Ready Player One

Nostalgia is a huge business. Rose-coloured glasses are never in short supply as people look back with fondness on at least one aspect of their lives. Movies are no different with a plethora of celluloid product indulging in our craving for yesteryear. Directed by the master of cinematic melancholy Steven Spielberg, ‘Ready Player One’ is steeped in 1980’s-style retro glory. Based on Ernest Cline’s novel, those who grew up in that decade will be in nirvana as its characters take a trip through a catalogue of neon-infused memories.

In the future, most of humanity escapes into a computerised haven called Oasis. An on-line place where anyone can control their destiny, its power is immense. One player, Wade (Tye Sheridan), takes up a challenge set by Oasis founder James (Mark Rylance). Creating a competition for those who complete difficult obstacles with the winner gaining a fortune and total control of Oasis, James seeks a worthy heir. Wade dives into the virtual world presenting its own threats as the world’s future hangs in the balance.

‘Ready Player One’ is a glossy movie full of CGI and action. Spielberg knows how to direct amazing action sequences with his flair in making them interesting clearly seen. He’s a cinematic magician who conjures new ways of putting characters in peril with the ‘on-line world’ giving him licence to push imaginative boundaries. Infused with themes of humanity’s increasing reliance on machines and how they isolate people, ‘Ready Player One’ seems a natural for a fast-paced diverting time. That it isn’t is due to poor characterisation and story.

Apart from Ben Mendelsohn’s role as an evil corporate genius, none of the other characters register as they are all bland cut-outs which the on-line versions of themselves only highlight. Had more time been spent on exploring their ‘real world’ and how it came to be such a wasteland, ‘Ready Player One’ may have had more depth. Despite Spielberg’s presence, he fails to fully put his unique identity on it as it relies on nostalgia done by others. This then turns the last act into a mess with non-stop pop culture references plus the endless battle for control of Oasis becoming boring.

Whilst providing a visual feast, ‘Ready Player One’ is a lesser entry in Spielberg’s film catalogue. Had it been handled by another director who doesn’t have the weight of high expectations, the film may have been better. It offers a lot of surface thrills, but underneath the CGI, ‘Ready Player One’ has little to sustain the nostalgic longevity it lovingly displays.

Rating out of 10: 6

Pacific Rim Uprising

In a year already filled with endless sequels, ‘Pacific Rim Uprising’ serves to remind that it’s going to be a long 12 months. Original ideas appear to be in short supply in Hollywood, with money-men apparently in charge of the studios. If a movie makes a fortune, then the formula is copied as the countless franchises attest. Whether sequels are actually any good is another question although ‘Pacific Rim Uprising’ isn’t too terrible. Neither fish nor fowl, it should satisfy admirers of the first instalment even if the threat of a third outing lingers.

Jake Pentecost (John Boyega) is part of an elite force ready to combat any alien threat. Part of the high-tech Jaeger program, Jake’s friends include Nate (Scott Eastwood) and Amara (Callee Spaeny). When evil sea creatures, the Kaiju, rise from the surface hell-bent on destruction, it’s up to Jake and the team to defeat them. With a rogue Jaeger working against them, their efforts are made harder with time running out before earth meets a deadly fate.

‘Pacific Rim Uprising’ is a very generic monster/robot movie filled with CGI wizardry. It’s certainly a spectacle with plenty of sequences featuring robotic warriors battling beasties from other dimensions. The heroes are suitably virtuous and the villains are as wicked as expected. This familiarity provides a modicum of comforting escapism as it generally entertains even if it wears its predictability on its sleeve. The characters aren’t that memorable although Spaeny delivers spark as a determined teen eager to impress.

Directed with minimal flair by Steven S. DeKnight, ‘Pacific Rim Uprising’ is a by the numbers affair. The best one can say about it is that it’s rarely boring and provides mirth at the shoddy performances of most of the cast. Only the CGI offers awe-inspiring moments as one continues to marvel at the imaginative ways entire cities are blown to bits. ‘Pacific Rim Uprising’ is the toy box with the movie-makers bashing the monsters together on screen ensuring the audience have little chance of feeling drowsy.

‘Pacific Rim Uprising’ is reasonable hokum without being dazzling. Like a cinematic version of a pre-packaged meal, it’s easily digested but is quickly forgotten. Whether it receives another instalment remains to be seen but the plethora of sequels may see an uprising against banality. That uprising may be even more threatening than the creepy crawlies the film depicts.

Rating out of 10: 5