What a thrill ride Steven Spielberg has created!
Calling all nerds, gamers and aficionados of pop culture: Here’s “Ready Player One,” a feast for the eyes and ears that’s both a futuristic science-fiction piece and a paean to the 1980s based on the best-seller by Ernest Cline. It’s full of iconic images such as the Iron Giant and Chucky, the knife-wielding doll, as well as tunes that range from Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It" to “Jump” by Van Halen.
The time is 2045, and the setting is a bleak area in Columbus, Ohio, called “The Stacks,” where people live in mobile homes that sit next to and atop each other. The impoverished residents, including Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan, “Mud”) spend most of their time in a virtual reality world created by the late James Halliday (Mark Rylance, “Bridge of Spies.”)
When Halliday created his incredible universe in which anyone can be anything, he hid three keys. The first player to find all three keys controls the environment known as OASIS.
Wade, who goes by Parzival in the OASIS, is determined to be the winner. His parents are gone, and he lives a miserable existence with his aunt and her brute of a boyfriend. So most of the time Parzival joins other “gunters” (“Easter Egg” hunters) who seek the prize.
One of them is Art3mis (Olivia Cooke, “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,”) with whom Parzival becomes smitten, even though he has seen only her avatar.
As he proceeds in his quest, Parzival encounters Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”), leader of the dastardly corporation Innovative Online Industries. He has assigned an entire team of experts working ‘round-the-clock to locate the keys.
This is kind of a cross between “TRON” and “Wreck-It Ralph.” The audience joins the characters in competitions that are hugely entertaining. One of them involves trying to drive a car past a rampaging King Kong, and another, which is my favorite sequence of the movie, is based on the film “The Shining.” And then there’s the “Zemeckis Cube” that turns back time.
Naturally, there’s a big battle scene toward the end (that’s not a spoiler — who doesn’t expect that?) I think I enjoyed it a little more with the enhancement of 3D glasses and the IMAX screen.
Once again, Spielberg creates a world in which young people must come to the rescue while they go through the painful challenges of growing up. Regardless of your age, you’ll have a great time finding references to pop culture of the past while you zoom along on your own Easter Egg hunt.