When Jaws was released back in the 70s, it heralded in a new era known to most as the blockbuster era. The director’s films that followed easily topped $100 million easily at the domestic box office. And the name Spielberg became synonymous with ‘box office smash’.

Four decades later, the King of Blockbusters returns with a film that lives up to his name. The 71-year-old director’s track record had fallen into somewhat of an ebb in the past decade. While only two of his films have been flops, Ready Player One boasts the highest budget for a Spielberg film in a decade. Based on the best-selling 2011 book, the film utilizes massive sets and VFX galore to sell a futuristic Ohio of 2045 where most of the human population has reduced to living in stacks and seeks escapism via a VR world known as the Oasis.

Tye Sheridan leads a smart cast as Wade Watts, the alliteratively-named orphan protagonist who goes by the avatar Parzival inside the Oasis where he and a group of friends hunt for the ultimate Easter Egg left by the Oasis’ late creator, James Halliday (Mark Rylance). Whoever finds the Egg first will be given total authority and control over the Oasis and also the key to Halliday’s fortune. But discovering it stands out to be the challenge of a lifetime as Wade has to solve various riddles and brave virtual battles riddled with pop culture references in order to overcome the three tasks. Joining him in this quest is Art3mis/Samantha Cook (Olivia Cooke) who’s life Parzival saves from being zeroed out in the Oasis. Together, they access Halliday’s memories to discover clues from his past in order to win the challenges. In the real world, the organization known as IOI hunts for the Egg using an army of players known as the Sixers. The CEO, Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendehlson) takes a keen interest in Wade and his friends (known as the High Five) once they begin dominating the top of the scoreboard, in order to discover their real world identities and claim Halliday’s prize for himself.

In many ways, the film parallels modern humanity’s obsession with social media and virtual systems which many millennials turn to for dumbing down their everyday problems. Personally I am not familiar with the titular novel but apparently, there have been major changes to the storyline but what I saw on the big screen was Spielbergian enough to keep my interest for a solid two and half hours. Ever since the trailer was released, the appeal in seeing a movie with tons of pop culture references was enough to hook most of the geeks globally and when the ultimate fanboy makes a movie about the necessity of being more than just a fan inside a virtual system, you know it’s bound to be great.

In fact, Halliday leaves more than just a prize for the winner of his challenge; he leaves us real world technology addicts with a message about the importance of separating illusion from reality.

While there are some anachronistic errors that seem too good to miss (such as why 70s and 80s pop culture would still be a hook in 2045?), the film meets the audience’s expectations from a blockbuster, especially in this post-Black Panther month and with less than one to go till Infinity War drops, Ready Player One is a worthy cinema experience for every fan of pop culture geekdom.

And most importantly, Spielberg’s back, folks.

Ready Player One is now playing at EAP theaters and Liberty Cinemas.

By Akash Sk