• Steven throws down his trump card right off the bat during the narration and first visuals of Oasis. Watch closely after the floating golf course for the hang gliders…Screen Shot 2018-07-12 at 10.32.25 AM (1)you will see Dorothy Gale’s house whirl by! (not to mention the murderous truck from Duel and the wrecked plane from Bridge of Spies.)
  • Spielberg’s protagonists often escape and return to reality or come to grips with its trials by physically going up and down.  Ascent and descent make appearances early on as the camera flies high above Columbus, OH in 2045, its bleak futuristic landscape emphasized by a characteristic wrong side of the rainbow lack of color.  Yup. Another Amblin’ calling card.
  • Notice as Wade Watts climbs down the stack where he lives how first we see a few reds, then yellow and red, then more colors until at ground level he wanders through the Munchkinland garden of his neighbor, Mrs. Gilmore.  The air of hopelessness fades away the closer Wade gets to his Oasis accessible hideout.
  • Steven’s magic color combo harkening back to ruby slippers tapping down the yellow brick road, is employed over and over again.   The familiar hues crown the skyscraping tips of Minecraft’s city. Wade’s gaming chair is slap dashed together with yellow foam and red duct tape.  Even Sorrento’s state of the art ‘hamster ball’ sports golden tan upholstery with red eyewear. IOI’s invitation for Parzival to touch the prism and join Sorrento by hologram at headquarters is strikingly printed in these two primary colors.  Samantha’s cozy rooftop features red and yellow décor and graffiti. The Shining’s set is sprinkled with its own heavy doses of scarlet and gold.  A red and yellow neon LIQUOR sign marks the finish of a key conflict. Just pay attention and I’m sure you’ll find dozens of other examples.Screen Shot 2018-07-10 at 10.56.55 AM
  • Despite the ingenuity of his sanctum, the challenges Wade is about to encounter are foreshadowed when we see him backlit by the brilliant white light streaming through a gap in the car heap.
  • There’s lots of cyclonic motion in this movie: at the end of the car race, a dust devil of leaves provides the fanfare for Halliday’s avatar and of course the twister’s at its most blatant in the disco scene where Z hooks up with Art3mis.
  • Speaking of… ‘the leap not taken’ is a major clue our main characters must solve to fulfill their quest.  How could Steven resist repeating one of his most famous leaps in Joe vs. the Volcano? Gorgeous!  
  • And the quest itself? Well, while the wizard in Oz wasn’t the first to come up with such a device, the wizard of Hollywood does love to choose stories that re-employ it.
  • And as long as we’re touching again on the subject of references to past projects…much has been made and will continue to be discussed regarding 80’s references in Ready Player One.  Granted, Steven toned them down to hold the attention of contemporary and future young audiences, but he was generous in sharing moments of cinematic glory and modest when spotlighting his own considerable repertoire.  That said, I had a nostalgic shiver for Gigolo Joe from A.I. when we met the curator of the museum in Oasis.  Those were the War of the Worlds monster robots thrust back in the fray, right? And a gremlin with its original box no less. Plus Jurassic dinosaurs?  Which reminds me, when Sorrento and I-ROk are launching the shield with their crystal ball, the gates of Jurassic Park (and the Wicked Witch of the West’s castle) loom in the background.  And I’m sure I also caught a glimpse of that weird, witchy crooked probe shape that was featured in Joe Banks’ miserable workplace and again on Waponi Woo.  I’m less sure if the stone columns topped by snakes that frame the treasure room for Halliday’s egg appeared in Raiders of the Lost Ark… but without a doubt, we all flashed back to the resemblance between Temple of Doom’s Short Round and Sho. Face it.  Steven is a master at tucking in references.  Revisit ‘1941’ if you don’t believe me. No wonder he leaped at a chance to make this picture.  
  • And no wonder he tucked in several images from his own lucky charm, WOO.  How can you not think of Dorothy’s crystal ball encounters when Sorrento’s evil orb is revealed? Find the malevolent flying monkeys disguised as drones. Recall the Wizard of Oz’s archway entry hall when we walk through the archived displays at the James Halliday museum.  
  • Also plucked from WOO are the usual contrivancesthe intimate club of helpers.   Whether tin, straw, beast or avatar, you can find the parallels for brains, heart and courage.  
  • Featured as well are the crowds of helpful bystanders.  
  • A trickster or two lends a hand (or a quarter) when most needed.  
  • And for the umpteenth time, one of our heroes infiltrates enemy ranks by donning uniform and blending in with its troops.
  • Diehard fans for a book about fandom may find much lacking in this movie.  I disagree. I think, like many Spielberg classics, it will continue to gather moss as it rolls along.  Steven might garner his prizes for the serious films, but in my humble opinion, his most watchable, most transporting work happens when he plays free and easy with imagery.  Something tells me this will be one of those movies that make you lift your finger off the remote every time you come across itno matter how far in and revel in the remainder of the ride.

 

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