Steven Spielberg’s exuberant adventure, starring Tye Sheridan, revolves around the pleasures of losing yourself in fantasy worlds.
Based on Ernest Cline’s 2011 novel, the film is set in 2045 and zips along on a tide of breathless action and boundless pop-culture trivia.
In a dystopian world, life is so depressing that most people escape at every opportunity into the virtual reality Oasis, a huge multiplayer online role-playing game.
The game’s late creator, an eccentric genius played with daffy, dreamy charm by Mark Rylance, left behind three digital Easter eggs, hidden within the fantasy world. The first player to crack the puzzle will win a gazillion-dollar fortune.
Sheridan’s young orphaned hero and his friends are determined to crack the challenge, but so is Ben Mendelsohn’s capitalist slimeball who wants to win control of the Oasis for his own rapacious company.
Spielberg stages the ensuing struggle with tremendous vim, deftly cutting back and forth between real and virtual worlds without impeding the story’s drive.
Yet what gives Ready Player One its special quality is that the frenzied chases and fights are embedded in a fanboy bonanza of pop culture. There are parts to play for the gull-winged DeLorean from Back to the Future and for King Kong, for an iconic Stanley Kubrick film and for the Iron Giant, Mechagodzilla and countless others. Buckaroo Banzai and the fashion sense of Duran Duran get shout-outs, too.
It’s all great fun and you don’t have to be a geek to enjoy it.