Monday, April 23, 2018

[Review] Ready Player One

After the serious historical pic The Post, Steven Spielberg loosens up and lets out his inner glee with Ready Player One, a retro-futurist romp that blasts off with geeky fun and playful invention.

It's the year 2045. Our main protagonist is Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan, Mud). He lives in a towering junkscape in Columbus, Ohio. But like the rest of the population, he uses his VR headset to escape into The Oasis -- a hustling and bustling, advanced gamer-based world where pretty much everything anyone has over known exists. It's there where he embarks on an elaborate mission to collect three keys and an "Easter Egg" before a corporation led by a power-hungry crook (played by Ben Mendelsohn, always a treat) takes over The Oasis.

Early on, there's a lot of exposition and world-building to take in, but once that's all squared this film transports us to an exuberant adrenaline rush of an adventure that's stuffed with throwback wonderment and expansive imagination. The energetic plot jolts us through multiple levels of crazy setpieces -- from a breakneck, pavement-pummeling race through the city (which includes an appearance from King Kong) -- to a creepy, fan-out sequence at The Stanley Hotel from The Shining -- to an all out rumble between everyone and everything on a frozen tundra. The wildly exuberant film proudly wears its '80s-tinged, hi-tech aesthetic on its sleeve, and the abundance of pop-culture references somehow manage to avoid coming off as cheap or overbearing. In fact, the film has a great sense of humor about them, especially as it ultimately becomes an unabashed embrace and heartfelt ode to popcorn entertainment, video games, and the characters and settings that stick with us.

The supporting players are strong too, including Olivia Cooke (Me & Earl & the Dying Girl, Thoroughbreds), Lena Waithe ("Master of None"), Philip Zhao, and Win Morisaki. They're an eclectic, spunky, and funny team that's really easy to root for. And Spielberg's current stalwart Mark Rylance logs in to play an interestingly quirky role as the creator of The Oasis.

I can't attest to how well the film translates from its source material (because I haven't read it), but I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed what I witnessed on screen. Spielberg's sheer enthusiasm and earnestness is felt in every scene, and he's the perfect candidate to handle this sort of passion-spiked inventiveness. Ready Player One is a cinematic joystick.

( 8/10 )

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