Over the years, Steven Spielberg has directed some of the most imaginative movies ever made. From Jaws to Close Encounters of the Third Kind to E.T. to Indiana Jones to Jurassic Park to Minority Report, those blockbusters are what stand out the most. He never ceases to amaze when he captures history with movies such as War Horse, Lincoln, Bridge of Spies, and last year’s The Post.
It’s obvious he has come a long way since the 1970s. This time, he gives ode to ‘80s culture in Ready Player One, based on Ernest Cline’s book of the same name. Set in a futuristic world where the only magical place on Earth is located beyond reality, this is what Pixels should have been.
The year is 2045. The real world is becoming a junkyard. Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), a teen from Columbus, Ohio, lives with his aunt Alice (Susan Lynch). He spends most of his time in the OASIS, a virtual world where he can interact with other users and engage in numerous activities. After learning about the death of OASIS creator James Halliday (Oscar-winner Mark Rylance, becoming Spielberg’s frequent collaborator), Wade–as avatar Parzival–embarks on a dangerous treasure hunt to find three different keys left behind. Whoever picks them up first has complete control of the OASIS and possibly save the real world. He teams up with his friends–Art3mis (Olivia Cooke, Bates Motel and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl), Aech (Lena Waithe), Sho (Philip Zhao), and Daito (Win Morisaki)–to help find them, or else the evil Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn) will take over OASIS.
For someone who has never read the book, it’s hard to imagine how long it must have been to approve all of the copyrights. The amount of pop culture references is overwhelming; I’m definitely going to watch it again and again to catch all of them. Thanks to Janusz Kaminski’s cinematography, it’s easy to become immersed with the virtual reality more than the actual reality (not surprisingly, the least interesting part of the entire movie). The movie puts, as Halliday says, “the pedal to the medal” during the three climactic action sequences, which contains an amazing soundtrack featuring some popular songs of the ‘80s. With Alan Silvestri replacing John Williams (who decided to do the score for The Post instead), he provides another great score in his repertoire.
All of those qualities do overshadow its flaws. While it features likeable characters and a surprising amount of humor, their character development is limited. Mendelsohn’s Sorrento is, more or less, a stereotypical antagonist expecting to take over the world.
Nevertheless, Ready Player One is a treasure to behold! Step into the OASIS and see for yourself what ‘80s hijinks are thrown out there.