Action Adventure

‘Ready Player One’ 4K Review: Spielberg’s Nostalgia-Fueled, Pop Culture Adventure is Jaw-Dropping in Ultra HD

July 30, 2018Ben MK

With films like Jurassic Park and A.I. Artificial Intelligence under his belt, it goes without saying that Steven Spielberg knows a thing or two about stoking moviegoers' sense of awe and wonderment. And with Ready Player One, the legendary director proves he hasn't lost his touch.

The year is 2045, and the place is Columbus, Ohio, the fastest growing city in the world. Here, in a vertical trailer park of sorts called the Stacks, is where we're introduced to 18-year-old Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), who, like the majority of people in this futuristic dystopia, spends most of his time in the OASIS. A sprawling virtual reality world created by the late James Halliday (Mark Rylance), the OASIS is a fully immersive love letter to all things pop culture, and it's where players around the globe go to escape reality, competing with one another as their favorite movie, video game or comic book characters, all while trying not to "zero out" and lose all their coin. But while there's plenty of fun to be had in this digital playground, there's also more serious matters at hand.

When Halliday died, he left behind a challenge for everyone in the OASIS — an Easter egg, which, if found, would grant the finder total dominion over his entire creation, as well as his half-a-trillion dollars worth of stock in Gregarious Gaming, the company he co-founded with his former business partner, Ogden Morrow (Simon Pegg). But Wade (or Parzival, as he's known in the OASIS) and his fellow egg hunters (or "Gunters," for short) aren't the only ones on a mission. So is Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), the ruthless CEO of Innovative Online Industries, who wants to rule the OASIS so he can plaster players' HUDs with digital advertising and reap the ad revenue.

Based on the novel of the same name by Ernest Cline, who shares the screenwriting credits with Zak Penn, Ready Player One isn't just a monumental technical achievement; it's also a quintessentially Spielbergian filmgoing experience. From the emotional journey wrapped up in a layer of dazzling visuals, to the sense of shared wonder and kinship viewers will feel with the movie's protagonists, to the themes of family and belonging that are threaded throughout the story, there's much to admire about Ready Player One, and even more to love when you watch it a second time around — as you inevitably will.

Ready Player One on 4K delivers an experience just as immersive as virtual reality, thanks to a pristine 2160p video encode and a robust HDR color palette. Whether it's the film's futuristic vision of America's Midwest, a chaotic battle on Planet Doom, or a flawless recreation of The Shining's Overlook Hotel, image quality is razor-sharp and crystal-clear, allowing viewers to pick out the numerous Easter eggs found throughout the movie, such as the Battle Toads, He-Man, and Hello Kitty, Keroppi and Badtz-Maru. Meanwhile, the disc's Dolby Atmos sound mix is equally enthralling, from the music of Van Halen, Blondie and Twisted Sister, to the roars of King Kong and a T-Rex, to the engine revving of a DeLorean and Kaneda's motorcycle from Akira.

Warner's two-disc 4K Ultra HD release includes an UltraViolet/Movies Anywhere digital copy and a Blu-ray copy of the film. There are no special features on the 4K disc, but the following extras can be found on the Blu-ray:

  • The '80s: You're the Inspiration (5:38) - A look at why author/co-screenwriter Ernest Cline chose to anchor Ready Player One's pop culture references in the 1980s, as well as some of the movies and TV shows from that decade that influenced the film.
  • Game Changer: Cracking the Code (57:22) - A making-of documentary that examines the origins of the book, the challenges of adapting it for a feature film, the casting, the production and costume design, shooting for the virtual world and filming in the real world, recreating key scenes and locales from The Shining, and the stunts.
  • Effects for a Brave New World (24:39) - A behind-the-scenes look at the creation of Ready Player One's visual effects, from the character design, to the process of creating the movie's virtual worlds, to augmenting the real-world footage and sets digitally.
  • Level Up: Sound for the Future (8:03) - Supervising Sound Designer Gary Rydstrom and Sound Designer Kyrsten Mate talks about their work on the film, from altering Lena Waithe's voice to match the look of her avatar, to recreating the distinctive sounds of Back to the Future's DeLorean, Ripley's pulse rifle from Aliens and the colonial revolver from Battlestar Galactica.
  • High Score: Endgame (10:04) - Composer Alan Silvestri discusses his work on developing the score for the movie, and he and Ernest Cline share their mutual adoration of one another's work.
  • Ernie & Tye's Excellent Adventure (12:00) - Ernest Cline and Tye Sheridan talk working on the film together, the road to making the movie, and '80s movie trivia.

Ready Player One is available from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment as of July 24th, 2018. The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray features English Dolby Atmos, English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, and English Dolby Digital 5.1 Descriptive Audio tracks. The film is presented with English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles. The total runtime is 2 hrs. 20 min.

* Reviewer's note: Portions of this 4K Blu-ray review were adapted from my original review of the theatrical release, published on March 28th, 2018.

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