Ready Player One (4K Blu-ray) (2018)

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Released 4-Jul-2018

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Adventure None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2018
Running Time 139:57
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Steven Spielberg
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Tye Sheridan
Olivia Cooke
Ben Mendelsohn
Lena Waithe
T.J. Miller
Simon Pegg
Mark Rylance
Philip Zhao
Win Morisaki
Hannah John-Kamen
Ralph Ineson
Susan Lynch
Clare Higgins
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $39.95 Music Alan Silvestri


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Atmos
English Dolby TrueHD 7.1
English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Italian DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Czech Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 2160p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
Arabic
Portuguese
Chinese
French
Cantonese
Czech
Danish
Finnish
Hungarian
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Korean
Spanish
Norwegian
French
Polish
Romanian
Russian
Swedish
Thai
Turkish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

††† Steven Spielbergís first major action blockbuster in some time, Ready Player One reaffirms the filmmakerís status as one of modern cinemaís most reliable creators of big-screen spectacles. With Spielberg dedicating much of the last few years to historical dramas (Bridge of Spies, The Post), itís encouraging to see him switch gears to adapt Ernest Clineís best-selling 2011 novel of the same name. Imaginative and hugely entertaining, Ready Player One is a perfect fit for Spielbergís sensibilities, playing out like an homage to the maestroís old works (both as a producer and a director). Itís an exquisitely mounted action-adventure which joyously celebrates nostalgia and pop culture, peppered with a dizzying array of movie references and blockbuster iconography. Clineís novel took direct inspiration from Spielberg (even mentioning his name), which makes it all the more exciting to see the man direct this adaptation himself.

††† The world is a dreary, poor place in the year 2045, which leads citizens to immerse themselves in the freeware virtual reality universe known as the OASIS, where people can do anything, be anyone, and go anywhere. Prior to the death of OASIS co-founder James Halliday (Mark Rylance) in 2040, he masterminded an Easter egg hunt for total control over the game and his vast fortune, hiding three keys within the enormous digital fantasyland that are won through various challenges. In Ohio, orphaned teenager Wade (Tye Sheridan) lives with his aunt (Susan Lynch) in a makeshift tower of mobile homes known as the stacks, logging into the OASIS under the gamertag Parzival. Wade dreams of winning Hallidayís challenge, researching everything there is to know about the man and pouring through hundreds of hours of archival recordings for clues. Wade receives support in the game from pals Aech (Lena Waithe), Daito (Win Morisaki) and Sho (Philip Zhao), while the gang are soon joined by well-known player Art3mis (Olivia Cooke), whoís drawn to Wadeís enthusiasm and candour. However, their sudden success brings them to the attention of nefarious mega-corporation Innovative Online Industries (IOI), headed by Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn) who seeks to acquire the OASIS in order to turn it into a moneymaking, pay-for-play advertising machine, relying on a team of researchers as well as an army of gamers/slaves known as ďSixersĒ to solve the Easter egg hunt.

††† With a screenplay credited to Zak Penn (The Avengers) as well as Cline himself, Ready Player One takes substantial liberties with the source novel, representing a loose adaptation rather than a slavish page-to-screen translation. However, the film retains the novelís dark dystopian vision of the future, which draws incisive parallels with our world in 2018, adding power to the story. Little hyperbole is needed in the depiction of IOI, with Sorrento seeking to destroy something thatís precious to so many but he cannot appreciate - his team even calculates how many junk advertisements can fill a userís screen without triggering seizures. Indeed, such subtext makes Wadeís rebellion more relatable and potent. In addition, beyond the visual fireworks and head-turning cameos, Spielberg finds an emotional core in Halliday during the last act, with a simple but effective sequence which explores his backstory and reveals why he created the OASIS.

††† Furthermore, aside from a few expository lines that feel too on the nose, there is an appreciable spark of wit to the dialogue for the most part, making Ready Player One feel like more than just another witless blockbuster. Admittedly, the screenplay does make a big deal about the fact that Sorrento is a corporate scumbag without an appreciation for pop culture, and one might assume that his obedient army of Sixers will be defeated by Wade and his crew because they are real fanboys/fangirls who know a key secret that eludes IOI... But the movie simply climaxes with a run-of-the-mill big battle sequence, the outcome of which is dependant on fighting abilities and weapons. However, Wadeís pop culture knowledge does give him an edge during Hallidayís challenges, so this is not a huge deal. Nevertheless, itís not clear how apparently every player around the world seems to know advanced martial arts, or how they can control how high or long they wish to jump at any given time.

