Ready Player One

Ready Player One ★★★½

Easily the most I've ever enjoyed a Spielberg movie this bad. The framework it's built on is so insubstantial it makes THE BFG seem meaty (and THE BFG's third act involved more farting than it arguably should have) — Zak Penn's script is painfully poor and insincere, with wafer-thin characters and a love story whose acceleration is so precipitous (and wholly unnecessary) that it draws laughs.

And yet man, when Spielberg lets 'er rip — which he does about four major, memorable times — this thing sails. THE SHINING sequence in the middle is probably the best set piece Spielberg's put on screen in the 21st century, and I sat through the race, the dance-off, and the final battle with a big grin on my face. It looks incredible once you start forcing yourself to discard all visual data not directly impacting the plot ("overstuffed" doesn't begin to describe the production design; "needless chaos" would be closer), and if you can excuse the idea that postal vans would still exist in a 2045 that has The Oasis in it, it builds an appreciable sense of urgency around its ersatz digital revolution, too.

Somewhat inexcusably, the film wholly ignores Gamergate (or, hell, even the racist and misogynist backlash against THE LAST JEDI) and posits instead that every gamer, geek, and fan in the future will be a goodhearted sort whose only natural enemy is the corporation that wants to charge them more license fees to access the digital realm. This is Spielberg at his most loving and indulgent, but the real filmmaker he’s been for nearly three quarters of his career could have done so much more if he’d let himself off the leash. There are more interesting ideas inherent to this text than the movie (or, for all I know, the book) ever dream of exploring; but the optimistic, and now perhaps Pollyannaish, notion that the collective power of the entire gaming subculture could, under the right circumstances, make the world a better place, is very dear to my heart.

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