By Anna Husted EBS Contributor

The year is 2045. People spend more time in virtual reality than the real world. This virtual reality is called the Oasis.

The Oasis was created by a Steve Jobs-like super-genius named James Halliday, who dies and leaves his fortune to whomever can find it in the virtual realm. The hunt for the “Easter egg” fortune begins with a young avatar named Parzival (a fantastic Tye Sheridan) in a search for the first of three keys required to find the fortune.

Before all of this starts sounding too nerdy-which to much delight it is-“Ready Player One” is directed by Stephen Spielberg and co-written by the author of the book the movie is based on, Ernest Cline. Cline’s screenplay condenses his book into a two hour and 20-minute film in a clear and entertaining fashion, and Spielberg brings his classic Spielbergian magic-a moviemaking gift no one else possesses.

The hunt for the first key begins with a race through the virtual streets of New York City that incorporates homages to Spielberg’s own ’80s films. We meet Parzival’s Oasis friends: Art3mis, Aech, Sho and Diato, all of whom become invaluable friends and allies. The NASCAR-like contest is a CGI masterpiece unlike any videogame or movie to date.

“Ready Player One” impresses with its seamless transitions between the avatar VR and live action worlds, even tricking us into thinking we are in the real world until a character removes his mask to reveal he is actually an avatar.

This masking and unmasking is a metaphor for the various masks that we as human beings hide behind to protect ourselves from the world’s judgment. Spielberg expertly illuminates the detrimental effects of concealing one’s true self-and in a family-friendly way. A simple yet important theme develops about loving others for their internal worth instead of judging them by their external looks.

With social media and new VR technology so ubiquitous in America today, “Ready Player One” shows us the perils of abusing technology, but also how it can be used for good.

“Ready Player One” opens up a technological can of worms that will spark great discussion among families that watch it together.

Serving up more pop culture references than most of us can swallow, “Ready Player One” is a nerd’s fantasy. Anyone who knows all the John Hughes movies, played “Pitfall!” or “Adventure,” or knows not to go behind door 237 is going to love this film.

“Ready Player One” is showing at Lone Peak Cinema in Big Sky through April 19 and at Regal Gallatin Valley Cinemas in Bozeman.

Anna Husted has a master’s in film studies from New York University. In Big Sky she can be found behind the bar at Lone Peak Cinema or slinging hot dogs at Yeti Dogs. When not gazing at the silver screen or watching her new favorite TV show, she’s skiing, fishing or roughhousing with her cat, Indiana Jones.