By Sasha Simic
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Ready Player One a nostalgic homage to culture of 1980s

This article is over 6 years, 2 months old
Issue 2597
Tye Sheridan enters the Oasis
Tye Sheridan enters the Oasis

It’s 2045. Teenager Wade Owen Watts (Tye Sheridan) lives with his aunt in the bleak, post-catastrophic dystopia of Columbus. Most people exist in cramped, rusting shipping containers bolted together into rickety sky-scrapers.

Faced with such a squalid reality most people choose to escape into the immersive, virtual world of Oasis (Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation).

Here they can lead exciting lives playing interactive games in cyber-space in whatever exotic forms they choose to adopt.

The Marxist poet Bertolt Brecht described escapist fiction as “the bourgeois narcotics factory” designed to stifle critical thinking and social progress. Oasis is that factory on a colossal scale.

Built by the socially awkward Halliday (Mark Rylance), Oasis is open to anyone who can afford the tech to access it.

Just before his death Halliday hides three keys in Oasis. The player who finds them will inherit control of the virtual universe—now far more important to humanity than reality.


Wade and a group of fellow misfits he meets in Oasis make good progress in the quest for the keys. But so does Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn) evil head of the IOI Corporation and Halliday’s chief competitor.

The fight is on for Oasis—but is the struggle best fought in cyber-space or in the real world?

This is a visually stunning film which celebrates the enduring power of geek culture. The screen is so often crammed with well-known characters that it can be a bit overwhelming.

There’s a special effort to target the 1980s generation who grew up in the period of Spielberg’s greatest successes such as ET and Raiders of the Lost Ark. The soundtrack is dominated by the music of the period.

The very earliest days of computer gaming are resurrected. There is an extended sequence which recreates scenes from one of the 80s’ most iconic films in extraordinary and unnecessary detail.

How much you’ll enjoy this film depends on how much you enjoy Spielberg’s work.

He’s always been a great story-teller but there’s a lot of his characteristic sentimentality here. And the film’s ending is absurd.

The geeks have inherited the world and Spielberg played a big part in making it so—however much he might regret that now.

Ready Player One is on general release from 29 March

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