READY PLAYER ONE — Review by Susan Granger

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Sci-fi, virtual reality and nostalgic pop culture collide in Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Ernest Cline’s sprawling 2011 best-seller about a teenager’s quest to win a game that will give him control of a massive digital universe. Set in 2045 in dystopian Columbus, Ohio, the story revolves around Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), an orphaned nerd, living in “the stacks,” a grimy, vertical trailer park. Like everyone else, Wade spends most of his time immersed in a virtual game-room called the Oasis where one can be whoever one wishes. Continue reading..

Before he died, eccentric tech-genius James Halliday (Mark Rylance) left players one last contest. Whoever can solve three challenges will inherit not only his fortune, worth half a trillion dollars, but also control over the Oasis, which he founded with his partner, Ogden Morrow (Simon Pegg).

Wade Watts has chosen the hipster Parzival as his avatar in the Oasis, playing alongside his best friend, Hulk-sized Aech (Lena Waithe). Wade’s dazzled by the skill and daring of Art3mis (Olivia Cooke), who teams up with them, along with Dairo (Win Morisaki) and Shoto (Philip Zhao). They’re the good guys.

The bad guys are epitomized by Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), the ruthless CEO of IOI (Innovative Online Industries), who hires teams of hardcore gamers, known as gunters, to find Halliday’s Easter Egg, following obtuse clues drawn from trendy memories of every movie, comic book and video game the socially awkward programmer Halliday ever saw or played.

That propels seemingly endlessly chaotic car/motorcycle/monster truck chases through a murky wonderworld to blaring rock music, battling T-Rex, King Kong and Mechagodzilla – with an occasional assist from The Iron Giant.

Co-written by novelist Cline and Zak Penn and spectacularly imagined by production designer Adam Stockhausen and cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, it’s adroitly directed by Spielberg, who occasionally injects some sweetness, sentiment and emotional involvement – but not often enough.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Ready Player One” is an overstuffed, escapist 8, brimming with flashy eye candy and fantastic fanboy ferocity.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.