‘Ready Player One’: The Perfect Element Amidst its Imperfections

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“Ready Player One,” directed by Steven Spielberg, encapsulates the essence of a thrilling cinematic experience, akin to indulging in a mixture of popcorn, M&Ms, and marshmallows for a sugar-fueled blast. Among its myriad of outstanding sequences, one standout moment stands as an epitome of cinematic marvel—the recreation of Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining.” In this masterful homage, Spielberg pays tribute to another legendary director, elevating what could have been a mere gimmick into the film’s most exceptional scene.

The film, set in a dystopian 2045, follows Wade Watts in a world where the populace finds solace in an expansive virtual reality called the OASIS. The late creator, James Halliday, devised a quest involving keys hidden within the OASIS, granting control to the winner, safeguarding it from a malicious corporation, IOI.

The homage to “The Shining” might initially seem random, but “Ready Player One” thrives on nostalgia and extreme fandom, rewarding its characters for their encyclopedic knowledge of ’80s trivia and pop culture. As the characters search for the second key, they stumble upon the eerie realm of Stephen King’s “The Shining,” a film despised by the horror maestro despite its acclaim.

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Spielberg’s recreation of the Overlook Hotel within the OASIS is a testament to meticulous detail. The film seamlessly transitions into the classic’s aesthetic, employing matching lenses, film grain, and choreography to capture the essence of Kubrick’s masterpiece. While primarily utilizing digital avatars, a blend of digital and practical sets was employed to immerse the audience in the Shining’s world without disrupting the film’s visual coherence.

What makes Spielberg’s take unique is its faithful shot-by-shot recreation combined with inventive expansions of the film’s frightening sequences. While respecting the original, it ingeniously extends and blends certain moments, heightening the horror experience for the characters and the audience.

Remarkably, this standout scene, although not prominent in the original novel, diverges from its source material. In Ernest Cline’s book, the key acquisition involves Flicksync activities—re-enacting movie scenes—which the film chooses not to portray. Instead, Spielberg’s adaptation opts for a Shining-centric challenge, showcasing the protagonist’s knowledge of ’80s pop culture.

Ultimately, “Ready Player One” celebrates fandom and the joy of indulging in nostalgic references, empowering viewers whose passion for movies and games was often belittled. It transforms useless trivia into a badge of honor, offering a compelling virtual haven within the OASIS for aficionados of geek culture.

Despite the film’s deviation from its source material, this homage to “The Shining” stands out as a testament to Spielberg’s adeptness in recreating cinematic brilliance while amplifying the film’s immersive experience, making “Ready Player One” a compelling celebration of pop culture nostalgia.

“Ready Player One” is available for rental on Prime Video in the U.S.