READY PLAYER ONE review by Ronnie Malik – Steven Spielberg gives us a nostalgia fever dream

READY PLAYER ONE review by Ronnie Malik – Steven Spielberg gives us a nostalgia fever dream

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Rating: B

Master Director and producer Steven Spielberg is one of the most revolutionary filmmakers of our time. The list of classic memorable movies the 71-year-old genius has given audiences over the past 40 years or so is extremely impressive. Spielberg made himself a household name with such classics as JAWS, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, SCHINDLER’S LIST, and most recently THE POST. He is an expert at using technology to his advantage incorporating amazing visuals that open up the imaginations of moviegoers all over the world. Now, his most expensive film in a decade, READY PLAYER ONE (the film adaption of the novel by Ernest Cline) will take audiences on a journey through a virtual world known as The Oasis.

The opening scene is Columbus, Ohio, the fastest growing city in the world, and the year is 2045. Because of famine, overpopulation, and hazardous environmental conditions, most of the population live in bleak subhuman domiciles. To escape their harsh realty, the citizens of Columbus spend their time in a virtual world known as The Oasis via advanced 3D goggles. In The Oasis they can be anything or anyone they choose and the opportunities to live out their fantasies are endless. The creators of this virtual world are James Halliday (Mark Rylance) and Ogden Morrow (Simon Pegg). Halliday heavily influences the VR environment with his love for pop culture from the 70s and 80s. A true trivia buff, Halliday incorporates many of the themes from his favorite TV shows, movies, and popular music into the video game world. After Halliday dies, it is revealed that he left one final challenge to those who enter The Oasis, a game called Anorak’s Quest. The goal is solve all the riddles, obtain three keys, and get the final prize which is a golden egg (think Willie Wonka and the golden ticket). Whoever solves the puzzle and gets the egg will be awarded control over The Oasis and all the wealth in the world.

An orphaned teenager by the name of Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) uses his avatar called “Parzival” to enjoy the digital world and is on a quest to gain the golden egg. He becomes the first person to complete the primary riddle gaining worldwide fame, and manages to attract the attention of corrupt business man Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn). Nolan is the evil CEO of the notorious Innovative Online Industries, and wants control of The Oasis for his own selfish reasons and will stop at nothing to make sure Wade aka Parzival does not make it to the finish line. Wade does have one advantage over Nolan – trusted avatar friends. Wade gains the aid of Art3mis (Olivia Cooke), a badass female player who races through the VR world on her motorcycle (which is actually the bike seen in the Anime film AKIRA), Aech (Lena Waithe) is a mechanical genius in the form of an African American male with robot parts, and a pair of fearless Japanese warriors named Daito (Win Morisaki) and Shoto (Philip Zhao).

Spielberg and his team do an amazing job with motion capture and digital technology to bring a visual wonder to the big screen. There are exciting choreographed chase sequences and the special effects make The Oasis feel like a massive universe with unlimited possibilities. Ingenious references to past movie classics like BACK TO THE FUTURE, movie and TV superheroes, and a certain Stanley Kubrick favorite (probably not the one you’d think either) are super fun to watch. One of the most entertaining aspects of this latest Spielberg creation is all the 70s and 80s touches that give READY PLAYER ONE that wonderful nostalgic feel.

Sadly it is the cast that is a disappointment in this film. Sheridan comes off as dry playing Wade, the character that should have been filled with passion and zest is sadly very flat and uninspiring. Mendelsohn plays a one-dimensional and predictable villain that adds no excitement to the storyline. Rylance does a nice job playing Halliday and his portrayal of the misunderstood tech magician brings some heart to the film. The production gains interest when Wade meets all his avatar friends in the real world, but the excitement fizzles out when each character barely gets any screen time. The action sequences in the real world never match the virtual world, which is another weak point in this sci-fi epic. There is an underlying message in READY PLAYER ONE on how technology can create a disconnect among us, but with so much going on at such a dizzying pace, the real meaning of this well-intentioned project gets lost in the maze of special effects. There is such a heavy emphasis on the visuals and fast-paced action that the main points of the science fiction tale never get to connect.

In this critic’s opinion, READY PLAYER ONE is not one of Spielberg’s best works, but if you are interested in watching a fantastic digital feast then this film may just be right for you. Otherwise stick to the old Spielberg classics to relive some of his amazing work that left us craving more magic from the motion picture wiz.

READY PLAYER ONE opens March 30, 2018

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