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‘Ready Player One’ is fun thrill ride

Steven+Spielberg%27s+film+%22Ready+Player+One%22+received+a+74+percent+rating+on+Rotten+Tomatoes.
Steven Spielberg's film

Steven Spielberg's film "Ready Player One" received a 74 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

TNS

TNS

Steven Spielberg's film "Ready Player One" received a 74 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

CLINTON OLSASKY, Executive Editor

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After having devoted much of the latter half of his career to historical dramas and prestige pictures, it seems that legendary filmmaker Steven Spielberg (“Jaws,” “E.T.,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark”) has finally returned to his blockbuster roots with “Ready Player One.”

Spielberg’s latest movie, based on the novel of the same name by Ernest Cline, is set in the year 2045 — a not so distant future in which nearly all of society lives their lives in a virtual reality software known as the OASIS.

James Halliday (Mark Rylance), the creator of the OASIS, has died and, with his passing, has hidden a secret Easter egg in the OASIS that grants complete ownership of the virtual reality universe to whoever finds it.

The film, then, focuses in on Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), a teenage boy who is consumed with completing the so-called Quest and finding Halliday’s egg in order to prevent the evil corporation IOI from taking over the OASIS.

Directing: 5/5

With one of the greatest living directors at the helm, it comes as no surprise that “Ready Player One” features some truly stunning visuals and exhilarating editing.

Spielberg embraces the source material’s indebtedness to gaming culture, allowing his camera to resemble the reticle of a first-person shooter through dramatic zooms and variable framing.

Spielberg opts for every tool in his directorial arsenal, utilizing breathtaking tracking shots, gut-churning pans and tilts, aerial POV shots and a shrewd balance of close-ups and wide, panoramic virtual vistas.

With his camera carefully careening around the perilous raceways and littered battlefields of the OASIS’s dazzlingly lit landscape, Spielberg also adds considerable depth to his mise-en-scene through expertly crafted CGI animation.

However, unlike many of the major big-budget blockbusters coming out of Hollywood today, the extensive use of CGI featured in “Ready Player One” is seamlessly woven into the narrative and ultimately serves to enhance the filmic presentation, rather than detract from it due to a distracting artificiality.

Writing: 3/5

“Ready Player One” also benefits from an absorbing and kinetically paced screenplay that, while thoroughly entertaining, admittedly falls short when it comes to character development.

To be sure, the main characters are immensely likeable and easy to root for, and much of that likeability stems from the characters’ interactions with one another and with recognizable pop culture icons within the OASIS.

Still, the relative lack of character arcs in their individual storylines is conspicuous enough to undercut the film’s central narrative — at least to an extent.

In particular, Wade’s effort to save the OASIS from falling into the wrong hands fails to result in any real moments of revelation for the young outcast, notwithstanding a handful of (perhaps intentionally) stilted scenes of romantic dialogue with Art3mis, the mysterious OASIS player who joins Wade on the Quest.

With that being said, “Ready Player One” remains an exceptionally well-paced action adventure film that sees its 140-minute running time simply fly by with a wealth of pop culture references, thrilling set pieces and likeable character interactions.

Acting: 4/5

Although “Ready Player One” revels in its emphasis on eye-popping action, the performances featured amid the adrenaline-charged set pieces are memorable enough to add flavor to the individual characters without distracting from the main action of the Quest.

Tye Sheridan, for example, turns in a commendable performance as Wade, lending the protagonist with just enough sympathy to cause viewers to root for the unlikely hero.

However, Sheridan was a little too emotionally reserved at some of the more climactic moments of the film and could have added even more depth to his character by tapping into some of his most vulnerable aspects.

Olivia Cooke, on the other hand, was excellent as Art3mis, bringing a rare level of emotional resonance to her admittedly thinly written character.

Lastly, particular praise should be directed at veteran actor Mark Rylance (“Bridge of Spies,” “The BFG”), who, in his latest collaboration with Spielberg, portrays the enigmatic James Halliday with a difficult balance of wizened wisdom and endearing social awkwardness.

Overall: 4/5

Thanks to Spielberg’s characteristically dazzling direction, breakneck pacing and a fitting emphasis on pop culture nostalgia, “Ready Player One” is a feel-good piece of escapist filmmaking from the originator of the modern blockbuster.

In short, although it may not quite reach the great heights of Spielberg’s other classics, “Ready Player One” is undeniable proof that the legendary filmmaker is still very much at the top of his game.

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‘Ready Player One’ is fun thrill ride