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READY PLAYER ONE
4K Ultra HD Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, T.J. Miller, Simon Pegg, Mark Rylance
Director: Steven Spielberg
Audio: Dolby Atmos-TrueHD, DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 140 Minutes
Release Date: July 24, 2018

I’ve never seen The Shining. Is it really scary?”

Uh, I had to watch it...through my fingers.”

Film ***1/2

Over the past several years, it seemed as though Steven Spielberg’s days of making the larger than life cinematic spectacles that made him a household name were long behind him. There are many possible reasons for this; the most reasonable being either A) he’s long been a filmmaker who can do whatever movie he wants and chooses to do more serious themed films, or B) maybe he feels that he simply doesn’t have it in him to pull off the huge thrill ride of a movie he was once associated with.

With Ready Player One, not only does the 71 year old Spielberg prove that he’s still very much got it in terms of pulling off a major spectacle of a movie, but he proves he can make one that’s just as enthralling (and in some cases, even better) than some of the popular blockbusters he’s known for. What makes this an even special case is that the movie is littered with endless appearances of characters and nods to aspects to pop culture, many of which Spielberg himself is responsible for helping to create in some shape or from. So who better to direct this project, right?

Based on the popular novel by Ernest Cline, the movie tells of a futuristic world that is nearly undone by overwhelming poverty. The only way to escape this harsh reality lies within the OASIS, a virtual reality landscape where people enter simply to get lost in. Under the guise of an avatar, anyone can become the very person they aren’t in the real world and take part in a world dominated by popular characters from every aspect of pop culture.

And trust me when I say that there are many familiar faces in just about every frame of this movie, so much so that I’m going to have to re-watch it to take notice of all the ones I missed in the background. But for starters, we are treated to appearances from the likes of King Kong, The Iron Giant, Batman, Chucky, Freddy Kruger and a T-Rex that could very much be an escapee from Jurassic Park. Pretty much, every popular character you know or heard of is in this universe with the exception of those from Star Wars, and that’s because it was the only property the filmmakers couldn’t obtain the rights to.

The man who created the OASIS, James Halliday (Mark Rylance), has died and left his players with an amazing proposition. Within the realm of his gaming creation, Halliday has placed a series of puzzles in which the goal is to obtain a series of keys and an Easter egg. Whoever collects them will be given control of Halliday’s company, whose monetary value is endless.

Destined to win the top prize is Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), who isn’t just a devoted gamer but someone who has lived by Halliday’s philosophy. Under his avatar, Parzival, he roams the virtual landscape in search of the coveted Easter egg. Standing in his way is Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), a ruthless CEO of a rival tech company looking to claim the egg for himself.

Motion capture and the visual effects associated with it have come a long way since Robert Zemeckis first toyed with the process in The Polar Express. Even Spielberg tried it out with The Adventures of Tintin. With this movie, though, the results have never looked more flawless and remarkable, as it helps bring the world of the OASIS to pure vivid life!

And in terms of making nods to pop culture, I haven’t even touched upon the movie’s most unexpected and mind-blowing sequence, which involves an entire re-creation of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining which has to be seen to be believed. We all know Spielberg was enormously fond of Kubrick, having brought the director’s desired project Artificial Intelligence to the screen, so watching this sequence unfold was nothing short of mesmerizing, as well as hilarious in spots.

Ready Player One is every bit as fun and overwhelming as it sounds. It’s really great to see Steven Spielberg harken back to his blockbuster era, while at the same time fascinating considering there are so many nods and references here to elements that he helped to establish. It’s an astonishing and enthralling visual spectacle and one of the year’s best entertainments!

Video ****

It’s a no brainer that a movie with this sort of visual landscape would excel in a 4K Ultra HD release. Warner has done a flat out amazing job here. Once you are plunged into the OASIS, get ready to be floored by the magnificent rendering of the whole environment, not to mention the skin texture detail during close up shots of the avatars. The movie gives us so much to soak in, especially in the action scenes, and all of it is displayed in jaw-dropping form. This is one of the best looking releases of this or any year!

Audio ****

Accompanying the grand video presentation is one hell of an audio handling as well. The Dolby Atmos mix perfectly delivers the action and effects in a way that brings this entire universe to an even more enthralling level. There is so much for this presentation to work with, including the countless zips of lasers and whooshing of cars and cycles associated with the chaotic action bits…all of which backed up by a fantastic sounding score by Alan Silvestri. Dialogue delivery sounds great and is balanced out terrifically with the other sound proceedings.

Features ***

Given that Warner seems to be a bit slim on extras for most of their releases, they have delivered an improvement this time around. All extras are located on the standard Blu-ray disc, which includes multiple featurettes starting with “Game Changer: Cracking the Code”, which is nearly an hour long and covers all aspects of the production. There’s also “The 80s: You’re the Inspiration”, which features author Ernest Cline and various cast and crew members fondness of the decade that gave birth to many of the characters seen here. In addition, there’s “Effects for a Brave New World”, which delves into the extreme effects work, “Level Up: Sound for the Future” focuses on the sound design, “High Score: Endgame” takes a look at composer Alan Silvestri’s work on the film, and “Ernie & Tye’s Excellent Adventure” features a fun conversation between author Ernest Cline and actor Tye Sheridan.

Summary:

Ready Player One is pure visual spectacle combined with a storytelling heart. In other words, it’s pure Steven Spielberg! If you have 4K Ultra HD access, then you should not hesitate to add this movie to your collection, as it will very much be one of the defining titles for the format!

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