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Ready Player One
Starring: Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Lena Waithe
Director: Steven Spielberg
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
RUNTIME: 140 Mins
Get ready for a ride back to the future, in a world where the only limit is your imagination and perseverance. Master of action adventure Steven Spielberg packs a sentimental punch in his retro-futuristic rendering of Ready Player One.
It’s the year 2045, and humanity now spends much of its time living in a virtual reality world called the OASIS.
When the original creator of the OASIS, James Halliday, dies, he releases a video in which he challenges all OASIS users to find his Easter Egg, which will give the finder his fortune and complete control of the virtual reality universe.
Wannabe superhero Wade Watts, AKA Parzival, played by Tye Sheridan, becomes the first to figure out one of Halliday’s clues. Soon, him and his friends Aech (Lena Waithe) and Art3mis (Olivia Cooke), become embroiled in an epic struggle against Innovative Online Industries (IOI), a video game conglomerate and manufacturer of virtual reality gaming equipment used to access the OASIS.
Its CEO, Nolan Sorrento, played by Ben Mendelsohn, has amassed an army of debt-indentured players known as Sixers, and seeks ownership of the OASIS in order to exploit its advertising potential.
Nostalgia is the running theme here. The film takes it and runs with it, going from numerous John Hughes and 80s pop culture references, to its shortstop, heart-pumping, Indiana Jones-inspired soundtrack.
It’s sickly-sweet sentiment, the kind of entertainment you want to eat caramel popcorn to and get a vanilla milkshake at an old-school diner after. Whether or not you’ll enjoy it very much depends on how you feel about video games and 80s culture.
For the proud nerds amongst us, and even those who are not quite so obsessed, it’s kind of irresistible. Even though there are some issues with character development and depth, and the near overwhelming amount of references can leave you dizzied, you still can’t help but get swept up in the non-stop action.
Tye Sheridan and Olivia Cooke are the dynamic duo that kick-start the story. As much as they manage to compel, it’s the rest of the cast, including Lena Waithe, T.J. Miller, Mark Rylance, and Ben Mendelsohn, that delight.
In particular, Mendelsohn as the conniving Sorrento manages to play the evil, power-hungry antagonist with an equal level of cartoonish villainy and chilling greed.
Arguably, the most wonderful and remarkable part of the film, is its visual effects. It captures the feeling of being in a video game, not knowing where the line between real and virtual is, although the film will ultimately will tell you where it stands on that distinction too.
It’s chock-full of little Easter Eggs, with something for everyone to recognise. Spielberg has managed to balance the sugar-rush of nostalgia with an un-cynical thrill ride, and it very much captures the magic of some of his earlier films.
But that’s where the similarities run into trouble. This is an idealised world, even in the way it portrays Internet culture and VR (virtual reality) chatrooms nowadays. There’s not an internet troll in sight here, and there’s no mention of just how chaotic these cyber spaces are.
That might not mean much to the story, but it’s just one of the ways in which you wish the film would consider broadening its perspective.
Nevertheless, it’s really, really fun to watch. By creating a world we can escape from our daily lives into, Steven Spielberg has done it again.
Now showing in: Cineco, Seef II, Dana Cinemas, Wadi Al Sail, Mukta A2, Al Jazeera
Anna’s verdict: 4/5