Ready Player One

[4.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

So we went to the cinema to see Steven Spielberg's latest. I liked it a lot.

Set in a mildly-dystopic 2045, where (seemingly) most of the US population has decided to spend its spare time in the virtual reality world of the "Oasis", a huge cyber-environment set up years ago by the late James Halliday. The hero, Wade Watts, lives in a Columbus trailer park slum, but he's gained a measure of virtual fame, via his Oasis avatar "Parzival". His ambition, like that of millions of other players, is to find an Easter Egg Halliday hid in Oasis before his death, and thereby become heir to the Halliday cyber-empire. He is joined by some other plucky young people, and finds himself in conflict with a greedy corporate behemoth.

It's kind of a wonderful mishmash. Let's see if we can sort it out:

  • 50%: gorgeous, amazing, over-the-top CGI virtual-reality exploits and battles, with piles of inside jokes and pop-cultural references.
  • 30%: a standard story of young misfits against the previously mentioned corporate behemoth.
  • 20%: a surprisingly bittersweet backstory of two friends and business partners in love with the same girl, which eventually breaks up their friendship and their business.

Me, I thought Spielberg could have played up the backstory more, and toned down the CGI stuff. Good as it is, it's not the reason we go to the movies, Steve.