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
Artist Joshua Vides created a "White Wedding" chapel for Billy Idol's Las Vegas residency
Artist Joshua Vides created a "White Wedding" chapel for Billy Idol's Vegas residency (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Try the Burning History cocktail at Zuma In Las Vegas
Try the Burning History cocktail at Zuma In Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES final night showcases Drake at XS Nightclub
Drake performed for CES attendees and club-goers at XS Nightclub in Encore at Wynn Las Vegas in the early morning hours of Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. (John Katsilometes Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES Happy Hour party at Hangover Suite at Caesars Palace
Conventioneers mingled during the Hardware Massive CES 2019 Happy Hour Bash at The Hangover Suite at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
CES 2019 Has A Cordless Hair Dryer
CES Has A Cordless Hair Dryer (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES Opening Party in Omnia Nightclub at Caesars Palace
CES conventioneers packed Omnia Nightclub at Caesars Palace, and let loose as they danced to DJs into the night. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Print intricate designs, your pet or your face on your nails
Print intricate designs, your pet or your face on your nails (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES 2019: Panel talks Impossible Burger 2.0
Panel talks Impossible Burger at CES during launch at Border Grill on Monday, Jan. 7. (Ben Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Momofuku Makes A Cocktail With Bok Choy And Beets
Momofuku Makes A Cocktail With Bok Choy And Beets (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Dream of AJ Montgomery
AJ Montgomery lost part of his leg in a vehicle accident but found his dream as a performer in “Le Reve.” (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Kelly Clinton-Holmes of the Stirling Club
John Katsilometes chats with Kelly Clinton-Holmes, director of the Stirling Club's New Year's Eve entertainment.
Month-by-month entertainment coming in 2019
“True Detective” Season 3, HBO (Jan. 13) Travis Scott, T-Mobile Arena (Feb. 6) Robbie Williams, Encore Theatre at Wynn Las Vegas (March 6, 8, 9, 13, 15 and 16) “Game of Thrones” Season 8, HBO (April) Electric Daisy Carnival, Las Vegas Motor Speedway (May 17-19) “Fiddler on the Roof,” The Smith Center (June 4-9) “The Lion King” (July 19) Psycho Las Vegas, Mandalay Bay (Aug. 16-18) Life is Beautiful, downtown Las Vegas (Sept. 20-22) “Tim Burton @ the Neon Museum” (Oct. 15) “Frozen 2” (Nov. 22) “Star Wars: Episode IX” (Dec. 20)
Lacey Huszcza invites you to find something to love at the Las Vegas Philharmonic
Lacey Huszcza, executive director of the Las Vegas Philharmonic talks about the orchestra's wealth of programming. (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gina Marinelli offers La Strega preview
Gina Marinelli used a pop-up New Year’s Eve dinner at Starboard Tack to preview items she’ll feature at her new Summerlin restaurant, La Strega. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New Year’s Eve at Sparrow + Wolf
Sparrow + Wolf’s New Year’s Eve party was a sort of official unveiling of its newly renovated space. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas NYE Fireworks - VIDEO
The full show: A spectacular view from the rooftop of the Trump International Hotel as 80,000 pyrotechnics illuminated the Las Vegas Strip at the stroke of midnight. Fireworks by Grucci choreographed launches from the Stratosphere, the Venetian, Treasure Island, Caesars Palace, Planet Hollywood, Aria and MGM Grand.
Debra Kelleher Of The Stirling Club
Debra Kelleher, DK Hospitality President talks with Johnny Kats about the reopening of the Stirling Club.
Richard Ditton Of The Stirling Club
Richard Ditton, an investment partner of the Stirling Club talks with Johnny Kats about the reopening of the club.
NYE at the Stirling Club
John Katsilometes reports from the reopening of the Stirling Club on New Year's Eve 2018.
Michael Stapleton of the Stirling Club
Michael Stapleton, COO of the Stirling Club talks with Johnny Kats about the reopening of the club.
Recap the Countdown on Fremont Street — VIDEO
Nearly 40,000 people packed Fremont Street to enjoy America's Party Downtown. As the tradition stands, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman counted down the clock on the 3rd Street Stage, alongside her husband and former mayor, Oscar Goodman.
New Year's Eve live from the Las Vegas Strip Bellagio Fountains - Video
Reporter Aaron Drawhorn near the Bellagio Fountains as hundreds of thousands gather to celebrate New Year's Eve in Las Vegas
Ryan Reaves describes the flavors in Training Day beer
Ryan Reaves talks about the flavor of Training Day, the new beer from 7Five Brewing that was launched at the PKWY Tavern on West Flamingo Road. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ryan Reaves describes his new beer
Golden Knights winger Ryan Reaves talks about his new beer from 7Five Brewing at a launch party at PKWY Tavern on West Flamingo Road. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas' five biggest NYE concerts
Imagine Dragons at The Chelsea at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Lady Gaga at The Park Theater at Park MGM, Maroon 5 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, Bruno Mars at T-Mobile Arena, and Tenacious D at The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
Celebrate New Years Day, Hangover Day and Bloody Mary Day at Cabo Wabo
Celebrate New Years Day, Hangover Day and Bloody Mary Day at Cabo Wabo (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Michael Symon, chef and owner of Mabel's BBQ, talks about his first Las Vegas restaurant
Michael Symon, chef and owner of Mabel's BBQ, talks about his first Las Vegas restaurant. Bizuayehu Tesfaye @bizutesfaye
New American Eagle flagship on the Las Vegas Strip lets you customize your clothing
American Eagle flagship on the Las Vegas Strip lets you customize your clothing
Bellagio Conservatory display is Majestic Holiday Magic
Majestic Holiday Magic at the Bellagio Conservatory
Las Vegas Ready for 2019 NYE Fireworks Show
The city of Las Vegas is ready to celebrate "America's Party" with a new and improved fireworks show that will pay tribute to the Golden Knights.
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like