Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One booted up in Austin, Texas, late Sunday night for its world premiere at the South by Southwest Film Festival, sending critics, film journalists, and attendees such as Robert Rodriguez on a virtual reality adventure that most thoroughly enjoyed.
“Never, ever underestimate Steven Spielberg. That’s the biggest takeaway from Ready Player One, an immersive sci-fi spectacle about a future overrun by virtual reality gaming that the world’s most famous commercial director has transformed into a mesmerizing blockbuster steeped in callbacks to the best of them,” Indiewire critic Eric Kohn wrote in his B+ review. “It runs too long and drags a bunch in its final third, but make no mistake: This is Spielberg’s biggest crowdpleaser in years, a CGI ride that wields the technology with an eye for payoff. It’s also his most stylized movie since A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, though a lot more fun, with the cavalcade of visuals leaving the impression that he watched a bunch of Luc Besson movies and decided he could outdo them all. The result is an astonishing sci-fi spectacle and a relentless nostalgia trip at once.”
For Variety, Owen Gleiberman called Spielberg’s latest a “dizzyingly propulsive virtual-reality fanboy geek-out.”
Based on Ernest Cline’s 2011 book of the same name, Ready Player One imagines the year 2045, where citizens of the world battle extreme poverty conditions and most escape to a virtual reality playground called OASIS, co-created by a billionaire tech genius-cum-’80s kid named James Halliday (Mark Rylance). After Halliday dies and leaves a trail of clues for users to find the keys to his company — and thus his fortune — the film’s hero, Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), an orphan who uses the name Parzival inside the OASIS, goes on a quest to capture the Halliday’s Easter egg and the company’s ownership. Along the way, Parzival must avoid an evil corporate stooge (Ben Mendelsohn) and his lackey (T.J. Miller) while also reveling in ’80s and ’90s references, such as Back to the Future, The Iron Giant, and even Spielberg’s own Jurassic Park. Olivia Cooke, Lena Waithe, and Simon Pegg all costar.
Ready Player One is set for release on March 30. Check out reactions — pros and some cons — to the SXSW premiere below.