ScreeningNotes’s review published on Letterboxd:
It's not as insufferable as the book, thanks to the fact that movies are generally "shorter" than books, at least in the strictest temporal sense, and therefore you don't have to slop through quite as many pointless circle-jerk references, but if anything it's more insulting.
Not only does the film take an opportunity for a complete revolution within the Oasis to essentially re-entrench the existing ruling order with inconsequential reforms—rather than reshaping the gross capitalist meritocracy that gives more to those with more and less to those with less, they close the Oasis on Tuesdays and Thursdays and celebrate this as a radical victory.
The film also seems to completely forget that reality even exists outside the virtual world (particularly ironic given the ham-fisted end message to spend more time in reality). What happens to a world built around a game when that game's ownership changes hands? The film doesn't care. What happens to the destitute people of The Stacks and the oppressive class divisions introduced in the film's first minutes? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Only a movie this completely oblivious to the concerns of the real world could have a black woman joyfully enter the company of 3 white male cops and everybody is happy about it and nobody gets hurt.
There's an argument to be had that there's some aesthetic value in the utter overstimulation present here. It's even an argument I should be sympathetic to, judging by my adoration for Speed Racer. There's also an argument to be had that this is an example of Spielberg's talent not only because he could make something like this back-to-back with something like The Post, but also because he could make the central narrative hold together at all with all the background nonsense that's going on.
Maybe there's even some thematic value to the fact that none of the characters have even the slightest shred of personality. Maybe the film is saying that in a world where everyone communicates and identifies through pop culture references, personalities become obsolete and we all become teenagers who fall in love with a girl we've never met because she likes the same music we do—and, what's worse, she falls in love with us too and we live happily ever after. This is supposed to be optimism?