For a review of “Ready Player One,”
For those of the millennial set who thought the great director Steven Spielberg — he of “Jurassic Park,” the “Indiana Jones” films and “E. T.”— was but amyth, given that he’s passed on more frivolous fare in recent years to tackle subjects such as the Pentagon Papers (“The Post”) and the Civil War (“Lincoln”), meet one of the menwho taught a generation to lovemovies.
Spielberg returns to the fun in “Ready Player One,” a film based on the novel of the same name by Ernest Cline. The fast- paced adventure recalls the whimsy and wonder that Spielberg produced in movies suchas “JurassicPark.”
There is, however, a significant difference for those who’ve grown accustomed to the work in his more serious phase, which arguably began in earnest in 1993 with “Schindler’s List,” his cinematic masterpiece that won Oscars for best picture and best director. He doesn’t abandonasking relevant questions.
On its surface, “Ready Player One” is a romp through virtual reality. Scratch a little more and audiences will receive a rumination on our connected society that questions what damage is being done to the social fabric by technology.
“RPO” follows the adventures of Wade Watts ( Tye Sheridan, Cyclops in “X- Men: Apocalypse”), a Columbus, Ohio- area teen, who lives in an America where want— want for food, want for suitable shelter, want for happiness— represents the norm. He lives with his aunt and her abusive boyfriend in a trailer parkwhere the mobile homes are stacked above one another.
Despitemuchof societyfinding itself in similar situations, everyone finds awayto log into the Oasis, a virtual world where youcan bewhat youwantto be and, mentally, you’re amillion miles from reality.
The masterminds behind this technological terror — James Halliday ( Mark Rylance) and Ogden Morrow ( Simon Pegg) — have little idea what they have wrought until it’s too late. Upon Halliday’s death, we learn there is anunusual solution to solving who will ultimately have control of the Oasis, one that ol’ WillyWonkawould be proud.
He leaves three clues that lean heavily on knowledge of 1980s pop culture. Crack the code and control of the Oasis is yours. But it isn’t just individuals who seek to own the tech.
Innovative Online Industries, a corporation with plans to completely monetize the Oasis, assembles an entire department dedicated to winning Halliday and Morrow’s creation.
Wade, with the help of a group of friends, realizes it’s up to them to ensure that doesn’t happen.
Spielberg asks salient questions of the day regarding technology all while questioning the role of corporations in controlling it. It’s not difficult to interpret “Ready Player One” as an argument for net neutrality, a policy that favored an open internet that the Federal Communications Commission recently voted to repeal.
However, a plethora of relevant topics lurk beneath the surface of “RPO,” enough to make the audience still ponder the subject matter after leaving the theater.
However, for those who read the book, be warned that the changes made to some of the pop- culture references represent significant departures here. In fact, many of the changes in “RPO” can be downright jarring. Apiece of advice: Roll with them.
Ultimately, a likable cast, Rylance’s performance is especially memorable, an imaginative story and Spielberg’s ability to meld mirth, mystery and pop culture ensure that “Ready Player One” is a must- see.
“Ready Player One,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release, is rated PG- 13 for sequences of sci- fi action violence, bloody images, some suggestive material, partial nudity and language. Running time: 140 minutes.
Last year’s movie about WWI, also known asWonder Woman, made $ 1 billion around the globe, and that’s probably not a realistic outcome for “Journey’s End.”
In part because there are no superheroes in “Journey’s End,” only men. And doomed men at that, English soldiers stuck in a trench about to be doused in poison gas, and overrun by German soldiers. It’s hallmark is a dogged realism— it’s based on material written 90 years ago byWWI veteran R. C. Sherriff, who turned his experiences into the play, which opened in London starring a young Laurence Olivier, and went on to become a West End smash and a hit across the pond aswell.
Audiences were intrigued by the novelty of Sherriff ’ s then- modern take on the unprecedented horror of industrial- age mechanized warfare— conflict on a mass scale, conducted with weapons of mass destruction ( machine guns and nerve gas) that had turned combat into pointless, numbing slaughter — the battle featured here would claim 700,000 men, and accomplish nothing, not even a disgusted desire to end thewar.
Journey’s End plops us into year three of the madness, when the futility and insanity of the situation had left soldiers shell- shocked and cynical. On a parade ground, troops drill and sing: “We’re here because we’re because we’re here because we’re here,” a bitter strain of esprit de corps.
Soldiers are fighting to preserve monarchies and a class system that views them as little more than cannon fodder. This debased situation, increasingly obvious, has unnerved even the officers.
Among them is Stanhope ( Sam Claflin), who in Journey’s End is informed the Germans are preparing to mount a major assault, and that he will receive no reinforcements. At this inopportune moment, he “welcomes” a new officer named Raleigh ( Asa Butterfield) a friend fromhome.
Stanhope struggles to conceal from Raleigh what we would now recognize as PTSD — three years of war have driven him nearly mad ( another officer is already there), and he nowgets by on alcohol and cathartic bouts of rage ( often directed at the poor cook, Toby Jones).
Stanhope relies on friend and fellowofficer ( Paul Bettany), but even this consolation is threatenedwhen Stanhope is forced to select officers for a suicidal patrol to snag German prisoners.
“Journey’s End” makes no attempt to disguise the stage origins of the script. Instead, director Saul Dibb shows the physical dimension of the situation in a new way — much of the action occurs in the tunnels— it’s shot imaginatively in extreme low light — where the officers live, eat, and decide which men are to live andwhich are to die.
And aspects Sherriff ’ s drama retain their appeal— including the way it reflects the unparalleled British gift for understatement. When a sergeant ( Stephen Graham) grasps the suicidal lunacy of the unit’s latest assignment, he describes the orders as a “nuisance.” Indeed. The play wears well, even if it’s ending is a bit dated— a family member receives a letter home from one of the men, who is essentially lying about what he’s seen, and preserving illusions of gallantry and honor for the sake of the folks back home.
War is no longer able to keep those kinds of secrets. But that hasn’t made it any less ineradicable.
“Journey’s End,” a Good Deed Entertainment release, is rated R for violence. Running time: 117 minutes.
Tom Sturridge stars in the World War I film “Journey’s End.”