‘Ready Player One’: a fast-paced nostalgic joy ride

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Editor’s Note: The grading system used here is similar to the 10-point scale used in SDSU courses.

GRADE: A-

A lot of people, myself included, credit director Steven Spielberg as the creator of the modern renaissance of movie franchises and genre films.

These are movies that made movie-going far more accessible and fun for the general public. They’re movies like “Jurassic Park” and “Indiana Jones” that are today’s “Avengers” and “Transformers.”

So, perhaps this is why it’s so fitting to have Spielberg in the director’s chair for this film, being hailed for his ability to reuse other pop culture properties as a texture in the movie’s digital world.

I’m happy to report as per his reputation, Spielberg delivers. “Ready Player One” is a nostalgia fueled sci-fi flick that pays homage to video game and movie culture, while also offering a sobering critique of it.

“Ready Player One” is set in the typical not-too-distant-future most Hollywood fair seems stuck on these days. This future is one where it looks like 99 percent of the population is playing a virtual reality (VR) video game called OASIS.

In this game, you can buy weapons, cars, power-ups and personal accessories for your avatar. You can become friends with other players, kill other players and even exchange currency for things like personal accessories or game power-ups.

The movie follows painfully obvious underdog Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) as he struggles to navigate this world under the thumb of an abusive living situation. But then an opportunity emerges in OASIS: a contest set up by the now dead creator of the game. The games is simple: find three magic eggs hidden throughout the game and you inherit ownership of OASIS and half a trillion dollars.

Things become complicated when Wade realizes he actually has to fight not only to secure the prize for himself, but to also keep the prize out of the reach of a company that will use the ownership of OASIS to monopolize the VR industry.

Wade meets a slew of other characters, some love interests like Samantha (Olivia Cooke) and some friends from the game like Helen (Lena Waithe). Not all the characters in the movie truly stand out on their own, but what does stand out collectively is the absurd collection of references this film makes to pop culture.

In one scene in the film, I counted references to Hello Kitty, Michael Jackson, Harry Potter, Streetfighter and Batman all in the span of 30 seconds.

While these references and Easter eggs can sometimes bog the film down, “Ready Player One” is often enriched by these properties to reference and pay homage to. The film becomes a high stakes nerd fest and visual feast for the eyes.

In an age where we feel as if nothing is new in cinema, where everything is either a sequel, prequel, spin-off, remake or adaptation, “Ready Player One” accepts nearly nothing is wholly original.

But that’s the beauty of cinema now.

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