Ready Player One

Ready Player One 2

A pop culture banquet, Spielberg’s latest may fail to thrill, but it sure does please the eye.

Plunging into the gamer world, we meet our heroes in a dark future where reality, we are told, is a bummer. Because so many have given up trying to cope with that, much of the populous spends most of their time playing a virtual reality game, escaping into an OASIS that is both tantalizing and troublesome. X-Men’s Tye Sheridan stars as the young man who just might have the smarts and daring to win a winner take all game, set up by OASIS designer, an as usual marvelous Mark Rylance. Olivia Cooke is dandy as the daring young woman who pairs perfectly with our hero, both in and out of the game. Some other wonderful actors, Lena Waithe, Simon Pegg and Ben Mendelsohn do what they can with at best underwritten roles.

For the first hour or so, the movie feels as if Spielberg is the gamest of them all, fueled by an enthusiasm that reminds us of the joyous energy of E.T. and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Going full throttle in an extended New York City based chase, the screen and surround sound almost burst with glee. If any fan ever dreamed of what this filmmaker would do if he created a state of the art video game, a sequence on a bridge fulfills that fantasy, not just for fans, but, it feels, for Spielberg himself. There’s also another bit of business, involving a classic film, that is a brilliantly made hoot and a half. No spoilers, but these two truly outstanding scenes are worth the price of admission all on their own.

Yes, the story is thread bare. Yes, the movie, a long 2 hours and 20 minutes, sags in parts. But I loved the steady flow of nostalgic references, the soundtrack and the sense of jet propelled fun Spielberg brings, making him clearly the very ready player one.