South by Southwest Festival (SXSW) in Austin is well-known to screen spectacular films every year. This time, they landed something special: the world-premiere of Steven Spielberg’s “Ready Player One.”
Spielberg personally presented his highly anticipated new movie at SXSW. The film is based on the novel of Austin-native Ernest Cline, who was also in attendance.
“This is not a film we made, I promise you, this is A MOVIE,” Spielberg said.
“Ready Player One” will redefine sci-fi action and will mark the transition between movies and VR.
The year is 2045, and the world faces an unprecedented energy crisis. With fuel shortages, overpopulation and global warming, the world is almost unpleasant to live in. “Almost”, because there is the OASIS (Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation). OASIS is an advanced virtual-reality universe where everybody can be whoever and do whatever.
The creator of this technology, James Halliday (Mark Rylance), announced right before his death that he hid an Easter egg in the OASIS, which will grant the one who finds it total control over the simulation as well as his massive fortune.
Among the egg hunters is Wade Watts aka Parzival (Tye Sheridan). In a dystopian Ohio, he lives with his aunt in a slum-like neighborhood after his parents death, with stacks of trailer on top of one another. When Wade finds the first clue, corporate CEO Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), who runs a company employing professional gamers in order to win the OASIS, tries to sabotage his efforts. Luckily enough, Parzival doesn’t stand alone in this battle.
Upon seeing the first trailers, fans feared that this film would merely be a big product placement show and pop-culture-reference battle, but I can assure you it is much more.
“Ready Player One” is as much of a game-changer as “Jurassic Park,” “The Matrix,” or “Avatar.” Never-before-seen special effects integrate uncountable Easter eggs from the last 40 years of movies, music, and video games into the story, none of them are to show off. Without telling too much, fans of “Back to the Future,” “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” “Tron,” and “Final Fantasy” will be more than pleased. They will come back to watch this film numerous times to find more hidden gems.
Spielberg assesses total control over the project, and the
fact that Ernest Cline co-wrote the screenplay should reassure fans of the novel that they will retain its integrity. That being said, there are plenty of changes in the adaptation, and even hardcore fans will find many surprises during the 140 minutes of “Ready Player One.”
As for the actors, Spielberg casted mostly young players and newcomers, and they all do well under his thoughtful and experienced direction. Ben Mendelsohn visibly enjoys being the bad guy, and Mark Rylance, turns in another landmark performance of his astonishing career, here as a Willy Wonka-Steve Jobs type of character.
Spielberg’s longtime collaborator, Janusz Kaminski, made sure the cinematography never got confusing. Not even in the biggest action sequences. Although, it’s hard to tell what was actually filmed and what was rendered. Also intriguing, was the visible difference between OASIS and reality. The latter having more of the dystopian feel of “Blade Runner” or “Children of Men” while the former is a psychedelic version of “Avatar,” full of retro-tech and inhabitants we know and love (King Kong, Iron Giant, Chucky, and so much more).
Another key feature of “Ready Player One” is the soundtrack. When Spielberg opens the movie to “Jump” from Van Halen, he throws the viewer right into ‘80s nostalgia. While on the other hand, the score from Alan Silvestri provides this cinematic spectacle with the right background. When the viewer hears the “Back to the Future” twinkle, he knows what happens next.
Spielberg sets a new record for references, but to enrich the movie rather than distract from it. This film will be the manifestation of the transition between classic movies and virtual reality. Before we can get a real-life OASIS, “Ready Player One” will be as close as it gets.
Although, during the premiere in the legendary Paramount Theater, the projector went silent during the climax. But, fans were so excited that the technical problems couldn’t cloud the enthusiasm.
Afterward, Spielberg jokingly said it was “the biggest anxiety attack” he ever had.
At least he won’t have to worry about the box office, because success for “Ready Player One” is a guarantee.
Ready Player One (2018)
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Screenplay by Zac Penn & Ernest Cline
With Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, T.J. Miller, Simon Pegg, Mark Rylance,Lena Waithe, Win Morisaki, Ralph Ineson,
Cinematography by Janusz Kaminski
Music by Alan Silvestri
140 min, PG-13