'Ready Player One' Review

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Sorry to disappoint all the haters – including everyone who plastered the internet with phony marketing posters – but “Ready Player One” is a very good movie.

Just three months after the release of “The Post”, the best movie of last year (in my opinion) director Steven Spielberg gives us an early “Best of” contender for this year. “Ready Player One”, based on the 2011 novel from author Ernest Cline, is an ambitious, extravagant and monumental achievement from start to finish.

Tye Sheridan (best known for his breakthrough performance in 2013‘s “Mud”) plays Wade Watts, an 18 year old living in Columbus, Ohio. It’s 2045 and our struggling world has turned to virtual reality for its main form of escapism. The OASIS, created by the ultimate techie-geek James Halliday (played convincingly by Mark Rylance) is an incredible, fantastic universe, where everyone, or at least their avatars, go to play games, hang with their friends, and do pretty much everything they can’t do in the real world.

Before Halliday died he programmed a series of challenges in the Oasis. Whoever completes them, finding all three keys, receives the grand prize: total control of the OASIS. Wade, whose avatar name is Parzival, is among the millions of players trying to win and keep the Oasis out of the hands of the evil corporation IOI. But when he meets a rebel girl, the game completely changes.

Tye Sheridan
Tye Sheridan

Watching “Ready Player One” was one of the most freeing and enjoyable movie experiences I’ve had in a very long time. The screenplay, by Cline and Zak Penn, perfectly and believably blends elements of pop culture – past, present and future – with the world of high-tech gaming.

I probably didn’t get half of the references that Spielberg has jammed into the film – but that’s part of the fun. Everyone will enjoy seeing and relating to things on a personal level. All the while you are completely drawn into the story, the characters and the visual contrast between the OASIS and the real world. It’s impossible not to root for Wade and his friends to complete the challenges and save the day – almost to the to the point of cheer and the screen. The terrific, refreshingly old-fashioned score by Alan Silvestri amplifies everything. This film is about virtual reality, but it all feels very real.

And there are plenty of trademark Spielberg touches throughout (after all this is essentially a techno version of “Raiders of the Lost Ark”), capped-off with a showcase final act. Even amidst a consistently evolving, high energy adventure, Spielberg knows how to perfectly slow the pace down, and put things in perspective, adding his signature emotion punch. This film is an ode to gamers, pop culture fans, romantics and everyone who loves movies.

Jackson Murphy: Emmy Award-winning Film Critic / Entertainment Reporter. Broadcast Film Critics Assoc. (@CriticsChoice), SAG-AFTRA (@SAGAwards)