††† Clineís novel was well-known for its litany of pop culture references, and this trait carries over into Spielbergís big-screen adaptation. The team behind Ready Player One must have spent time and money aplenty to clear intellectual property rights, as there are pop culture references galore throughout the picture - on top of mining from the extensive selection of IPs owned by Warner Bros., Ready Player One also references Back to the Future, Jurassic Park, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, Star Wars, Alien, Childís Play, John Hughes films, Japanese iconography, plus many more films, TV shows and even video games. A portion of the novel took place inside the film WarGames, but reportedly due to rights issues, this is changed for the big screen - instead, the characters venture into a 1980s horror film in a brilliant sequence that cannot be spoiled. Ultimately, the viewing experience of Ready Player One amounts to a vast visual treasure hunt for famous characters and vehicles - it may take years to unpack all the movieís hidden Easter eggs.

††† With Spielberg at the helm, Ready Player One is a sumptuous visual treat, making astute use of the reported $175 million budget. (A somewhat low figure given the quality of the production values). The world here feels lived-in and authentic, thanks to the superb production design and elaborate sets. Spielberg previously experimented with motion capture for 2011ís The Adventures of Tintin, which serves him well for the imaginative digital scenes set inside the OASIS. The tone is set relatively early with a mind-blowing vehicular race through the virtual streets of Manhattan, beset with obstacles ranging from wrecking balls to a Tyrannosaurus Rex, and even King Kong. The set-piece emanates a giddy sense of excitement and exhilaration, finding Spielberg taking full advantage of the possibilities of both a digital fantasyland and a virtual camera. Spielbergís touch throughout Ready Player One is valuable, with the filmmaker ensuring that the action sequences are fully comprehensible no matter the environment or scale. Meanwhile, the real-world sequences were shot by Spielbergís regular cinematographer Janusz Kamiński on 35mm film stock, creating a distinct aesthetic to separate it from the scenes inside the OASIS. Although an ostensibly small touch, itís appreciated to underscore the dreariness of the real world, while making everything look tangible - indeed, with a fine layer of film grain, digital effects often seamlessly integrate into the live-action footage. Moreover, despite a beefy 140-minute runtime, Spielberg keeps the picture light on its feet, maintaining a snappy pace as he works through the intricate narrative, creating an experience thatís ceaselessly entertaining.

††† Without regular composer John Williams, Ready Player Oneís flavoursome original score was engineered by the reliable Alan Silvestri (Avengers: Infinity War), and itís first-rate. Silvestriís compositions never seem generic, as the music constantly adds flavour and majesty. One beat even incorporates Max Steinerís recognisable theme from 1933ís King Kong. In addition, the movie is backed by a selection of retro tunes to further the vibe, from New Order to Van Halen and even a bit of Duran Duran. The thespian achievements of Ready Player One are not quite as noteworthy as the technical wizardry or the filmmaking acumen, but the acting is still effective right down the line. Mendelsohn (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) makes a positive impression as Sorrento, capably pulling off the Big Bad Guy routine as well as can be expected. Relative newcomers Sheridan and Cooke are both convincing in every frame, which adds necessary credibility to the central romantic pairing. Even T.J. Miller shows up here as an OASIS bounty hunter who tries his hardest to be a badass. Simon Pegg is also a total pleasure as the co-creator of the OASIS, while Rylance - Spielbergís new secret weapon - brings humanity, heart and gravitas to the role of Halliday. Spielberg originally sought Gene Wilder for the role of Halliday, which would have held great significance given the storyís deliberate similarities to Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. However, Rylance is still superb.

††† Ready Player One culminates with a tremendous battle sequence which pits virtually every user in the OASIS against Sorrentoís army of Sixers, and the subsequent visual buffet of characters is truly something to behold. Luckily, Spielberg never loses control of the movie, and although there are some dark themes about the possibilities of our future, the resulting experience is fun as hell. Ultimately, while this is an undeniably terrific Spielbergian blockbuster, just how much you respond to Ready Player One may depend on your fondness for all things pop culture - for my money, it hits all the right geeky notes.

