Ready Player One

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Ready Player One

(Courtesy of Facebook)

(Courtesy of Facebook)

Alon Amir

(Courtesy of Facebook)

Alon Amir

Alon Amir

(Courtesy of Facebook)

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By Gregory Mysogland

Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One (Courtesy of Facebook)

After several years of directing mostly political thrillers of varying quality, Steven Spielberg returns to the science fiction blockbuster filmmaking that started his storied career with Ready Player One. The subject matter of this film returns to the childlike wonder and pure adventure that characterizes such classics as Raiders of the Lost Ark and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. This film is an exciting mix of an old-fashioned narrative and the height of modern filmmaking technology.

Based on the novel of the same name by Ernest Cline, Ready Player One tells the story of Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), a native of 2045’s version of Columbus, Ohio who is the first to discover a new key to success within the OASIS. The OASIS is a virtual world created by James Halliday (Mark Rylance) in which consumers escape the confines of their dystopic world by participating in everything from gravity-defying parties to hi-tech combat campaigns. The animated world of the OASIS is filled with references to and appearances by concepts, items and characters from across the popular culture spectrum.

This allows Spielberg to assemble some of the most visually exciting sequences in recent memory as car chases are interrupted by attacks from King Kong and heroes from DC Comics engage in battle against an enemy army that counts Godzilla amongst its ranks, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Wade’s yearning for adventure is not a particularly original motivation for a science fiction hero, but Sheridan gives a charismatic enough performance to lead the viewer through the unraveling of the OASIS and Halliday’s secrets. His character’s growth is fairly well executed. A balanced sense of humor and subtle commentary on the ways in which corporate interference and an over-abundance of nostalgia can stifle artistic progress keep the story from becoming too routine.

All this is not to say the film is without its flaws. Neither Rylance nor Ben Mendelsohn bring anything particularly creative to their roles, and it would not be hard to argue that they may both have been typecast as the eccentric creative and corporate villain, respectively. Additionally, the film’s pacing isn’t always perfect. The third act in particular is a bit too busy for its own good. While it features a truly delightful battle in the OASIS, the choice to continue to employ a ticking clock even as Wade comes to his final realizations robs some of the film’s most important scenes of their potential impact.

Despite these and some other issues, Ready Player One is an exceedingly fun ride that matches modern blockbuster thrills with the lighthearted vibe of older adventure films. Spielberg’s return to science fiction is a welcome one that hopefully signals a move back towards less conventional works for the legendary director.