Tuesday, 24 April, 2018

'Ready Player One' recaptures that old Spielberg magic

Ready Player One Reviews Are In—and It's Giving Critics Pop Culture Whiplash Will there be a Ready Player One sequel?
Michele Schwartz | 30 March, 2018, 00:54

If you adore Netflix's "Stranger Things" throwback style, expect to have a blast with this nostalgic romp through the 1980s.

Steven Spielberg's Ready Player One has one eye firmly on a satire of present day social media platforms and their embrace of VR and AR technology, and the other on a retro-riot of pop-culture fun and games.

The soundtrack is huge fun, and anything playing a fight scene to New Order has a thumbs up in my book. Even Batman gets his due. This is some next-level stuff, a CGI-dominated concoction, using ingredients from "Back to the Future", "Willy Wonka", "Mad Max", "The Lord of the Rings", "The Matrix", the aforementioned "Tron", "Iron Giant", "Raiders of the Lost Ark", countless video games and, of course, the 2011 science fiction novel of the same name by Ernest Cline, upon which this film is based. Two, remember that movies are first and foremost meant to entertain. In the final lap, though, his pedal on the metal slips.

The screenplay from Zak Penn and Ernest Cline is inventive and buoyant, barrelling along without hitting too many slow spots. Then I read the book and it spun me out as it was so deep and layered. Life in the real world is very bad (think futuristic, Dickensian poverty) but there is an opiate all are addicted to in order to escape: The Oasis. When the OASIS was created by the brilliant and eccentric James Halliday (Mark Rylance), he embedded a three-part contest into it to find a worthy heir for his enormous fortune and total control of this virtual world, and as Wade and his friends, called the High Five, take on the challenge, they put themselves directly into the path of danger. Sole ownership of the OASIS is the ultimate "Easter egg" prize to whoever can complete a series of almost impossible quests to find three keys in a VR trove of the "80s popular culture - Atari 2600 VCS, Stephen King, Back to the Future - on which Halliday grew up".

The young hero at the centre of the story, underdog Wade Watts, is played by Tye Sheridan, 21.

But can this nice, geeky guy figure out each clue and collect all the keys?

When Halliday dies, he reveals that an "Easter egg" has been hidden inside the game. "Sometimes they focus more on that than they do on who they are in this realm".

Or to be more precise, in a hunt for the virtual reality Easter eggs that can help them win the game, with every gamer's main competition being IOI - Innovative Online Industries. This is of great interest to Wade/Parzival, and also IOI's nefarious CEO, Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn, who in what I assume is another bit of pop culture reference, looks strikingly like Vice Principal Vernon from "The Breakfast Club"). The special effects team create technical marvels, which are as thrilling as going on a theme-park ride. It'll leave you breathless.

There is a truly terrific pastiche / homage to Stanley Kubrick's cult classic, The Shining.

The film has been put together on a hefty budget of between $150 million and $175 million with the latest forecasts for its opening down slightly from earlier estimates of $45 million to $55 million.

The most tepid parts are the undeveloped love story, which doesn't come across so convincingly, and the third and final game itself. But five years after his game began, no one has come close to completing even its first challenge: a auto race through the streets of NY to the finish line, with some intimidating obstacles throughout.

Oh, Steven Spielberg, you just don't know where to stop raising the bar, do you?

Randy Myers is a freelance correspondent covering film and is the president of the San Francisco Film Critics Circle.

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