What do The Shining, Iron Giant and DeLoreans from Back to the Future have in common?
They’re just three of the hundreds of Easter eggs director Steven Spielberg has packed into the non-stop nostalgiafest that is Ready Player One.
The film tells the story of the OASIS, a magical virtual reality land where everyone on earth spends all of their time. It’s 2045 and after suffering from an unclear event that has turned the world into a dystopian nightmare, the OASIS is all humanity has left.
Wade Watts (played by Tye Sheridan) is our hero, orphaned, ordinary and living in what are called ‘the stacks’ in Columbus, Ohio. The stacks are trailers placed on top of one another in the world’s most precarious Jenga game, and it’s not where the high-and-mighty live.
But it doesn’t matter because Wade spends his time in the back of a rusty van deeply submerged in the OASIS. The world has gone to the dogs but there’s apparently free Wi-Fi everywhere, which seems like a fair tradeoff.
The OASIS is the brainchild of the deceased James Halliday (played brilliantly, as always, by Mark Rylance) who was part Steve Jobs, part Willy Wonka. Upon his death he revealed his golden ticket — that there are three keys hidden in the OASIS and that whoever finds them first will inherit his vast fortune and control of the game.
Wade spends his days searching for the keys with his best friend inside the OASIS, Aech (pronounced H) and doesn’t have much success until he meets a pink-haired badass named Artemis (Olivia Cooke) who is a love interest and competitor.
From one of the best car chases in recent history to an extended stay in the Shining hotel that will have you laughing between screams, the search for the keys takes up the bulk of the film.
Of course, no dystopian world is complete without a villain and this role is filled by greedy, corporate baddie Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn) who has an army of players at his disposal in his quest to turn the OASIS into a corporate nightmare of advertisements and money.
The film is non-stop adventure. You could easily see it 10 times before noticing all its details and fanboy nods. Why 2045 is basically the ‘80s is never explained, but there’s so much action you don’t have a chance to wonder why.
The plot — dystopian world saved by average boy and a band of misfit toys — isn’t new. But the structure of the film — which takes place 80% inside a video game — is different, and though attempted before in TRON, Spielberg makes it feel brand new.
The only downside to the visual tsunami that is the OASIS is that the real-life scenes can’t compete.
I’m not much of a gamer. My mom in Bright’s Grove was convinced video games would rot my brain and now as an adult I can barely make Mario jump over a mushroom. So I can’t speak to the authenticity of the player experience the film attempts to capture.
What I can say is that even as an outsider the film is incredibly entertaining. Is it 20 minutes too long? Absolutely. Is it going to bring fun and joy to the masses anyway? Without a doubt.
Vicky Sparks is a Bright’s Grove native and movie critic for Global TV’s The Morning Show, which airs nationally on Fridays. Her Journal Reviews cover movies playing at Galaxy Cinemas Sarnia