'Ready Player One' review: Spielberg's sparkling take on Ernest Cline's novel

'Ready Player One' review: Spielberg's sparkling take on Ernest Cline's novel

Breathlessly name-checking everything from Atari games to "Back to the Future" to Rush's "2112' album, it was like a literary adaptation of the basement of my best friend in high school". And, that's part of the charm, especially for fans of Ernest Cline's novel.

The execution of "Ready Player One" is indisputable, a big, handsome fantasy.

But there's still something a little icky about a movie that data-mines the pop culture past of middle-aged men so shamelessly. And, everything he does works together to create movie magic that often makes more sense in the middle of Summer.

The movie is set in a dystopian 2045 where most working-class people live in high-rise trailer parks, spending their lives working off an ever-accumulating mound of debt owed to a major corporation known as IOI. Born after the "corn syrup drought and the bandwidth riots", he spends his every waking moment, like pretty much everyone else in the western world, in the Oasis; a vast virtual reality platform built 20 years before by a couple of programmers afflicted with an nearly terminal strain of 1980s geekdom.

But the film's female cast is equally strong, featuring Olivia Cooke ("Me and Earl and the Dead Girl"), Emmy Award-winner Lena Waithe ("Master of None"), Hannah John-Kamen ("Tomb Raider"), and "Black Panther" breakout Letitia Wright in strong, complex roles that not only complement their male counterparts, but also commandeer the screen. It is where you get your education, your entertainment, and quite probably your relationships. Maybe you could make a plan to do the maze and see the movie in the same day?! It just seems to be in their bloodstream, nostalgia for a time they were never actually around to experience.

Sorrento's chance to take over the Oasis comes when its creator, video game designer James Halliday (played by Mark Rylance), passes away without any heirs.




Based on the popular best-selling 2011 sci-fi novel by Ernest Cline, the film tells the story of Wade Watts who's on the hunt for special "Easter Egg" in the virtual world of Oasis. IOI wants to control the OASIS and pollute it with the computer nerd's worst enemy - pop-up ads.

Think of an Escape Room with a video game feel! Good guy Parzival (Tye Sheridan) gets the first key by figuring out how to prevail in a auto race in which, to quote him, "no one ever makes it past Kong". A world where one can do anything, go anywhere and become anyone you want.

Not surprisingly, this is in Spielberg's wheelhouse, mostly because this is a culture he had a big hand in creating. It's full of pop culture references and wonderfully creative action, often to the beat of '80s rock music.

"This was a film that for me fulfilled all of my fantasies of the places I go in my imagination when I get out of town", he said.

As far as choices for directors to guide the pop culture filled book "Ready Player One", Spielberg was the best. The only standout is Mark Rylance as Halliday, who nails the awkward asocial pioneer of the book. Maybe it's on Spielberg's mind as well. Ben Mendelsohn's favourite choice of Mad Max was something I didn't even pick up on during my first watch of the movie.

"Ready Player One" stars Tye Sheridan ("X-Men: Apocalypse", "Mud"), Olivia Cooke ("Me and Earl and the Dying Girl", "Bates Motel"), Ben Mendelsohn ("Rogue One - A Star Wars Story", "Bloodline") and T.J. Miller ("Deadpool", "Silicon Valley"), with Simon Pegg (the "Star Trek" movies, the "Mission: Impossible" movies) and Oscar victor Mark Rylance ("Bridge of Spies", upcoming "Dunkirk").

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