Spielberg rediscovers his boy-genius mojo with ‘Ready Player One’

If a mosquito bit Steven Spielberg around the time he was making “Jurassic Park,” then became trapped in amber until some nut with more money than forethought extracted the DNA from it and cloned an early ’90s version of Spielberg, well, that’s the guy I could see directing “Ready Player One.”

But for the actual Spielberg, now 71, to be able to tap into his boy-genius mojo after the likes of “Schindler’s List,” “Amistad” and “Munich” to deliver such a rousing technical achievement while incorporating the broken families and outsiders of some of his best-loved works is nothing short of phenomenal.

Based on the novel by Ernest Cline, who co-wrote the script with Zak Penn (“The Incredible Hulk”), “Ready Player One” is centered around young Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan, “X-Men: Apocalypse”). An orphan living with his aunt and her latest loser boyfriend in the Stacks, a series of mobile homes literally stacked like makeshift high-rises in Columbus, Ohio, Wade finds refuge in the virtual universe known as the OASIS.

It’s 2045, years after the corn syrup droughts and the bandwidth riots, and almost everyone, regardless of their income, practically lives inside the OASIS. And why wouldn’t they when they can do literally anything Spielberg and Warner Bros. could obtain the rights to, including climbing Mount Everest with Batman?

Inside the OASIS, Wade is known by his avatar Parzival. In real life, he’s never even met his best friend, whose avatar, Aech, is a massive, beastly mechanic. They’re mostly content to drive in street races for coins and a chance to unlock the first piece of the puzzle that the late OASIS designer James Halliday (Mark Rylance) left as a Willy Wonka-style inheritance. Whoever finds the three keys and the Easter egg hidden somewhere in the OASIS will control the virtual world as well as Halliday’s vast fortune.

It’s been five years since Halliday died, and no one has even cracked the first clue. Warner Bros. could sponsor a similar contest, asking moviegoers to spot all the pop-culture references in “Ready Player One” and it would prove nearly as difficult. (To give you a hint without ruining any of the surprises, the DeLorean from “Back to the Future” and the Iron Giant are on the movie’s poster.)

But after Parzival saves Art3mis (Olivia Cooke, “Bates Motel”), who resembles a sexy, anime porcupine, during a race, he starts to take the contest much more seriously. They’re determined to keep the OASIS in the hands of Gunters (egg hunters) like themselves and Aech and away from the Sixers, debtors who’ve been co-opted into hunting for the egg by Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn, “Bloodline”), the nefarious head of Innovative Online Industries.

They’ll also have to survive the bounty hunter known as i-R0k, who shares the voice and, most hilariously, the attitude of T.J. Miller (“Silicon Valley”) and looks like Skeletor ate another Skeletor and then coughed up a RoboCop.

The virtual world of the OASIS looks nearly as magical on screen as it must to the millions of its goggled users. To emphasize the contrast, Spielberg created the OASIS scenes digitally using computer animation and motion-capture technology and shot the real-world moments on film. The effect is like bouncing back and forth between the Technicolor wonderland of Oz and the drab black-and-white Kansas.

“Ready Player One” goes on a bit too long, and several of the non-OASIS scenes tend to drag. Moviegoers who aren’t obsessed with video games or didn’t come of age with Buckaroo Banzai may be left scratching their heads during the onslaught of pop-culture references that come across in various avatars. Many of them stem from the late 1970s through the early 1990s, the era with which Halliday, whom Rylance portrays as Bill Gates by way of an aging Garth Algar from “Wayne’s World,” identifies.

It’s tough to tell whether the Gunters are obsessed with that era because they’re obsessed with Halliday, or if they’re simply immersing themselves in the nostalgia to give them an edge in the contest.

Regardless of their intent, “Ready Player One’s” massive battle scene with trademarks colliding like rarely before, has taken an early lead for biggest geek-out of the year. It’s like “The Lego Movie,” only with more heart — and more joyous thrills, depending on how well you know your movie, music and video game history.

Just like Halliday’s contest, “Ready Player One” is designed to reward the nerdiest among us.

