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Master director Steven Spielberg (Jaws, Jurassic Park) makes a welcome return to crowd-pleasing form for this visually-dazzling adaptation of Ernest Cline's pop culture-centric 2011 novel.

Extrapolating on the nostalgia boom that currently permeates pop culture, Ready Player One takes place in a gloomy near future where a massive virtual reality game called the OASIS consumes most of the populace, who live out their pop-culture fantasies online as an alternative to facing the grim realities of life in 2045.

Control of the OASIS, the biggest company on the planet, is up for grabs following the death of its reclusive creator James Halliday (Mark Rylance – Bridge of Spies), but that entails deciphering the pop culture-laden clues he left behind.

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Young gamers Wade (Tye Sheridan - X-Men: Apocalypse) and Samantha (Olivia Cooke - Bates Motel) are on the hunt to find Halliday's "Easter eggs" before a software magnate (Ben Mendelsohn – Rogue One) with nefarious plans to exploit the OASIS.

This could easily have been Pop Culture Reference: The Movie, but Spielberg has ensured there is more to the story than just nostalgia. That said, there is enormous fun to be had in beholding the endless cultural ephemera that Ready Player One offers up, the highlight coming when the main characters enter the world of an iconic 80s movie – don't let anyone tell you what it is.

Sheridan and Cooke are appealing protagonists, even if half the time they're on screen it's as their digital OASIS avatars Parzival and Art3mis. Mendelsohn is fantastic as the sneering villain, further cornering the market on this type of character.

Not a lot of attention is paid to the troubling implications of living your life in a make-believe space, but the adventure moves fast enough to prevent the viewer from worrying too much about it.

• Rent it now on Lightbox for $6.99

Cast:

Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn

Director:

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Steven Spielberg

Running time:

140 mins

Rating:

M (Violence & offensive language)

Verdict:

Spielberg's unrivalled popcorn powers are in full effect.