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The time is 2045, and the setting is a bleak area in Columbus, Ohio, called "The Stacks", where people live in mobile homes that sit next to and atop each other. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 - parents strongly cautioned.

Ready Player One might be the best film of 2018 so far.

"I grew up watching his films and they had a profound effect on me and changed the course of my life, and so I'm not sure if I would have written Ready Player One if I hadn't grown up watching Steven's movies", he said. There, we are told, "you can go anywhere, do anything, be anyone - the only limits are your own imagination". But the people have found salvation in the OASIS, an expansive virtual reality universe created by the brilliant and eccentric James Halliday (Mark Rylance). In other words, narcissism reigns supreme. The scene adds some melancholy to an otherwise victorious ending, but it also raises questions about how it is Halliday can be within the OASIS.

A treasure trove of pop culture references, film buffs, video game nerds, and music fanatics will all find something they recognize and love in this film, whether it is in the soundtrack, dialogue, or scattered throughout the world itself.

As a result, "Ready Player One" is catnip for baby boomers, who will enjoy spotting the DeLorean vehicle from "Back to the Future", Atari video games, the T-Rex from "Jurassic Park" and the Batmobile, among many other nostalgia-inducing items. More have entered The Oasis in the five years since Halliday has died and left one last challenge: The person who can track down three hidden keys that will unlock the location of the ultimate Easter egg will get ownership of The Oasis. To be fair, it's not hard to hate giant corporations, especially ones run by someone as weasley as Ben Mendelsohn, who has no problem killing when needed, but there are no real personal stakes either. In an amusingly relevant touch, Nolan reveals to his company's board that once he obtains the OASIS, he'll put it behind a paywall and flood the service with so much video advertising that it will stop just short of inducing seizures. Even hero Tye Sheridan in his wire-rimmed glasses looks like a younger version of the director.

The largest fault of the film is when the romance subplot between Wade and another avatar named Art3mis (Olivia Cooke) is allowed to overshadow the rest of the story.

No wonder they work well together: Parsifal is the knight of Arthurian legend who sought the Holy Grail, while Artemis is the Greek goddess of the hunt. Miller as i-R0k, Win Morisaki as Daito, Simon Pegg as Ogden Morrow, Lena Waithe as Helen/Aech and Philip Zhao as Sho.

It doesn't take long to figure out that this movie's inspiration is another beloved classic, 1971's "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory".

Wade is a serious egg-hunter ("Gunter"). With Ready Player One, he seems to be assuring himself his work and the work of his contemporaries will endure.

When the hordes of Oasis players arrive to the battleground, various shots show all kinds of characters from different comics and movies.

This is not one of Spielberg's more thoughtful films - it's a visual and audio wet-dream for nostalgic gamers, a non-stop adrenaline hit on the senses.

Spielberg directed from an adapted script by Zak Penn and Cline. Wade, employing the cool elfin avatar "Parzival", becomes a star in the OASIS when he is the first to make headway in an ongoing challenge to find an "Easter egg" hidden in the game, placed by deceased game designer James Halliday (Mark Rylance), who has promised the victor will inherit the trillion-dollar OASIS empire. But no one has done it quite as impressively, and has quite as much fun, as Spielberg and co do here.

So a race for the keys becomes a race for control, for survival, for friendship.


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