on its first day and earned a score of 9.2 from audiences on Douban (compared to the average 6–7 earned by Hollywood films).[60] It grossed $61.7 million in China in its opening weekend which is the highest opening ever for Warner Bros in said territory. The film's other major opening weekend territories were South Korea ($8.1 million), United Kingdom ($7.3 million), Russia ($6.1 million) and France ($6 million).[68] In its second weekend in China it grossed $42 million, and in third weekend grossed $13.9 million.[69][70] The film grossed $81.7 million in its second weekend overseas, dropping only 35% and is ahead of other newcomers A Quiet Place and Blockers.[69] In its third weekend it grossed $33.8 million overseas dropping 58.6%.[70] On April 21, 2018, the film topped $200 million in China, becoming the tenth-biggest U.S. release ever in the country.[71] In its fourth weekend in China, it grossed $8.24 million finishing third at the box office and has a total gross of $207 million.[72] It grossed $23 million overseas from 67 territories in its fourth weekend.[73] It opened in Japan, its final major market and grossed $4.4 million.[73] In its fifth weekend overseas, it grossed $8.6 million from 63 territories.[74] In China, the weekend was $2.4M to push it past Avatar as the no. 9 Hollywood title ever in the market with $213.8M (RMB 1.34B).[74] Japan's third frame held well during Golden Week with just a 6% drop from the last session. The total there is currently at $17.5M.[75] In its sixth weekend in China, it bumped up 10% from last session to lift the local cume to $220.2M.[75] The film's largest markets after China are Japan ($23.4 million), United Kingdom ($21.3 million), France ($21.5 million), South Korea ($18.6 million), and Russia-CIS ($13.1 million).[76]

Critical response[edit]

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 72% based on 353 reviews, and an average rating of 6.9/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Ready Player One is a sweetly nostalgic thrill ride that neatly encapsulates Spielberg's strengths while adding another solidly engrossing adventure to his filmography."[77] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 64 out of 100, based on 54 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[78] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale, while PostTrak reported filmgoers gave it an 82% overall positive score and a 65% "definite recommend".[60]

In a review for RogerEbert.com, Brian Tallerico wrote that the film's "overwhelming" nature and non-stop action will likely thrill fans of pop culture; while he observed narrative weaknesses, such as a lack of depth among the supporting characters, he felt that they ultimately do not hinder the film from working "on the level of technical, blockbuster mastery that Spielberg helped define".[79] Writing for Variety, Owen Gleiberman called the film a "coruscating explosion of pop-culture eye candy", and found the sequence based on The Shining to be "irresistible". However, he also criticized Spielberg's dichotomization of fantasy and reality, as well as the film having "more activity than it does layers".[80] IndieWire's Eric Kohn characterized the film as "an astonishing sci-fi spectacle and a relentless nostalgia trip at once" and praised both the sequence based on The Shining as well as Penn's screenplay, particularly with respect to Mendelsohn's character. Nevertheless, he remarked that the film "drags a bunch in its final third".[81]

Alissa Wilkinson, writing for Vox, praised both the quality and quantity of the world building. She also commented on just how dystopian the future portrayed is, where the main characters fight to save the OASIS and the escape from reality it represents, with arguably less concern for the problems of the real world.[82]

Monica Castillo was more critical of the film in her review for The Guardian and drew attention to the absence of character arcs, the lack of resolution for plot holes in the novel, and the bloating of scenes in the film by trivia.[83] Matt Bobkin scored the film a 6 out of 10 for Exclaim! saying the film "is not so much a groundbreaking recontextualizing, more doe-eyed affection with no critical commentary".[84] Movie Metropolis noted that the film "is an absolute thrill-ride from start to finish and is pure Spielberg in the very best way" and awarded it 4 out of 5 stars.[85]

Film and television critic Matt Zoller Seitz praised Ready Player One and noted the undercurrent of sadness present in the film, stating that "I don't think Spielberg gets enough credit for making sad films that most people interpret as happy, and complex films that are immediately dismissed as simple or confused".[86][87][88] Seitz concluded that the film "is a mess, but it is a fascinating and complex one..."[89]

Possible sequel[edit]

Cline is working on a sequel to the novel.[90] For a sequel to the film, he stated, "[...] I think there's a good chance that, if this one does well, Warner Bros. will want to make a sequel. I don't know if Steven [Spielberg] would want to dive back in, because he would know what he is getting into. He's said that it's the third-hardest film he's made, out of dozens and dozens of movies".[91][92] Co-star Olivia Cooke, and presumably the rest of the cast, is "contracted to sequels".[93]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ IOI employees are called Sixers because their employee IDs are six digits long and begin with the number 6

References[edit]

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