Friday, March 30, 2018

Spielberg's READY PLAYER ONE makes a nice return to a past master's older adventure films

If you're worried (as was I) that lack of any interest in video games would keep you from enjoying Steven Spielberg's latest endeavor, READY PLAYER ONE, you can rest (relatively) easy.

Yes, the movie begins with way too much video-gaming in its typical (though, in this case, very-good-for-its-genre) animated form, but once it concentrates more on its "real" characters rather than their so-called "avatars," the film will probably pull you in to its convoluted universe and keep you there.

This is particularly true, should you be one of those film nuts who love seeing and hearing lots of references to other famous films. Spielberg (at right) and his writers -- Zak Penn and Ernest Cline (who adapted their screenplay from Cline's novel) have filled their film chock-full of this, Young kids will enjoy the swift pace and adventure, while adults will be chuckling/ snickering at the many "in" references. (A surprisingly long scene devoted to The Shining proves the most fun of all these.)

The story, set in Ohio a few decades ahead in 2045, involves our dystopian and even more income-unequal society in which most folk prefer to spend their time online in a virtual universe known as Oasis, created by a brilliant but now-deceased fellow named Halliday, played by that amazing actor and Oscar winner Mark Rylance (above), thus continuing this most productive relationship between actor and director (which includes Bridge of Spies and The BFG). Mr. Rylance is wonderful once again, providing the movie with both its strongest character and most of its "heart."

Our hero is a young fellow named Wade (Tye Sheridan, quite grown up since his early appearance in Mud, and now looking like Miles Teller's younger brother), a very good gamer who hopes to win the "prize" embedded in Halliday's Oasis universe, which will makes him rich and powerful beyond measure.

Also hoping to win are a few other good gamers, including our heroine, Samantha (played by Olivia Cooke, above). The fly in the ointment -- more like a giant cockroach -- is Sorrento (the always fun Ben Mendelsohn, below), a former disciple/intern of Halliday who now owns one of the country's largest corporations, and simply wants to add to his arsenal by capturing the prize.

What happens and why fills out this overlong (two hours and 20 minutes) but usually entertaining and exciting adventure, in which Mr. Spielberg returns to some of the themes and concerns of his earlier adventure films. The difference this time centers around so much that has changed in our world over the past 15 to 20 years: the internet and the ability to lose oneself in fantasy and online friends and identities.

As much fun as all this can be (as well as an escape from the pretty crappy reality faced by the great majority of our world today), it is not, finally -- as the filmmakers reminds us rather too heavily at the conclusion -- at all real. Reality is real. And that's it.

In the supporting cast are some fun characters (see above) decently portrayed, once we're allowed to actually meet their real selves, much later in the film. Mr. Sheridan makes a good enough hero, as does Ms Cooke a heroine (though, really, you must view this actress' performance in The Limehouse Golem to see how she can stretch!)

TrustMovies got up from his seat at the finish of Ready Player One, happy and satisfied with the time spent. But I have to say that now, just 24 hours later, the film is already seeming pretty forgettable. Maybe, however, that's because I don't give a hoot about video games or alternate realities.

From Warner Brothers, the movie opened this week in theaters all over the country. To find one (or ten) near you, simply click here then scroll down and click on one of the three options below the words GET TICKETS.

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