When the creator of a virtual reality world called the OASIS dies, he releases a video in which he challenges all OASIS users to find his Easter Egg, which will give the finder his fortune.
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There's absolutely no doubt that Steven Spielberg is one of the most influential filmmakers of his generation. His filmography includes a healthy mixture of childlike wonder (E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
, Close Encounters of the Third Kind
), heart-racing adventure (Raiders of the Lost Ark
, War of the Worlds
), sheer horror (Jaws
), and Oscar-bait cinema (Schindler's List
, The Color Purple
). In recent years, he seems to be alternating between "serious" and "fun" movies. Since his last three movies were the serious Bridge of Spies
, the fun The BFG
, and the serious The Post
, he's due for another fun one. Cue up Ready Player One
Set in the year 2045, Ready Player One
takes place in a dystopian world where, in order to escape the poverty and desolation of real life, most of the population immerses itself in a videogame realm called The OASIS where people can do just about anything they want to with their avatar. When the developer of the game, a nerdy guy named Halliday (Dunkirk
's Mark Rylance), dies, he reveals that he has planted an Easter Egg somewhere in the game and holds a contest to find three keys, each hidden in a different part of the game and only attainable after completing a difficult task. Whoever gets all three keys will be rewarded with control of The OASIS.
So, a kid named Wade (Tye Sheridan from Joe
), who goes by the avatar name Parzival, decides that he is going to find the keys. He has plenty of competition, as the entire world is also looking, but his main rivals are a bunch of paid gamers who are playing for a company called Innovative Online Industries that is run by the inscrutable Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
), a man who will stop at nothing to gain full control of The OASIS. Despite claiming that he "doesn't clan up," Parzival joins forces with four other gamers - Atr3mis (Olivia Cooke from Ouija
and The Signal
), Aech (Lena Waithe from "Master of None"), Daito (A Yell From Heaven
's Win Morisaki), and Sho (newcomer Philip Zhao) - in an effort to beat Sorrento to the Easter Egg.
Screenwriters Zak Penn (The Avengers
) and Ernest Cline (Fanboys
) adapted Ready Player One
from Cline's own novel of the same name. The film itself is a visual feast for fans of both video games and eighties popular culture. It's also got an engaging plot that makes its two-hour-and-twenty-minute running time seem brisk. It's slick looking, with lots of bells and whistles, but it also has an underlying message about the real-world disconnect that modern technology brings upon its users. But, most of all, Ready Player One
is just plain fun.
And part of what makes Ready Player One
so much fun, at least for children of the eighties, are the endless pop culture references that grace seemingly every frame of video and every second of audio. Many of the big references are spoilers, so we won't go into them here, but viewers can catch glimpses of everyone from Freddy Krueger to RoboCop in the mass gaming scenes. Troops from the Halo
universe trample through The OASIS, Parzival's in-game transportation is the DeLorean from Back to the Future
, and Spielberg even pays tribute to himself by tossing in the T-Rex from Jurassic Park
. Honestly, Ready Player One
is a multi-watcher, if only so that audiences don't feel like they've missed any of the sneaky little Easter Eggs that are laying around everywhere in the movie.
Just as one would expect from a Steven Spielberg film, Ready Player One
is a visually stunning adventure that hits both the heart and the head. And, in a world in which people rarely look up from their cell phones, the message is timely. The OASIS doesn't seem that far off from real life. But above all else, it's eye candy for geek culture. And, once again, it's fun.
Steven Spielberg and his usual cinematographer Janusz Kaminski (War Horse
) shot the real world scenes in Ready Player One
on film while shooting The OASIS scenes digitally, so they look, well, real and digital. The real world looks as good as a Spielberg movie usually does, but the innovation in Ready Player One
comes with The OASIS scenes. Seeing his vision through a special pair of VR goggles as he was directing, Spielberg used a combination of live action/green screen, computer generated imagery, and motion capture to create the video game style spectacle of the movie.
And The OASIS really does look like a big video game. The characters' avatars move in the smooth-yet-clunky way that video game avatars usually do, and the worlds that are built around them are complete 3D recreations of actual game worlds, complete with lens flares and power-up markers. For the more-than-half of the movie that takes place within The OASIS, Spielberg basically created his virtual sets from the ground up, including the looks of his characters and extras. It looks overtly like computer animation, but that's the idea. It's like watching a video game on the big screen. The visual imagery in Ready Player One
is a highly impressive feat of digital filmmaking.
The retro nostalgia vibe of Ready Player One
is not limited to just the visuals. The soundtrack is packed with MTV-era staples, from the opening scene keyboard strains of Van Halen's "Jump" to the final battle cowbell-and-drum poundings of Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It." There are no deep cuts, but that's the point; the chief younger demographic is still going to recognize Hall & Oates' "You Make My Dreams" and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts' "I Hate Myself for Loving You."
Aside from the K-tel compilation album-ready hit songs, the soundtrack also includes a backseat-taking score from first-call Hollywood composer Alan Silvestri (Cat's Eye
, What Lies Beneath
) and a bunch of music cues that have been snipped and quoted from all of the movies and games to which the movie pays homage. As is the case with the rest of the pop culture references, listing these musical riffs may spoil some plot points, so we're not going to do it here. But, let's just say it matches the visuals in its "oh, wow, yeah, that!" recognizability. It just adds to the fun.