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Ready Player One (dir. Spielberg)

Image: Tye Sheridan in Ready Player One [Source: IMDB]

★★★★☆

In this geekgasm of pop culture references and a virtual reality easter egg hunt. We find Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), a young man who spends all his time learning as much as possible about James Halliday (Mark Rylance) and his seminal creation – the virtual world known as the Oasis. Just like the rest of society in the year 2045, James is in a race to find Halliday’s easter eggs, for the chance at the keys to the Oasis and mass fortune.

Director: Steven Spielberg. Starring: Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Mark Rylance, Simon Pegg, Letitia Wright, Lena Waithe, T.J. Miller [12A]

It is difficult to sit through Ready Player One without a sizable grin on your face, as the likes of; King Kong, Transformers, the 60s Batmobile, Lara Croft, Ryu, Halo, Overwatch, Terminator 2, the Iron Giant and numerous other references fill the landscape of the Oasis. But crucially, Ready Player One is not just an empty cameo imposing production.

Technology sits at the figure point in this story but it engages the audience on a deeper, more sentimental level. This powerfully nostalgia-fuelled love letter, from Spielberg to video games and 80s/90s pop culture feels as excessive as those decades and it’s an absolute joyride because of it. What is handled best is the references, whether they are subtly in the background or the focal point of an entire sequence, they never beg for the audience’s tolerance. Instead, they are a welcoming presence of enjoyment and Spielberg grasps the boisterous nature of this landscape with a firm yet compassionate touch.

Equally, the film never takes itself too seriously. Aside from the fixated smile on your face, it is easy to get caught up in the engaging story and the genuine humour. To which there is plenty of, whether it be quirky character moments or tongue in cheek jabs at the corporate side of the gaming industry – Ready Player One is simply a ton of fun. Behind the cinematic yet innovative camera work that recognises the ability of video game storytelling; sits a rather weak, formulaic and oft-times jerking plot. Spielberg tells this story without any restyling of tired mainstream blockbuster plotting; some moments are told with such a disregard for the audience that revelations seem to just appear as the character and plot needs them. Despite the fairness in its statement, the climax gets slightly unnecessarily preachy, it plays mostly with a dull acceptance. Much of the performances do too, as emotionally the film never engages, characters backstories go in one ear and out the other. They even take a back seat in the grand scheme of the story, which predominately is about the oasis and the easter egg.

While if you do not know most of the references you may be a little left out of the fun. It is undeniable that Ready Player One is a thrill. Spielberg taps into the borderless creativity of animated movies, an aspect of the film that is done with clarity, as CG never falters or hinders. The plot points are largely a predictable trip, characters are somewhat forgettable and easily replaced. But when nostalgia and pop culture references are akin to gold dust, Ready Player One stands tall as the encapsulating jewel, in the crown of today’s culture.

 

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