SXSW’s film festival is a bacchanale of the hip, the nerdy, and everything film festivals like Cannes is not. It makes sense, then, that Ready Player One would make its world debut at the Austin-based festival. What audiences didn’t see coming: Spielberg himself turned up to hang out and watch the premier.
Before the movie kicked off, he gave the audience a key piece of advice for enjoying the movie, using the famous DeLorean as a metaphor. “The side windows are for cultural references, the windshield is for the story. If you look straight ahead, you can always follow the story; if you look out the side windows, you may miss the story.” So there you go, gunters: keep your eyes to the side to pick up those sweet easter eggs.
Ready Player One tells the story of Wade Watts, Mary Sue extraordinaire, who spends his life in a virtual reality environment called OASIS. OASIS makes VR the home of nearly every important function — namely work, entertainment, and education. He, along with every other citizen of the internet (and an evil corporation or two), are on a mad hunt to find easter eggs left in the world of OASIS by its now-deceased creator. The winner of this virtual, pop-culture fueled egg hunt wins the owner’s company and fortune.
The book, written by Ernest Cline, is a divisive one; some geek out over the nostalgia-fest that is the lion’s share of the plot, while others decry it as a list of standard tropes and callbacks that drown out the plot and deliver about as much substance as a VH1’s “I love the 80s” marathon. There’s a plot in there somewhere, and if anyone can wrangle it out and give it the kind of spit shine that makes for a solid summer blockbuster, it’s Spielberg.
Ready Player One hits theaters March 29th.