Missing the Spielberg magic: Rashid Irani reviews Ready Player One

Movie review: 'Ready Player One' is so obsessed with '80s nostalgia it's unreal

"I'm so glad to be here in support of Alan Silvestri and Steven Spielberg, they're part of the Back to the Future family". Don't worry. Trust me... it's a knockout. But, in comparison to the edge of "Deadpool" and "Logan" and the personalities from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, "Ready Player One's" characters, arcs and message feel tame, and renders the film itself hollow. It's a tidal wave of surprises. The detailed literature guide helps readers delve into Cline's best-selling novel.

The movie takes place in a somewhat sad, dystopian Columbus, Ohio.

In the virtual world of the OASIS you can be whatever you want to be, but ultimately it's best if you are a nice normal couple who can spend time having a kiss and a cuddle on the sofa and just pop into the virtual world for a bit of escapism now and then. By donning personal viewing goggles, and some extra techno-gear (depending on your financial situation), people can become someone or something else.

Well, it's a good time to escape into a virtual world where one can live an extraordinary life through an avatar. The eccentric co-creator of the OASIS, James Halliday (Mark Rylance), has died leaving behind a series of clues to inherit his multi trillion-dollar VR company. Why he chose the source material is immediately obvious: not only was the book a big hit on its 2011 release, but it's lead "gunter" Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) has an obsession with the culture of which between Close Encounters, Indiana Jones and E.T. On one side is Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), a wicked CEO who harnesses the resources of his corporation to solve the puzzle. Life in the real world is terrible (think futuristic, Dickensian poverty) but there is an opiate all are addicted to in order to escape: The Oasis. The rest is mostly derivative, computer-generated sludge.

The game is the aptly named Oasis, a virtual reality where players can indulge in their greatest fantasies and travel far from the postapocalyptic nightmare of the outside world. Obsessed with late 20th-century pop culture, he filled the Oasis with references to films, TV shows, comics and games of the period.

"I rank this right up there behind Saving Private Ryan and Jaws as the third most-challenging film I have ever made", says Spielberg, because he was "trying to create something nobody had ever seen before". Credits earned inside can be spent in the real world. "You have to resurface to take a breath of real air, not virtual air". The emotional tones will choke you up.

Here's some inside baseball for you: bad movies are easy to review. But finding it will require a deep fluency in Halliday's past and the '80s pop culture the game designer loved so dearly. In between the book and the movie, Gamergate exposed the toxicity of the video-game culture lionized here.

There are also one or two points in the main storyline where certain characters arrive at a destination you didn't know they were heading toward, or develop deep relationships with one another, despite barely sharing the screen before that.

Steven Spielberg's Ready Player One is looking to come out of the Easter weekend the victor with a projected $42 million at the U.S. box office.

Steven Spielberg puts his best game face on with "Ready Player One", a special effects extravaganza tailor-made for the fanboy and fangirl inside us all.