Based on a hugely entertaining novel and directed by THE Steven Spielberg, Ready Player One has a pretty good chance of being the Who Framed Roger Rabbit of it’s generation. Set in a future world where everyone plays The Oasis, a massive free play virtual world where everyone has an obsession with 80’s pop culture, a young man living in slum city “The Stacks” finds the first clue in a massive game that could spell the future of the hope giving simulation.
Despite this being a relatively modern concept and Spielberg is the old school master of blockbuster cinema, a look back over his career really does show why he was the perfect choice.
Making exposition heavy dialogue palatable? Look no further than Indy Jones’ maguffin explanations.
Making pure CGI feel like it has weight and consequence? He cut his teeth on the underrated Tin Tin.
Leading an audience through tech reliant, sci-fi worlds? Surely you’ve seen Minority Report?
It’s his most lively movie in years, crammed full of inventive set pieces, the freedom of the CGI environments may make some yearn for the more real-world scraps of yesteryear, but it gives Spielberg licence to play like a kid in a candy store. An early race has the main characters weave in and out of lethal booby traps piloting a Back To The Future DeLorean, the bike from Akira and the Bigfoot monster truck, while trying to avoid being cockblocked by none other than King Kong.
Ah, yes. The movie references. In any other directors hands the sheer weight of the hundreds of blink and you’ll miss them cameo appearances from everyone to Jason Vorhees to Harley Quinn, would most likely swamped the story, but in Spielberg’s hand (who’s either directly or indirectly responsible for the creation of most of them) becomes a repeat-viewing wonderland. The scene set within The Shining’s Overlook Hotel alone is fucking insane and complete with blood elevators, and the resident of room 213, pushes the 12A rating further than it ever has before (Spielberg being at his most mischievous since Temple Of Doom). There’s no doubt in my mind this movie will become the most paused flick of all time (that doesn’t contain nudity, of course). The climatic showdown alone contains enough Easter eggs to populate at least 30 movies, but you gotta admire a final battle that employs Mechagodzilla, Gundam and Chucky the killer doll as hugely effective WMD’s.
The actors are all hugely likeable and project well through their CG avatars (and in Ben Mendelsohn’s case, through alarming dentures) and the real world stuff is a good counterpoint to all the computer generated glamour. At best it’s a fun, inventive, very well balanced blockbuster, at worst it’s a nostalgia bomb going off square in the feels and if that’s not a win-win situation, what is?
Is it vintage Spielberg? No, but why would you want that? Vintage Spielberg has been sitting on our shelves, enthralling us since Jaws. This is something different This is something new. This is Spielberg having fun.
And so will you.