Film review: Ready Player One

The director of Close Encounters and ET takes a trip to a new kind of space - the virtual worlds inside computers


Adapted from Ernest Cline’s 2011 science fiction novel of the same name, Steven Spielberg’s latest film Ready Player One is truly the stuff of geeky dreams. Set in a dystopian future dominated by an immersive virtual world, and with endless nostalgic references to 70s and 80s pop culture, the film is a treasure-trove for any self-respecting nerd.

The action takes place in the year 2045 where overpopulation and a long standing drought has turned the real world into a barren wasteland, and former cities into poverty stricken shanty towns. To escape their daily struggles, people have taken to living most of their waking hours in the OASIS, a game designed by billionaire genius James Halliday (Mark Rylance), who just before his death vowed to leave his vast fortune and control of the OASIS to the winner of a contest he designed using some of his favourite pop culture references.

Enter Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), a gifted player known in the OASIS as Parzival, and the first person to decipher one of Halliday’s most enigmatic clues using an in-depth knowledge of the man and what made him tick. With the help of Art3mis (Olivia Cooke), a mysterious female gamer, Parzival must collect all three clues and beat off competition from the powerful and duplicitous Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn) who has used the game as a way of enslaving some of the poorest players in the Oasis.

From frequent nods to John Hughes’ Bratpack movies such as Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, to a fantastically well observed homage to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, Ready Player One does a great job in remaining faithful to the original source material. Just occasionally it loses its way by cramming too many references into an otherwise highly engaging story.

At 140 minutes running time, the film can feel like an unrelenting assault on the senses. However, mixing nostalgia with a genuinely well thought-out action-filled narrative could make Ready Player One into a repeated viewing classic. It’s a  deeply enjoyable, charming and  knowing film from a tireless director who shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. 

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