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Review: Ready Player One is a film only Steven Spielberg could make

PUBLISHED: 12:16 29 March 2018 | UPDATED: 12:23 29 March 2018

Tye Sheridan as Wade Watts in Ready Player One. Photo: Warner Bros/Jaap Buitendijk

Tye Sheridan as Wade Watts in Ready Player One. Photo: Warner Bros/Jaap Buitendijk

Archant

The legendary director is back with an adaptation of Ernest Cline's celebrated 2011 novel, a dystopian big budget family fantasy, which imagines a resource-depleted world that relies on virtual reality as an escape from the gloom of the everyday.

Tye Sheridan as Wade Watts and Olivia Cooke as Samantha in Ready Player One. Photo: Warner Bros/Jaap BuitendijkTye Sheridan as Wade Watts and Olivia Cooke as Samantha in Ready Player One. Photo: Warner Bros/Jaap Buitendijk

Ready Player One (12A)

****

Thank you Steven Spielberg for helping me overcome my morbid fear of The Shining.

The sequence where our hero Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) and co come face-to-face with the ghoulish Grady twins, the old woman taking a bath in Room 237 and the infamous leaky lift is one of the stand-out moments of the film.

Tye Sheridan as Wade Watts and Lena Sheridan as Aech in Ready Player One. Photo: Warner Bros/Jaap BuitendijkTye Sheridan as Wade Watts and Lena Sheridan as Aech in Ready Player One. Photo: Warner Bros/Jaap Buitendijk

Adapted from Ernest Cline’s 2011 novel by the author and Zak Penn, it’s 2045 and the world is a mess. Mankind’s only escape is the virtual world of the Oasis, where you can indulge your every fantasy - be it battling aliens or climbing Mount Everest with Batman.

Wade lives in a rundown trailer park, sneaking off to become his avatar Parzival. Soon he and friends Aech, Daito and Sho and the mysterious Art3mis (Olivia Cooke) are drawn together in the hunt for three fabled keys hidden by the Oasis’ late co-creator James Halliday (Mark Rylance).

The first person to find them gets control of the game, bringing them into conflict with Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), the chief corporate hack of Innovative Online Industries and henchwoman F’Nale Zandor (Killjoys’ Hannah John-Kamen, who’s also in the promising new version of Tomb Raider).

Coming mere months after The Post, this is the sort of film director Steven Spielberg would’ve made decades ago. A popcorn pleaser that knows exactly what buttons to push to elicit explosions of glee from geeks like me.

Tye Sheridan as Wade Watts and Olivia Cooke as Samantha in Ready Player One. Photo: Warner Bros/Jaap BuitendijkTye Sheridan as Wade Watts and Olivia Cooke as Samantha in Ready Player One. Photo: Warner Bros/Jaap Buitendijk

A love letter to the films and filmmakers of the 1980s-1990s, I felt like the little kid who used to run home from Blockbuster Video (remember those) again to rewatch The Goonies, The Lost Boys or latest John Hughes.

Apologies to the family in front, startled as I squealed at the sight of the M41A Pulse Rifle from Aliens, comic book anti-hero Spawn and Child’s Play’s Chucky.

Crammed with blink and you’ll miss them in-jokes and pop culture winks Ready Player One cries out for repeat viewings. The cynical adult part of me wonders would the film work without them. The dominant child part doesn’t care.

Perhaps the film’s greatest strength, it’s also its greatest weakness; with the temptation to scan the background distracting.

Ben Mendelsohn as Nolan Sorrento in Ready Player One. Photo: Warner Bros/Jaap BuitendijkBen Mendelsohn as Nolan Sorrento in Ready Player One. Photo: Warner Bros/Jaap Buitendijk

It’s a technical tour-de-force, from King Kong rampaging through an urban race track to the already mentioned return to The Overlook Hotel and the climatic battle.

The film’s warning of a whole generation becoming virtual zombies was a little lost because, honestly, the Oasis looks more fun than the real world.

I didn’t like Rylance’s Willy Wonka - the Depp version, not Wilder’s - take on Halliday or really buy Wade and Art3mis’ romance. Sorrento and Zandor could’ve been more threatening.

Still, I’ll definitely watch it again and isn’t that what matters?

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