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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Apr 17, 2018

Ready Player One Movie Review: Great Storytelling And A Spectacular Sight And Sound Feast On The Big Screen

WHEN IT COMES to engrossing storytelling, Steven Spielberg remains as one of cinema’s best storytellers. The narrative of “Ready Player One” is totally engaging from start to end and pop culture enthusiasts will just love the so many references and nods it gives to movies, both old and new.

It’s a special effects action flick based on a hit novel and makes extensive, wonderful use of computer generated imagery, just like his “Close Encounters” and “Jurassic Park”. The movie’s amazing and spectacular visuals makes it imperative that you watch it on the big screen with a first rate sound system as it’s a sight and sound feast. It will lose a lot of its awesome elements when you watch on a small screen, especially on your tablet or cellphone.

Based on a popular novel by Ernest Cline, the story is set in a dystopian future in 2045 when the world has become so overpopulated and poverty is rampant. To be able to cope with the earth’s sad and depressing conditions, people just escape from their real world through virtual reality. This is mainly through the game world called Oasis, which was created by James Halliday (Mark Rylance, who won the Oscar for Spielberg’s “Bridge of Spies”) with Ogden Morrow (Simon Pegg.) Here, all you have to do is stay connected to Oasis and you can do whatever you want to.

The “bida” is Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan, Cyclops in “X-Men Apocalypse”), a poor orphan boy who lives with his aunt and her abusive boyfriend in a place called The Stacks, where people live in old trailer homes and container vans stacked over one another in what look like giant computer racks. In the virtual world of Oasis, Wade is known as his avatar, Parzival. He is an egg hunter or Gunter, who aims to find the prize offered by Halliday, the last Easter Egg, which will give total control of the world to whoever succeeds in finding it.

Before Halliday died, he leaves a quest for this magical egg but all those who’ll join are required to pass three challenges to obtain three keys that will lead them to the location of the prized egg. Wade has made friends with other Gunters: Art3mis or Samantha (Olivia Cooke, who we remember in “Bates Motel”), Aech (Lena Waithe), and the Asians So (Philip Zhao) and Daito (Win Morisaki, who looks like a young Yul Servo.)

Together, they will eventually join forces as a team called High Five to solve all the challenges and find the much coveted egg. Wade does his research in an archive center housing Halliday’s Journals constructed like dioramas with a host known as the Curator, an English butler who echoes an early web search engine, Ask Jeeves. This helps him find the right clues and answers to the challenges.

In the real world, the villain is Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), the leader of a company called Innovative Online Industries or IOI, who wants to get the egg for himself. He has an entire battalion of players called Sixers that help him do research to seek the clues to the three challenges.

Sorrento wants to control the entire virtual universe so he can make more money out of it. He’s willing to do everything, including kill people, just to get the egg. He has a badass avatar in Oasis and is assisted by i-Rok (TJ Miller), a bounty hunter, and by F’nale Zandor (Hannah John Kamen), as his most trusted right hand.

The film is replete with pop culture references from the 70s and 80s and if the movie becomes a cult favorite, we won’t be surprised if some fans would catalogue all the cultural references made here. Since the film is from Warner Bros, expect to see a lot of their own creations, including King Kong, The Iron Giant, Batman, Mechagodzilla, Freddy Krueger and Kubrick’s “The Shining” which figures prominently in one climactic sequence.

There are also nods to “Alien”, “Star Trek”, “Back to the Future”, “Nancy Drew”, “Star Wars”, “Beetlejuice”, Hello Kitty, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the evil doll Chucky (all popping up in the most unexpected and stunning fashion.) There’s also a truly splendid musical tribute to “Saturday Night Fever” and the Bee Gees’ “Staying Alive” where the dancers magically float in the air.

One good element is the romance between between Wade and Samantha, who first meet as their avatars in the online world, Parzival and Art3mis before they meet in the flesh. The action sequences in both the virtual and the real world can truly be exciting, with many energetic chase scenes and a dazzling climactic battle in both the online and real worlds. The first action scene where Parzival saves Art3mis from the deadly clutches of King Kong is breathtakingly executed.

Spielberg seems to have lost his touch with recent commercial projects that sadly flopped, like “Adventures of Tintin” and “The BFG”, (he’s more successful with serious films like his recent Oscar-nominated “The Post”), but he certainly bounces back with this movie and its fine attention to detail. The performances of the young cast is vibrant and contagious while Rylance gives a very endearing characterization of the soft spoken Oasis guru that is Halliday.