I gotta admit, when Ready Player One was released in cinemas I didn’t see it. I read the reviews and observed what was being said on social media, and it was very polarising. People either loved it or hated it, with no middle ground.
Having now watched Ready Player One on 4K Blu-ray (on multiple occasions), I would like to unashamedly admit that I am a fan of this movie. Maybe it’s the constant pop-culture references that appeal to the uber-nerd in me, or the gorgeous 4K presentation. Maybe it’s just the way Steven Spielberg makes the ludicrous passable. Whatever it is, I like it, so much so that I’ll probably go and watch it again tonight.
Ready Player One is based on the book of the same name by Ernest Cline. Set in a hopeless and trash-filled future that Wall-E would love, everyone escapes into the virtual-reality world of the OASIS. Everyone, and I mean everyone, uses the Oasis, where anything goes and everything is possible. The creator, James Halliday, left Easter eggs inside his creation after his death, which will allow the finder to take control of the company, inherit all of his riches, and shape the future of the Oasis. For the past five years people have tried and failed to find even the first piece of the puzzle and many have given up.
Wade Watts (or Parzival as he’s known online) and his e-buddies refuse to surrender, and continue trying to find these secrets, solve the puzzles, and get the keys that will bazillions of dollars. Of course, when something like this is up for grabs you’re going to have a big corporate trying to get in on the action so IOI and all their hired nerds are trying to solve the puzzles too. Off we go on what is a colourful, vibrant adventure that tries to break the record for most pop culture references in a couple of hours (and probably succeeds). The story isn’t masterfully written but it all inexplicably manages to work. It’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but if there is even half a geek inside you then the references along are going to keep you interested.
If ever there was a movie crying out to showcase what 4K UHD Blu-ray can offer, it’s Ready Player One. At times the presentation reaches spectacular heights, though at other times it is hard to distinguish from the Blu-ray. That comes down to one major thing; the movie was shot at 2.8K, mastered at 2K, then upscaled to 4K for this release. Whenever you go from a lower res and upscale it, you are going to end up with a presentation that isn’t quite as good a 4K blu-ray as one sourced from a 4K master. This 4K presentation comes with both Dolby Vision and HDR10. I don’t have a TV capable of Dolby Vision, but the Samsung we use is more than capable of dominating with HDR10.
The visuals of Ready Player One really shine when Wade takes on his character of Parzival inside the OASIS. HDR allows the bright, vibrancy to jump off the screen and fill your lounge with a colour radiancy that is simply stunning to look at.This is where the 4K HDR presentation shines, by bringing the OASIS to life and drawing you in to this virtual world, getting caught up in everything it has to offer. It is in sharp contrast to the drab and over-populated reality that Wade and co live in. Up close shots show great texture with refined, if at times overly subtle, uptick in detail over the Blu-ray version. Blacks are intense, but don’t end up getting crushed and the lens flare is intense without being overpowering.
This 4K Blu-ray presentation is an improvement over the Blu-ray, that falls just a tad short of reference quality but manages to impress at numerous times throughout the film.
Dolby Atmos is here so if you have Dolby Atmos then kudos to you, you’re probably in for a treat. I don’t have Atmos, so I’m afraid I can’t shed any light on what that soundtrack is like. What I can say is that in 5.1 surround sound, Ready Player One rocks. The soundstage is amply filled, although bass is at times a tad underwhelming. What shines through is that even when the film reaches its most intense points, the sound quality remains clear and distinct, without everything feeling like it was thrown into a washing machine of sound.
Ready Player One is a wild pop-culture romp in the park that will fill any nerd with nostalgia. It isn’t for everyone, but it is a fun film that reaches its best moments in 4K inside the OASIS. Throw this one in your 4K Blu-ray player, sit back, and enjoy hearing some sweet 80’s tunes and getting all nostalgic.
Ready Player One was reviewed on the Samsung Q9F 65 inch 4K TV with the Xbox One X. Read our full review of the movie here.