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"Ready Player One" can not be a winner without wagers

The fanboy heroes of Ernest Cline's 2011 novel "Ready Player One" compulsively study the pop culture of the 1970s and 1980s, so it seems like Steven Spielberg is directing the film. He finally has a big hand in shaping this culture. And with "Ready Player One" Spielberg has directed every portion of mastery, punch and resources to the meticulous vision of this almost unplayable storyline, largely rooted in virtual reality.

In the dystopian landscape of Columbus, Ohio, in 2045, most of the population escapes reality in the virtual world of a massive, multi-player role-playing online game, Oasis. Before his death, the eccentric founder of Oasis, James Halliday (Mark Rylance), pledged the company's ownership to the one who could win an almost impossible quest in Oasis. The promise of money and power has inspired every player in Columbus to search for keys to unlock each level and lead them to the winning Easter egg.

Our hero, Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), lives in a tottering trailer park called "The Stacks." He flees in Oasis to live as Alter Ego Parzival, play with his friends and of course hunt for the egg. He combs through the recorded memories Halliday has left to find clues and remembers his favorite movies, video games and TV shows to show how to beat the game. But only when he begins to read between the lines do things come into focus.

The execution of "Ready Player One" is undeniable, a great, beautiful fantasy. On a large-format IMAX screen, the Oasis is a technical marvel that amazes CGI avatars. But the story, as adapted by Cline and Zak Penn, is as easily constructed as The Stacks. What's missing are the stakes. Our heroes have no background story and a small bow. We follow them as they fight through a game to become the major shareholders of a technology company. It makes you think that it has the whistle and distracts you with the old Razerblendung.

There is also a serious problem with the way fan culture is presented. While pretending to be a tribute, it's actually the nail in the coffin. With this movie, the fanboy officially jumped the shark. Here, the entire pop culture of the late 20th century and the early 21

st is thrown into an indistinguishable mob, from "Back to the Future" to "60s Batman", "The Shining", "Beetlejuice" to "Lord of the Rings" about obsessively hooking into a thing, but about mastering everything, and imagination loses all meaning.

When avatars fight, they explode into coins as they die digitally, there is a creeping sense of existential fear for the soul of "Ready Player One," which is nowhere near as radical as it imagines. When the dust settles, it's just a shift of power. The system remains the same. Spielberg and his team may have been thinking about the texture, richness, and detail of this world, this game, but not the characters or their story in it.

Actor Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke and Lena Waithe. Directed by Steven Spielberg

Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action violence, bloody images, suggestive material, partial nudity and language. Check the entries for theaters. 2 hours, 20 minutes

Final Result: The game is rich, but the plot is a lemon.

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