Steven Spielberg's Ready Player One hits us on 29th March, and reviews have started pouring in from the world premiere at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas.
Spielberg adapts Ernest Cline's novel, the story of a dystopian future in which people have retreated inside a virtual reality simulation known as the OASIS. This extraordinary digital landscape allows its users to become anyone and anything – handy when the program's deceased creator Halliday (Mark Rylance) inaugurates a clue-laden treasure hunt for his hidden fortune. The added twist is that Halliday has laced the OASIS with all manner of nostalgia-pleasing pop culture references, from the Iron Giant to Freddie Krueger and Back to the Future's DeLorean.
Much has been made of Spielberg's return to the popcorn genre – he is after all one of its godfathers, having spearheaded the blockbusting Jaws, Indiana Jones and Jurassic Park franchises. And it seems that the mixture of director and source material is alchemical, beginning with this from Den of Geek's David Crow: "Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of the Ernest Cline novel is a supremely entertaining crowd-pleaser, and a film that brings something to the table everyone should be wistful for: that classic Spielberg touch."
He adds: "When coupled with a talented cast that includes winsome charisma from [Tye Sheridan] and [Olivia Cooke] —whose verbal banter puts just enough heart and sincerity at the core of Ready Player One to make its climax mean something—the result is what will probably be one of the most enjoyable moviegoing experiences of 2018."
Eric Kohn writes in Indie Wire: "This is Spielberg’s biggest crowdpleaser in years, a CGI ride that wields the technology with an eye for payoff. It’s also his most stylized movie since “A.I.: Artificial Intelligence,” though a lot more fun, with a cavalcade of visuals leaving the impression that he watched a bunch of Luc Besson movies and decided he could outdo them all. The result is an astonishing sci-fi spectacle and a relentless nostalgia trip at once."
"A rollicking adventure through worlds both bleak and fantastic, Steven Spielberg's Ready Player One makes big changes to the specifics and structure of Ernest Cline's best-selling novel but keeps the spirit and level-up thrills intact," raves Jon DeFore in The Hollywood Reporter.
Brian Tallerico of RogerEbert.com writes: "Much will also be written about how that non-stop momentum doesn’t allow for character, subtlety, catching your breath, etc., but this is a movie that will almost certainly thrill those who Spielberg sets out to thrill—fans of pop culture and even the next generation who is more attuned to tech and video game culture. And make no mistake—this is a “movie,” not a “film,” a distinction that Spielberg made himself in the introduction. He wants people to sit back and enjoy the ride, and so very, very many people will.
IGN's Alanah Pearce praises the dazzling visual imagination of the action sequences: "Including things like explosive car chases and enormous shootouts, some of Ready Player One’s big action moments already seem unforgettable, and they’re some of the best excuses to go crazy with visual effects that I’ve seen. It plays with scale, movement, gravity, and time seamlessly; Spielberg uses the full extent of the unmatched creativity only available in a largely animated movie."
Reservations? Variety's Owen Gleiberman says the movie works best as a technical exercise, as opposed to an emotional one: "The virtual world that Spielberg creates, though it just about pops off the screen, isn’t an emotionally textured place. Mostly we’re just staring at it, or maybe “riding” it. The contradiction of a video-game/VR movie is that games are, of course, awesomely immersive, whereas a movie about games is more akin to watching somebody else play one."
And The Guardian's Monica Castillo wishes for more character depth: "Those who come away cheering for Ready Player One will likely have enjoyed the film’s many references, the story’s breakneck speed and playful visual design. Others may want to unplug from the paint-by-number characters and shallow plot. The film has much to say about our present-day fixation on nostalgia. So many characters pine to go back to their 80s future, but some of us want to see what’s next. There’s no leveling up or cheat codes that can help with that."
Can't wait to cast your own verdict? Then click here to book your tickets for Ready Player One, opening on 29th March. And if you're an Unlimited member, don't forget your advance 3D screening is on 19th March. Click here to book your tickets.