Review: Ready Player One is a delicious feast of '80s and '90s nostalgia

Tye Sheridan as Wade Watts
Tye Sheridan as Wade Watts

Matt Adcock reviews Ready Player One (12A), directed by Stephen Spielberg

In the year 2045, the real world has become such a harsh place that most of humanity choose to spend their time in a virtual reality called ‘Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation’ or OASIS.

Socially awkward teenage Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) only truly feels alive is when he jacks in to the OASIS – where he is known as his avatar ‘Parzival’.

When eccentric tech whizz James Halliday (Mark Rylance) who created the OASIS dies, he leaves a challenge – all his immense fortune and total control of the OASIS will pass to the winner of a three-part video game contest designed to find a truly worthy heir. Cue a battle royale between the gamers of the world and the sinister IOI corporation for control.

Based on the geek-tastic novel by Ernest Cline, Ready Player One see Steven Spielberg set a high score for video game / film crossover movies. It’s a total joy watching such a wealth of references collide in one film. From the moment Parzival jumps into the Back To The Future DeLorean in order to race against Lara Croft driving the A-Team van, Batman in his classic series Batmobile and the enigmatically cool Art3mis (Olivia Cooke) riding Kaneda's motorbike from Akira, anyone with even a passing love of films will break into a smile...

There are just too many to list, with blink-and-you’ll-miss-them visual ‘Easter Eggs’ in virtually every scene. I loved the extended The Shining sequence from the book too (which might scare / go over the head of younger viewers) as Parzival and his ‘High Five’ crew must battle through the horrors of The Overlook Hotel to win one of the contest levels.

I don’t think there have ever been so many 80s pop culture references packed in to a movie – from the soundtrack that uses classics like Van Halen’s Jump and New Order’s Blue Monday, through to quoting dialogue from John Hughes films and more. This is a film that demands repeat watching in order to appreciate everything going on.

The nerd-em-up story moves at breakneck speed and the climactic showdown is the stuff of legend, liable to discussed for years to come. The scene-stealing star of the film is a superb cameo by the Iron Giant which should make people want to revisit the excellent Brad Bird film from 1999.

With unmatched use of CGI to create something truly incredible, Ready Player One will scorch your endorphin sensors with its treasure trove of pop-culture love. Essential viewing.