Saturday, December 22, 2018

Movie with Abe: Ready Player One

Ready Player One
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Released March 29, 2018

There are movies that become hits, either with critics or audiences and sometimes both, at the time that they are released, immediately appreciated for their artistic and entertainment value. Others register only with a select few and, over time, are understood to be cult classics. There is a fan base for films like this, and becoming especially knowledge about the history behind specific moments and scenes is considered a badge of honor. There is more than enough source material for what in this film serves as a virtual reality world teeming with pop culture references.

In 2045, everyone is obsessed with and immersed in OASIS, created by James Halliday (Mark Rylance) and made all the more popular by his posthumous challenge to players to “win” and take ownership of the virtual world by finding three keys to unlock an Easter egg. Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), better known by his avatar, Parzival, expertly studies everything Halliday has done and makes enough progress to catch the attention of Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), a power-hungry executive who wants to control OASIS. With the help of Art3mis (Olivia Cooke) and a few other determined players, Wade pledges to locate the keys before Sorrento can warp OASIS into something that will enable him to exercise detrimental control over both its users and the real world.

One of Parzival’s first big gains in OASIS is to come close to finishing a race driving a DeLorean through a recreated New York City that is interrupted constantly with villains from “King Kong” and “Jurassic Park.” The more that Parzival and other players know about pop culture, the better their chances of succeeding are. Director Steven Spielberg proudly declared that this was not a film but a movie when he introduced a surprise premiere screening at South by Southwest last March, and that’s definitely true. This film throws a whole lot of familiar conventions together, and it creates an experience that’s both mentally and visually stimulating.

Both Sheridan and Cooke are extremely familiar to this reviewer from their independent film origins in Sundance hits like “Mud” and “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,” respectively, and it makes sense that anyone who saw those projects would want to cast them in a big-budget blockbuster like this. They are capable of handing the material, joined by dependable thespians Mendelsohn and Rylance in more relaxed roles than they usually take. There’s a whole lot of an action in this cleverly-constructed film, based on the 2011 book of the same name, and it manages to be mostly exciting and involving with the assistance of strong visual effects during its rather lengthy two-hour and twenty-minute runtime. Its greatest flaw may be that those who appreciate its references most are no longer part of the teenage demographic that this film seems most targeted to, though they should find it perfectly enjoyable.


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