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4567. Follow @life_onthecouch on Twitter.

ad-high_impact_4
Entertainment
New Brunch Spot The Stove Makes Unicorn Hot Chocolate And Bananas Foster Pancakes
New Brunch Spot The Stove Makes Unicorn Hot Chocolate And Bananas Foster Pancakes. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Octopus On The Las Vegas Strip Predicted The Winner Of The World Cup
The Octopus On The Las Vegas Strip Predicted The Winner Of The World Cup. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-journal)
TLC by the Numbers
Watch Ruthless! at Las Vegas Little Theatre
The musical Ruthless! will be playing at Las Vegas Little Theatre from July 13-29. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
How to feel like a kid again in Las Vegas
How to feel like a kid again in Las Vegas
People Lined Up For Over 5 Hours For Build-a-bear's "Pay Your Age" Promotion At Galleria Mall
People Lined Up For Over 5 Hours For Build-a-bear's "Pay Your Age" Promotion At Galleria Mall. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Cadaver art and sword swallowing at The Dark Arts Market
Curator Erin Emrie talks about her inspiration for The Dark Arts Market at Cornish Pasty Co. in Las Vegas Tuesday, July 10, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Over 40,000 People Attend The 4th Of July Parade In Summerlin In Las Vegas
Over 40,000 People Attend The 4th Of July Parade In Summerlin In Las Vegas. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
What to expect at Station Casinos' Fourth of July celebration
Station Casinos' is hosting its annual 4th of July celebration with Fireworks by Grucci. Fireworks scheduled to go off on Wednesday, July 4 around 9 p.m. at Green Valley Ranch Resort, Red Rock Resort, Fiesta Rancho and Texas Station. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Pawn Stars' Richard Harrison honored at memorial service
A memorial service was conducted for Richard "Old Man" Harrison at Palm Mortuary in Las Vegas on Sunday, July 1, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Tourists and locals enjoy Independence Day fireworks at Caesars Palace
Hundreds of tourists and locals gaze at the Independence Day fireworks show at Caesars Palace on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
5 must-see bands at Warped Tour 2018
Five must-see bands at Warped Tour 2018
This Banana Split In Las Vegas Is Made With Fire And Liquid Nitrogen Right At Your Table.
This Banana Split In Las Vegas Is Made With Fire And Liquid Nitrogen Right At Your Table. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pixar Pier At Disneyland Is Open With New Food And A New Roller Coaster
Pixar Pier At Disneyland Is Open With New Food And A New Roller Coaster (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Here's What It's Like To Ride The New Incredicoaster At Disneyland
Here's What It's Like To Ride The New Incredicoaster At Disneyland (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
"Pawn Stars" fans visit Richard Harrison's memorial at Gold & Silver Pawn
"Pawn Stars" fans from around the world visit the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas following the passing of Richard "Old Man" Harrison on Monday, June 25, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Get a sneak peek at Palace Station's newest renovations
Station Casinos spokesperson Lori Nelson gives a first look at what Palace Station's $192 million renovation will bring. Some areas will begin opening to the public next week according to Nelson. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
You Can Only Get The 11-pound 8-person Burger In Las Vegas
You Can Only Get The 11-pound 8-person Burger In Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Paul McCartney is worth over $1 billion
Sir Paul McCartney is one of the most celebrated and accomplished musicians in history. He just turned 76 on June 18. McCartney grew to international fame with the Beatles and went on to become a wildly successful solo musician. Paul McCartney’s net worth is estimated at $1.2 billion, according to Celebrity Net Worth. In 2017, McCartney landed the No. 13 spot on Forbes’ list of the world’s highest-paid musicians, earning $54 million for the year. On Thursday, June 20, McCartney will release a double A-side single featuring two new songs, "I Don't Know" and "Come On to Me." McCartney has yet to announce a title of his new album or when it will be released. Th album is expected to be released before he headlines the Austin City Limits Music fest in October.
Bellagio's New Conservatory Brings Italian Summer To Las Vegas
Bellagio's New Conservatory Brings Italian Summer To Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Kari Curletto of Las Vegas put over 500 hours into making her toilet paper wedding dress. (Courtesy Kari Curletto)
Kari Curletto of Las Vegas put over 500 hours into making her toilet paper wedding dress. (Courtesy Kari Curletto)
The Real Crepe In Las Vegas Serves Authentic Crepes In The Style Of Brittany, France
The Real Crepe In Las Vegas Serves Authentic Crepes In The Style Of Brittany, France. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-journal)
New Marilyn Musical Brings Screen Icons Life To Strip
Paris Las Vegas hosts musical bio featuring new, old tunes. (Carol Cling Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas' hottest concerts of the summer
Vegas' hottest concerts of the summer
We Taste-tested The Best Doughnut Shops In Las Vegas
We Taste-tested The Best Doughnut Shops In Las Vegas. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
5 must-see bands at Punk Rock Bowling 2018
5 must-see bands at Punk Rock Bowling 2018
Gabi Coffee & Bakery Is Like A Korean Speakeasy From The 1920s
Gabi Coffee & Bakery Is Like A Korean Speakeasy From The 1920s (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Five must-see acts at the Electric Daisy Carnival 2018
Five must-see acts at the Electric Daisy Carnival 2018
The "13 Reasons Why" mustang cruises down the Las Vegas Strip (Courtesy Netflix)
4 fun and fascinating museums in Las Vegas
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like