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Film Review: 'Ready Player One' is Quintessential Spielberg That Demands Multiple Viewings

March 28, 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 is a monumental achievement, both for its technical wizardry and for how challenging it must have been to wrangle the legal rights to allow so many different I.P.s to share the screen at the same time. King Kong takes a swipe at a passing DeLorean with his massive mitts, while Kaneda's motorcycle from Akira speeds by. A chestburster from Alien explodes from the torso of Goro from Mortal Kombat. And Gundam RX-78-2 leaps from the cargo bay of the Serenity to do battle with Mechagodzilla. Suffice to say, the sheer volume of pop culture winks and nods that have been crammed into every frame will warrant multiple viewings just to spot them all.

Of course, all of that would be for naught if Ready Player One didn't have the right cast to back it up. Once again, Mendelsohn proves he knows how to play a truly slimy villain, while Rylance is both poignant and whimsical as Halliday and his OASIS avatar, Anorak the wizard, with T.J. Miller providing the comic relief as I-R0k. But it's the film's ragtag group of young heroes who steal the show, from Sheridan as the archetypal zero-to-hero, to Olivia Cooke as Art3mis, an elite Gunter out for more than just bragging rights, to Lena Waithe, Win Morisaki and Philip Zhao as Aech, Daito and Sho, Wade's trusted crew of fellow Goonies in this futuristic treasure hunt.

It all adds up to 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 releases March 29th, 2018 from Warner Bros. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action violence, bloody images, some suggestive material, partial nudity and language. Its runtime is 2 hrs. 20 min.

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