Leave it to Steven Spielberg to bring back what it means to ‘go to the movies.’ Call me a sucker for falling into his nostalgic spin on the future, but I needed this film. With so many superheroes saturating the big screen these days, it’s nice to see an everyday hero thriving within his own journey into the unknown. “Ready Player One” might not be the film you expect, but I guarantee you walk away smiling. That’s big and a credit to the master himself who made sure to connect the past to the future in a way I never imagined.
The year is 2045 and virtually everything on Earth has broken down into a pile of lost dreams. So to escape, people go home and log into a virtual world known only as the OASIS. Here they can do anything and be whoever they want. Quite the concept and one that can be quite addicting the longer you stay connected. The OASIS was created by a billionaire by the name of James Halliday (Mark Rylance), who right before his death unleashed “Anorak’s Quest,” a game where players had a chance to claim Halliday’s entire fortune if they were able to collect three keys by solving a series of puzzles. Sounds simple enough, yet no one had even sniffed the finish line of the very first quest; a vehicle race across a shapeshifting cityscape full of obstacles. Enter Wade Watts, an orphan who inside the OASIS goes by the name of Parzival. You see Wade really enjoyed the OASIS and became obsessed with learning everything about its creator. So much so that he would go to the OASIS library to watch clips of Halliday, hoping to find something he could put to use for the quest. After what seemed to be countless wasted hours, Wade uncovered a memory that would eventually help him get the first key within the quest. Now a virtual superstar, everyone was trying to get a piece of Parzival, including his own OASIS friends who he enlisted to help with the next two puzzles leading to an exciting adventure that finds a way to bring out the kid in you.
I remember first seeing the trailer for this film and thinking, who are all these kids. Clearly I’m showing my age. But, I shouldn’t have doubted the master, as just has a way of choosing the right people. Figure, he has been doing it for a while and here was able to find talent like Tye Sheridan and Olivia Cooke to lead this unlikely cast. What a pair they were, both inside and outside of their virtual reality forms. I was impressed with not only their chemistry, but their poise while they navigated this adventurous story. And let’s face it, neither one of them have done a whole lot yet in their careers with Sheridan’s most notable work coming out of the recent “X-Men: Apocalypse” film where he played Cyclops. But he was good and really sort of took charge allowing the lesser known Cooke to do her own thing, which was great. Playing the savvy Art3mis/Samantha, Cooke had quite the dynamic to work with, but I loved the steadiness she brought to her role. Definitely pleasantly surprised with these two and it should be interesting watching their careers blossom from here, as you have to be pretty special to be in a Steven Spielberg film. Others filled in nicely where needed, but I do want to give praise to the extremely talented Mark Rylance who once again shined in limited moments, this time as James Halliday, aka Anorak. Sure, he was quirky and odd, but he really helped sell this story which cannot be understated.
For those that haven’t followed Spielberg over the years, the guy loves science fiction and artificial worlds. Not counting this film, to have directed/produced films like “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” “Jurassic Park,” “A.I. Artificial Intelligence,” “Minority Report” and the recent “BFG” is remarkable. Quite the short list and one that literary has helped shape the industry we know today. That’s the impact of Spielberg and why he will go down as one of the greatest, if not the greatest filmmaker of all time. And it’s not just the 34 films he directed, it’s also the near 60 films he helped fund and produce. So in my mind, when we see him behind the camera like he was here, I tend to perk up, because it tells me this particular 2011 novel by Ernest Cline must mean something to him. And after watching it unfold, I get it, as this story was magical in ways you almost didn’t really expect, but couldn’t help but enjoy. Sure, it had a lot in it, but it also had heart, which sort of shocked me. So kudos to Spielberg for bringing that out and adding a different element to the overall digital experience. It shows he hasn’t lost a step as even in the most ridiculous of settings, he can also find balance within the chaos proving his worth yet again. It just all worked and sure, I’m sure it helped to have his longtime cinematographer Janusz Kamiński on board, as the pure look to this film was really neat. Conveying such an alternate universe to the big screen couldn’t had been easy, but I would bet it was lot of fun for Kaminski and Spielberg. Escaping to the movies use to be the norm, so it’s nice to see something like “Ready Player One” come into focus showing us there might still be some hope left in a place not too far away.