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Transfer Quality

Video

††† Ready Player One arrives on 4K Blu-ray with a thoroughly gorgeous HEVC/H.265-encoded 2160p video presentation which leaves nothing to be desired. With the movie's beefy 140-minute runtime in mind, as well as the tremendous supply of available language options (there are far more audio tracks than I can include in the specs), Roadshow/Warner Bros. have thankfully made use of a triple-layered BD-100, allowing for plenty of breathing room and minimising the risk for compression artefacts. Technical information varies, but apparently Ready Player One was completed with a 2K digital intermediate, which presumably renders this Ultra HD presentation an "upscale." Nevertheless, this looks like a native 4K title, as the movie is highly textured and incredibly refined. Framed at 2.40:1 in keeping with its theatrical exhibition, Warner Bros. have also mastered the movie on disc with Dolby Vision High Dynamic Range, which should satisfy finicky videophiles (myself included). Of course, for those without the capacity to play DV on their equipment, the disc plays in regular old HDR10. (What's the difference, you may ask? DV is dynamic metadata, whereas HDR10 maintains the same settings throughout.) It's worth pointing out that, as per usual for Roadshow, the disc was authored overseas by Warner Bros. (ostensibly one disc for all countries) and does not feature an introductory Roadshow logo.

††† The very first shots of Ready Player One's 4K presentation left me breathless and gave me goosebumps, and this high quality carries over to the remainder of the movie. I could barely take my eyes off the screen. Free of the 1080p Blu-ray's compression, Ready Player One looks amazing with the benefit of better encoding and a higher bitrate. A BD Info scan reveals the total video bitrate to be 62.96 Mbps, which is well above average (and three times the bitrate of the 1080p Blu-ray). My Sony 4K player is also able to display the video bitrate at any given time, and at times the transfer was able to get as high as 85-90 Mbps, which is staggering. Clarity is flawless, while textures leap off the screen and fine detail never falters no matter the lighting conditions or environments. Facial close-ups reveal every possible skin intricacy, while clothing and environments are likewise impressive. The live-action material was filmed on 35mm to create a distinct aesthetic, and these shots look exceptional on this 4K disc. Grain is left in-tact, looking extremely fine, organic and unobtrusive, taking on the appearance of a native 4K presentation - the 35mm material must have been at least scanned at 4K, though I cannot be certain. Understandably, grain is (deliberately) heavier during the sequence which takes place inside a well-known '80s movie to properly blend with the original film footage. Nevertheless, the grain remains well-resolved, and serves to make the digital characters look better integrated into the world.

††† Admittedly, I found the 35mm footage to look more textured since there is an oh-so-slight smoothness to scenes set within the OASIS. There is no visible source noise to the OASIS scenes, which is unsurprising given that it's all CGI, but the subtle smoothness doesn't matter since this is a computer game. Furthermore, sharpness impresses in every frame, showing flawless object delineation and again surpassing the compressed standard Blu-ray. You can make out every level and window in wide shots of the stacks, while the ins and outs of the mechanical characters are rendered beautifully. The encode has been capably performed to boot, showing a high level of textures no matter the environment, and never displaying any bothersome encoding artefacts like banding, aliasing, macroblocking or black crush. The 35mm scenes also look utterly pristine, with no signs of even the most minor of print damage. Honestly, Ready Player One looks like a top-notch Sony encode, and that's the highest praise I can offer.

††† The Dolby Vision enhancements cannot be understated, representing another significant improvement over its SDR 1080p counterpart. Colours consistently leap off the screen, making the movie look almost three-dimensional at times, while contrast is improved, showing truer blacks. The palette isn't radically changed, however, and the presentation looks faithful to how it was exhibited in the cinema - the colours are just richer and more vibrant with added HDR. Scenes set in the real world still look dreary by design, but again the HDR makes it feel as if you're looking out a window. Highlights, too, look better compared to the 1080p Blu-ray, wringing out every last possible intricacy from the source. Ready Player One is another showcase for cinematographer Janusz Kamiński's trademark lighting techniques, not just in the real world but also in the OASIS, and the encode capably handles it. As to be expected, the Dolby Vision provides is slightly more balanced viewing experience compared to the HDR10 presentation, but I can't say you're missing out on too much if you're not DV-compatible. In short, Ready Player One is one of the best and most essential 4K titles currently on the market - it's certainly an all-time Top 5 4K disc, up there with Blade Runner 2049 and basically any Sony 4K catalogue title. It looks precisely as intended, and it's a pleasure to watch.

