READY PLAYER ONE

Steven Spiel­berg’s re­turn to sci-fi will bend your mind

Empire (UK) - - CONTENTS - WORDS PHIL DE SEMLYEN

Steven Spiel­berg re­turns with a new film crammed with ’80s pop-cul­ture ref­er­ences. Is he a good choice? Would he know any­thing about that?

DISCOUNTING THAT FLY­ING saucer in In­di­ana Jones And The King­dom Of The Crys­tal Skull, Ready Player One is Steven Spiel­berg’s first dip into his beloved sci-fi genre since 2005’s War Of The Worlds. An adap­ta­tion of Ernie Cline’s 2011 best­seller, it sets his for­mi­da­ble world-build­ing pow­ers to work in a dystopian 2044 where big cy­ber is all-pow­er­ful. There, Tye Sheri­dan’s gamer, Wade Watts, teams up with his crush, Olivia Cooke’s whip-smart blog­ger Sa­man­tha Eve­lyn Cook, to find a life-chang­ing Easter egg within vir­tual re­al­ity sim­u­la­tor, the OASIS. For Watts, it’s love at first Macguf­fin.

Tan­talis­ingly, Spiel­berg is pre­sid­ing over a quest filled with ’80s Easter eggs ref­er­enc­ing ev­ery­thing from Stephen King to Wargames. “It felt like pure ad­ven­ture,” says Cooke of the eye-pop­ping adap­ta­tion. “It was Willy Wonka, it was In­di­ana Jones.” Work­ing with Spiel­berg con­jured sim­i­lar awe for the Me And Earl And

The Dy­ing Girl star. “When you’re a kid want­ing to be an ac­tor, the idea of work­ing with [him] sounds ab­surd. It was sur­real.”

Some­where amid the big-bud­get daz­zle of a Spiel­berg block­buster is a thought-pro­vok­ing tale of tech­nol­ogy run amok. “[It’s] scar­ily close to a world we’re en­ter­ing,” notes Cooke of a set­ting stricken by an energy cri­sis and avari­cious tech CEOS. The re­sults should mix the cere­bral with the spec­tac­u­lar — af­ter all, this is one cau­tion­ary tale that comes with es­capism built in.

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