In 2011, author Ernest Cline
hit the bestseller charts with his book Ready Player One
— a sci-fi adventure blending dystopian futurism, ’80s and ’90s nostalgia, and the basic plot of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
into a story that was pretty much begging for the big-screen treatment even before its impressive sales made an adaptation inevitable. Now the Ready Player One
movie is finally here, courtesy of the best director for the job: Steven Spielberg, a guy whose filmography helped shape the era that looms large over the nostalgia-drenched action. Tye Sheridan stars as Wade Watts, a kid who escapes his hardscrabble existence by tooling around the VR network known as OASIS — a hugely popular diversion whose creator (Mark Rylance
) has died and left behind an Easter egg bestowing complete control and unfathomable wealth to its finder. Naturally, a worldwide competition to unearth the egg ensues, with Wade in the midst of an increasingly perilous quest to beat countless competitors (including Ben Mendehlson
as the CEO of a company bent on overtaking OASIS) while testing his encyclopedic knowledge of the pop culture of yore. It’s the type of thing that sits squarely in Spielberg’s wheelhouse, even if it depends on mashing the nostalgia button in a way that triggers those old endorphins just as often as it invites criticism that Hollywood has run out of ideas. Fortunately, the pundits say that even if Ready Player One
isn’t exactly breaking new ground, it’s a perfect vehicle for Spielberg’s particular brand of storytelling — and even if you don’t catch every reference embedded in the movie, it still adds up to a fun adventure that earns its place in the director’s oeuvre.