Anything that deals with the past can sometimes be a turnoff to some people, that the antiquated must only be revered in museums, journals, and sweet old memories. But Steven Spielberg’s latest film, Ready Player One, which is adapted from a 2011 novel of the same title by Ernest Cline, tries to flip the table on that mentality. In here, Spielberg proves that the old can actually be just as interesting as the new. Because when it comes to pop culture—which is basically the fabric of this movie—the old is what becomes of all that is treasured.
Aside from being a critique on modern day distractions and anxieties (corporate greed, privacy issues, social media catfishing!), Ready Player One is a wild, visual feast of nostalgia. It’s as if it serves as a geek’s guide to 80’s and 90’s music, movies, pulp fiction, video games, comic books, and other sundry items that are usually deemed too inconsequential for lofty-minded individuals.
The story is set in the year 2045 and introduces us to Wade Watts (played by an effective but easily forgettable Tye Sheridan), a young man who spends most of his time in the Oasis as Parzival, a virtual world created by James Halliday. This is where anything goes, depending on the limits of your imagination (and the digital coins you collect in this computerized reality). Upon the death of Halliday, his avatar (or his digital persona) reveals to all players that there are three challenges to three powerful keys that grant ownership and control of the entire game. Everything changes when Watts meets Art3mis (yes, that’s spelled correctly) who reveals to him that this is no longer a game, when the order of the world is at stake and the gap between classes of society gets even more pronounced—especially that the power-hungry technological company Innovative Online Industries is doing everything it can to take hold of these keys.
Ready Player One has little of the subtlety and poeticism that shaped Spielberg’s other ambitious, fantastical works like A.I. Artificial Intelligence and Minority Report, but it certainly has the frenetic energy of The Adventures of Tintin and War of the Worlds. It just keeps going and going, with little pauses to process all the pop culture references bombarded at you before the next batch arrives.
Yes, it does wholeheartedly embrace the wonders of the past, which give the movie a tendency to tread on clichés and camp and the requisite shots at admiration of the familiar, but all this does not rob it of the fact that it is so satisfying to walk down memory lane. Each scene is like this homage to something exuberant, something vital to our understanding of reality, no matter what time it is derived from. Whether we as viewers are in it for the nostalgia trip or not, this movie sure knows how to play its game
[ photo borrowed from this site ].