April 11, 2018

Ready Player One: Gamers Search for Easter Egg in Virtual Reality Adventure

By Kam Williams

It is 2045, a time when the planet has devolved into a desolate dystopia that is a combination of pollution, overpopulation, poverty, corruption, and global warming. Most of humanity lives in slums where they escape their misery by disappearing, via virtual reality, into the Oasis, a parallel universe co-created by James Halliday (Mark Rylance) and Ogden Morrow (Simon Pegg). Halliday is now in control of Oasis and Morrow is no longer associated with the firm.

The picture’s point of departure is an unrecognizable Columbus, Ohio, that is a devastated metropolis that has been reduced to a wasteland of vertical “stacks,” i.e. mobile homes that are piled  on top one another. We meet Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), who is an orphaned teen who has been taken in by his Aunt Alice (Susan Lynch).

Wade’s a gamer who goes by his online avatar Parzival. His best friend is Aech (Lena Waithe), although they’ve never actually met. In this world everyone prefers escaping into the Oasis instead of facing the post-apocalyptic squalor that is reality.

A glimmer of hope of a way to escape appears in the will left behind by the recently-deceased Halliday. In a video, he announces a treasure hunt for an Easter egg that is hidden in the Oasis. The finder will not only be awarded control of the company Oasis, but will also inherit half a trillion dollars.

So, Wade forms the High Five, a team comprised of him, Aech, Art3mis (Olivia Cooke), and siblings Sho (Philip Zhao) and Daito (Win Morisaki). Of course, millions of other “Gunters” (egg hunters) join in the search, and the chief competitor is Innovative Online Industries (IOI), a video game conglomerate run by Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), who has a mammoth army of indentured players at his disposal.

However, trust Steven Spielberg to work his movie magic. After establishing that implausible challenge, Ready Player One takes off at a dizzying pace, with the legendary director even including a romance between Wade and Art3mis. Wade has a big cyber crush on her even though he has no idea what she looks like in real life. She likes him, too, but hides behind her avatar, because she has a big birthmark on her face. The movie is vintage Spielberg!

Excellent (****). Rated PG-13 for action, violence, bloody images, suggestive material, partial nudity, and profanity. Running time: 140 minutes. Production Studios: Amblin Entertainment/Village Roadshow Pictures/Reliance Entertainment/De Line Pictures/Farah Films & Management. Distributor: Warner Brothers Pictures.