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At the Movies: Is Spielberg Too Much for ‘Ready Player One’?

By Megan Bianco

It’s the new-age question everyone has been pondering this past decade: how much nostalgia is too much nostalgia? Well, Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Ernest Cline’s popular sci-fi novel Ready Player One almost seems like it exists just to answer that question. It takes place in a futuristic Ohio, set in the year 2045, but is completely coated with pop-culture references and Easter eggs from the 1970s-90s.

In a shanty Columbus neighborhood called “The Stacks,” 18-year-old Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) lives with his aunt Alice (Susan Lynch) and her nefarious boyfriend Rick (Ralph Ineson). To distract himself from his diminutive home life, Wade spends a lot of time in a virtual reality called the Oasis: a pop-culture-oriented video game world where anyone can create their own digital alter-egos. When Oasis creator James Halliday (Mark Rylance) dies, he leaves behind a fortune to whomever can find the secret Easter egg he hid inside the alternate world.

Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn and Simon Pegg co-star.
Ready Player One has all the cliché elements of an action/adventure flick with good-looking leads, megalomaniacal villains and comic relief via sidekicks. Not to mention all the purposely on-the-nose references. Even Spielberg directing could have easily been an on-the-nose decision. But much like the filmmaker’s previous classics like Jaws (1975) and Jurassic Park (1993), Spielberg makes some cinematic changes from the original book to the film’s advantage. The effects and action sequences are stellar, as are Sheridan and Cooke as leads, and the nostalgia isn’t too overridden to the point of being obnoxious.

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