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Steven Spielberg makes the ultimate fan film with the amazing “Ready Player One”

Anyone who read the novel Ready Player One knew that it both would make for a fun movie and also would be really hard to adapt. Jam packed with pop culture references and dense with callbacks, it could be overwhelming and one note in the wrong hands. Enter Steven Spielberg. This week, Ready Player One hits theaters and represents Spielberg having a ton of fun. He was the perfect choice to adapt Ernest Cline’s novel, elevating the enjoyable source material into a work of pop art. This is the most fun that any film has been so far in 2018. You’re watching a master at work, one who is loving every moment of this movie too. Trust me when I say, it shows. It’s an absolute blast.

This epic takes place in the future, after society has come down a few pegs. Most people spend their free time getting away from it all, specifically by playing the virtual reality world OASIS. Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) is one such person, getting away from his poor existence in Columbus to actually enjoy “life”, using his avatar Parzival. Almost every player is in some way searching for the “Easter Egg”, the prize within the game left by deceased founder James Halliday (Mark Rylance). When Wade stumbles upon a clue, he’s suddenly in the lead for the egg and off on an adventure, joined by friend Aech (Lena Waithe), potential love interest/master player Art3mis (Olivia Cooke), Daito (Win Morisaki), and Sho (Philip Zhao). Never far behind is the evil Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), who wants control of the OASIS for financial gain. Spielberg directs the adaptation of Cline’s novel, which Cline himself co-wrote with Zak Penn. Supporting players here include Hannah John-Kamen, T.J. Miller, Simon Pegg, Letitia Wright, and more. Longtime Spielberg cinematographer Janusz Kaminski is behind the camera, while Alan Silvestri provides the score. Visually, this is as impressive as anything the director has done in some time.

Spielberg is having the time of his life making this. Cline and Penn’s screenplay, presumably under Spielberg’s direction, changes much of the novel, and it’s the rare example of a case where that makes things better, not worse. Sequences in the book depicting video game playing, acting out movies, etc, are swapped out for cinematic action scenes, ones of course filled with references. In one case, there’s a set piece taking place within The Shining, and it’s an all time moment for Spielberg. The rest of the movie is very good, but that scene is downright phenomenal. As for the various references, this was made to be revisited on Blu-Ray and freeze framed. Blink and you’ll miss dozens of things. It’s just a joy to watch, especially in the hands of the master.

Awards wise, Ready Player One could definitely contend in the technical categories, come Oscar time. Best Picture, Best Director (for Spielberg), and Best Adapted Screenplay (for Cline and Penn) are long shots, but Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Original Score, and Best Visual Effects certainly are on the table. It wouldn’t shock me to see Production Design, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, and Visual Effects all come to fruition when the Academy votes next year. It’s the sort of fun blockbuster that they could take a liking to, tech wise. We shall see, at least.

This weekend, Spielberg fans can rejoice in his latest blockbuster. Ready Player One is the ultimate popcorn movie, with the added bonus that Spielberg actually has a lot on his mind here as well. Not just a fun adventure, it’s also a condemnation of the very activities celebrated within. Virtual reality is fun, and Spielberg has a ball depicting it, but the real world is better (because it’s real, as one character says). It may not be the sort of prestige fare that The Post was last year, but in terms of just being a good time at the movies, this is Spielberg totally in control. I loved it, and you likely will too…

Be sure to check out Ready Player One, in theaters everywhere starting tomorrow!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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