THE dust has only just settled on Steven Spielberg’s political thriller The Post.

Now, just months later, the prolific filmmaker is back with one of his most visually stunning movies.

Ready Player One, based on the novel by Ernest Cline, is about virtual reality, video games and a dystopian near future.

On paper, you might think a young, hip filmmaker with a finger firmly on the pulse of pop culture might be a better fit for the $175million production.

But 71-year-old Spielberg directs the fast-paced story with such energy and finesse that it would make directors half his age blush.

Ready Player One stars Mud’s Tye Sheridan as Wade who lives in ‘the stacks’ in 2045 Columbus, Ohio.

Trailer parks are piled high in what is little more than a high-rise junkyard after resources, space and opportunities have long been eaten up. To escape his dead end life, Wade visits a virtual reality world called the Oasis where you can do anything and be anyone.

But the stakes rise and a deadly game begins when the man behind Oasis – awkward introvert James Halliday (Mark Rylance) – launches a challenge to find a worthy heir to his creation and fortune in the event of his death. Spielberg’s realisation of the Oasis – where you can climb Everest with Batman or face King Kong – is stunning and scattered with pop culture and gaming references that will delight eagle-eyed fans for years to come.

Rising star Tye Sheridan has an endearing everyman quality and Bloodline’s Ben Mendelsohn is excellent as usual as Halliday’s cold, calculating rival Sorrento.

The only problem is the spectacle leaves little room for anything else.

If Spielberg wanted the film to speak of the troubling way the world is going and the disconnection of the digital world it is subtle at best. And the love story between Wade and fellow Oasis hero Samantha (Olivia Cooke) becomes sidelined and not terribly convincing. But as a ‘popcorn movie’, Ready Player One is definitely worth pressing play on and shows Spielberg’s huge versatility as a director.

RATING: 7.5/10