Freelance journalist with a passion for theatre, the arts, food and books.
Published March 17th 2018
Back to the 1980s For latest Spielberg movie spectacular
Steven Spielberg's hotly anticipated new sci-fi movie Ready Player One has a familiar feel to it, but that's probably because of all the references to the 1980s.
Speilberg's Ready Player One
Based on the book of the same name by Ernest Cline, Ready Player One is a fast-paced mix of science fiction, action adventure and nostalgia.
Although Spielberg has taken some liberties with the novel, his changes make the film more of a buddy movie about the importance of friends, in the same vein as The Goonies.
For those who lived through the 1980s, it's a constant barrage of popular culture memories that can't help but bring a chuckle of recognition. The 'Zemeckis weapon' that takes you back in time or the DeLorean avatar race car (both a nod to Back To The Future), the apartment in Tom Hanks film Big, comments about Duran Duran's outfits and a rehash of the boombox scene from film Say Anything. You get the picture - it's a constant step back into the Eighties.
A nod to Back To The Future in the film
This film isn't just a throwback in terms of music and films, it's also a love song to vintage computer games too. Everything from Street Fighter to Adventurer and Pac Man is in there, plus a huge battle scene featuring cameos from the likes of Tracer from Overwatch, Lara Croft from Tomb Raider and even Chuckie from Child's Play.
Gamers will love the look and feel of this movie as it swaps between the real world and the avatar one in the fantasy game of OASIS.
Released by Warner Bros on 29 March in the UK and on 30 March worldwide, Ready Player One is set in a dystopian future in 2045, when people escape the harsh reality of life by delving into the virtual reality universe of OASIS, created by the brilliant gamesmaster, James Halliday.
Oscar-winning actor Mark Rylance plays Halliday with a lovely dippy charm. His delightful eccentricity and wild scientist hair has more than a passing resemblance to Doc Emmett Brown. As usual, Rylance completely overshadows the rest of the cast, including fellow Brit Simon Pegg as the co-creator of OASIS.
The story takes off after Halliday's death when he leaves his immense fortune to the first person who can find a digital 'Easter egg' hidden within the depths of his make-believe world.
People have turned to an alternative world for comfort
With sinister global gaming company Innovative Online Industries putting all its efforts into winning the competition, which could have repercussions on society as a whole, a rebellion of young heroes come together in the game and then in real life to solve the treasure hunt.
Spielberg is a master at character-building and he does it once again with a motley crew of unlikely young heroes. Leading them is Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), who escapes his poor and unhappy surroundings in the 'Stacks' ghetto by living a life of adventure as his avatar Parzival in the OASIS treasure hunt.
It's in this alternative world that he embraces new friends and a new meaning to life outside of the game. Olivia Cooke as Sam, or avatar Art3mis, has a strong screen presence as a fiery female lead, but the funniest character of all is bounty hunter i-R0k, played by T.J. Miller, who also played Weasel in Deadpool.
The OASIS world of avatars
The adventure takes us through three stages of the game to solve riddles and gain keys while also understanding the backstory of Halliday's life and regrets.
Although there's high adrenaline car races and a fantastic comic-horror scene recreating The Shining, there's also plenty of Spielberg sentimentality and romance in the coolest nightclub you've ever seen (complete with a dance floor you float on) and an underlying plot about the bond between friends and beauty being from within.
Vivid, imaginative scenes in Ready Player One
There's also plenty of human mysteries to resolve about Halliday that give this film more depth than just a game-film special effects spectacle.
Interestingly, Spielberg filmed much of this movie in Birmingham in the UK - the home of iconic '80's pop band Duran Duran - and many of the backdrops in the real-life scenes will be recognisable to Brummies.
Spielberg has done a great job of bringing to life the vividness of the fantasy world from the book while adding his expert touches of suspense, romance and danger along the way. The popular culture references in this production are endless and you'd probably need to see the movie several times to catch them all.
Ready Player One is an exciting DeLorean ride between the Eighties and the future fuelled with that inimitable Spielberg spark. It won't disappoint.