Ready Player One movie review: Steven Spielberg's film is a fun action adventure filled with pop culture references
You could call Ready Player One a fun action adventure movie but Pop Culture Reference Porn is actually what it is.
You could call Ready Player One a fun action adventure movie but Pop Culture Reference Porn is actually what it is. Directed by Steven Spielberg – a dude responsible for the majority of post modern pop culture — this is a movie that is rather hard not to enjoy.
Based on Ernest Cline’s book of the same name, Ready Player One takes us deep – incredibly deep – into a world dominated by the next big sci fi revolution - Virtual Reality. We’re introduced to 2044 where the world has finally been divided into the rich top one percent and the slum dwellers surrounding them; the only way for the poor to escape their ignominy is by plunging into a Virtual Reality called OASIS.
We follow a teenager named Wade (Tye Sheridan) who is on an in game adventure called Anorak’s Quest where the winner would be bestowed with special powers, but the company’s shady CEO named Nolan (Ben Mendelsohn) has some nefarious plans of his own.
In case you’re wondering if all this sounds a little familiar to The Matrix, it is. There are a certain set of storytelling tropes that come with Virtual Reality and Ready Player One plunges head on into them – quite unconcerned with how familiar it all feels. This is not a movie that subverts clichés, this is one which gleefully rolls into a barrel of them; and that’s been the staple of most of Spielberg’s newer stuff – to resemble cinematic comfort food.
Because Spielberg is quite the master of crafting giant spectacle with heart, you get some truly jaw dropping action sequences in the film, more so because we’re inside VR and the filmmaker is no longer confined to the boundaries of what can be realistic. The scale is so huge and sprawling that it feels like Spielberg is just showing off what is possible with cutting edge CGI and an unlimited imagination nowadays.
In case you happen to be a fan of '80s and '90s Hollywood, you’ll literally be frothing at your mouth for the fan service Ready Player One indulges in. The car that the protagonist drives is a DeLorean, there’s a Zemeckis cube that does time travel stuff, and there’s a hotel room numbered 237 – and all these are just the references that are extremely prominent. The mind races to catch up with the treasure trove of the subtler hints placed in the background – looking like a sea of Easter Eggs, its waves crashing against the VR-ey foreground.
One of the best moments in the film is one that involves the Iron Giant paying homage to T-800 from The Terminator and a film geek would be hard pressed to contain himself from cheering loudly. While technically predictably great this is also a production landmark in how the producers managed to license so many properties from other films, animations and video games and cram them all into one film. The sheer volume of properties on display is a clever way to make audiences revisit the film on streaming just to be able to identify all the Easter eggs.
As wonderful as Spielberg’s direction still is, there’s a certain fatigue that seems to arise from his sentimental ways of filmmaking. The cloying music cues, the treacly shot taking, and the hackneyed emotional arcs do make you wish he innovated just a little bit more with his style, particularly when given such a large story canvas.
It makes you wonder what the film could have become in the hands of someone like Edgar Wright and his flair for video game homage. In any case for now we have a film by Spielberg, based on Spielberg material for Spielberg fans – he’s not going to make films forever, so grab your tickets while you still can.
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