††† Heaps of subtitle options are available. I had no issues with the well-formatted English subtitle track.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

††† Ready Player One's 4K disc arrives with a generous selection of audio tracks to satisfy almost anyone. In addition to the primary English Dolby Atmos track, there are lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes in French, Latin Spanish, Portuguese, Czech, Hungarian, Polish (plus Polish voiceover), Russian, Thai, and Turkish. There is also an English Descriptive Audio track, and an Italian DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix. I was primarily interested in the Dolby Atmos track for the purposes of this review, which plays as a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 track if your equipment cannot decode Atmos. Bafflingly, once again Warner Bros. have included a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, which is the disc's default audio options - so be sure to select Atmos from the disc menu before viewing for the superior audio experience.

††† A BD Info scan implies that this is a 16-bit track as opposed to 24-bit, but this could be a scanner error because I could find no flaws or shortcomings with this mix. The movie sounded fantastic in the cinema with Atmos audio, and it translates to a demo-quality sound mix that excels in terms of dynamic range, clarity, subwoofer, and encoding. This is a wall-shaking Atmos track, and it boasts excellent prioritisation throughout - no matter how loud the action sequences are, you can always make out the dialogue thanks to astute mixing. The subwoofer, meanwhile, roars to life during the primary action set-pieces - from the car and motorbike engines during the race to explosions, as well as punches, kicks and weaponry. Nothing sounds hollow or lacking in impact, making for immersive viewing. Hell, I got so lost in the movie and didn't pay enough mind to the volume during the climax that I inadvertently woke up my housemate.

††† As to be expected from a lossless track, it sounds pristine and clear throughout, while the encoding itself is spotless - there is nothing in the way of pops, clicks, drop-outs or sync issues. At no point does the mix sound lacking, muffled or held back. The movie is also ideal fodder for showing off the capabilities of Atmos - although I only have a 7.1 set-up without overhead speakers, I was still blown away. Surround channels are consistently used throughout to ensure that the mix is immersive and all-encompassing, never sounding limited or compressed. Panning is effectively used when appropriate, most noticeably for vehicles passing. Meanwhile, when Parzival goes to Halliday's virtual archives, noticeable ambience emerges from the rear channels. During the shootout in the dance club, gunfire comes from all around, flaunting precise channel placement. It also sounds like drones are flying all around in certain scenes. Naturally, in addition to delivering ambience and certain sound effects, the rear channels are also frequently used for music (both Silvestri's score and the selection of classic songs). Warner Bros. have truly hit this one out of the park, and it's hard to imagine audiophiles having any complaints.

††† I briefly sampled the English DTS-HD MA 5.1 track before remembering I had to switch to Atmos, and it was fine for what it is. It's noticeably more aggressive, but it's less layered than the Atmos mix. The ratings below reflect the Atmos track.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

††† The 4K disc contains no special features. All of the extras are housed on the accompanying 1080p Blu-ray.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

† † As far as I can tell, all 4K discs worldwide are barebones. In America, there is a Target exclusive edition with a bonus disc containing exclusive extras, which would make it the winner. I'll update this review when more details are available.

Summary

††† Ready Player One is an irresistible celebration of pop culture and all things '80s, engineered by one of the greatest filmmakers of the modern age. It's also an exhilarating blockbuster, and one hell of a visual treat.

††† Roadshow's 4K Blu-ray is a stunner, with one of the best technical presentations I have ever seen. The 2160p video presentation is mind-blowingly great, while the accompanying Atmos mix will make your walls shake. With two hours of behind-the-scenes extras available on the included 1080p Blu-ray disc, this set gets my highest recommendation.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Callum Knox (I studied biology)
Friday, July 13, 2018
Review Equipment
DVDSony UBP-X700 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayLG OLED65E6T. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 2160p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationSamsung Series 7 HT-J7750W
SpeakersSamsung Tall Boy speakers, 7.1 set-up

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