‘Ready Player One’: A pop-culture eye candy

The auteur, master of fantasy and sci-fi – Steven Spielberg‘s latest offering “Ready Player One” is based on Ernest Cline’s novel of the same name. He offers a breathless and a relatively futuristic story of civilization where virtual reality is a part of “reality”.

The film is sparkling. Spiced with an explosion of pop-culture eye candy, for members of Gen X, it is a fast and fun romp down memory lane, a pure nostalgia porn. But for others’ it could be a pain.

The film is set in the future in Columbus the fastest growing city, where the citizens have depleted their resources and struggle to make ends meet. To escape the desolation of the real world, they use the virtual reality software — OASIS, which is a theme park of the senses. They immerse in the software using their various avatars.

This online world which contains thousands of different worlds, including copies of many famous sci-fi verses was created by James Halliday (Mark Rylance) who was obsessed with video games and all things from the 1980s from fashion to music to games to films and computers.

In circa 2045, five years after his death, conveyed through a video footage – Halliday announces that he has left his entire fortune to the player who can find the three keys to the “Easter Egg”, which is hidden in recesses of the OASIS.

Chasing this elusive Egg, is the video game conglomerate called IOI Corporation (Innovative Online Industries) headed by Nolan Sorrneto (Ben Mendelsohn). They have employed workers in an elaborate attempt to solve the clues and find the keys.

Among the independent treasure hunters is Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), a teenager living in a dystopian trailer park, who spends most of his time strapping on a headset and immersing himself in the OASIS. He wishes to win the quest so that he can leave the stacks. In the virtual world he is known as “Parzival”, or “Z” for brevity sake.

When he and his pals; Samantha (Olivia Cooke), Aech (Lena Waithe), Sho (Philip Zhao) and Daito (Win Morisaki) aren’t playing in the OASIS, they are busy analysing Halliday’s memories and cultural obsessions for hints. They call themselves, “The High Five” and in their virtual avtars – Sam is Art3mis, and Aech is a male.

Though much of the narrative is set in virtual reality, the puzzles are intriguing, the action intense and the payoff at the end is worth all the build-up. But…

While this is a rollicking sci-fi adventure tale with a spellbinding imagery to envision “virtual reality as something that’s this iconic and similar and real, the story is unremarkable and purely a pop-corn fare which is not emotionally textured or exciting. At the very onset, you’d recall the plot being picked from the 2005 released, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with Halliday as Willy Wonka.

All the actors are sincere and they offer nuanced performances. But the one who stands out among the lot is Mark Rylance as Halliday.

The CGI and animation are of a fine quality. But scenes with Parzival often remind you of Spielberg’s “The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn”. As for the 3D effects there were majorly ineffective.

Overall, while the film is good in all respects, it is still not the Spielberg film one pines for.

Film: “Ready Player One”; Director: Steven Spielberg; Cast: Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Mark Rylance, T.J. Miller, Simon Pegg, Lena Waithe, Win Morisaki, Philip Zhao, Susan Lynch, Hannah John-Kamen, Ralph Ineson, Mckenne Grace, Letitia Wrigh

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