TheShrimp’s review published on Letterboxd:
Spielberg's most lazily directed and least motivated film, a real slap in the face coming from a director known for his technical finesse. I really don't see how Ready Player One is ever going to be remembered in the next 10 years, considering that this movie is mostly based on a sense of nostalgia for older media, and a relatively small time frame of newfound interest in '80s aesthetics, which happens to be on its last legs already.
On top of that the movie seems to have its audiences mixed up, it's targeted at young adults, yet references things meant for older audiences, and everything else tacked inbetween feels like it was written for teenagers.
Then again, the original work was written by Ernest Cline, a man who wrote lyrical poetry about how he wants to make mad passionate love to a woman after copying her Trig homework, only to stop because she wants to watch Battlestar Gallactica, which after watching this film I can only imagine aroused Cline more than the actual act of sex. This man's writing is the male equivalent of Twilight, and his poetry its Fifty Shades.
It's embarrassingly painful to have him constantly explain to you the references, like you possibly haven't heard what Back to the Future or Star Wars is.
Spielberg's version is definitely toned down, still advertised as a celebration of the '80s, but more of a celebration of the nerd culture that Cline enjoys with some modern references thrown in to attract a wider audience. But now Cline isn't stroking his own ego with 3 written paragraphs about how much he knows about Atari, it feels like Spielberg is stroking it for him. It seems hard for Cline to realize that pop culture does not circumvent the necessity for character writing, and not even Spielberg can fix that, even if he had actually tried. Not only do the characters have no personality, they are unlikable and you will never root for them for any other reason that you recognize the character or that they look pretty cute. I don't want to go into details about the characters however, because there is so little to go on it would feel like dissecting the psychological study of Dora the Explorer, and there would be nothing left for moviegoers to look at.
Again, Spielberg severely messed up the technical aspects, as nothing has the Spielberg touch of grandeur that made so many of these worlds feel worthy of a visit. The video game world looks terrible, the designers must have looked at the box art of iconic AAA titles released on consoles for inspiration, instead of drawing from video game worlds that could have really lend a hand at creating an interesting set. The CGI video game characters look like severely ill fish with anime eyes, and I can't imagine why anyone would want to play as those abominations to escape his actual face. I was far more interested in the real world from the start when it seemed like Spielberg got more freedom there and got a 1up (that's a Mario reference, allow me to elaborate-) over Cline. I wanted to know what Spielberg pictured 2045 to look like more than I wanted to be stuck watching Sonic punch nameless faces, but maybe I wanted too much Huxley or Orwell, and should have realized I was actually trapped in the pet project of a man child, a fate worse than either of those books.
That isn't saying that the real world looked good, it was poorly designed and bland, but still looked more interesting and more inviting than the video game world that felt like '00s video game stock footage taking place in an aquarium with bug eyed fish people, where everyone either races in carbon copy cars, kills characters from other movies, or tries not to get killed by characters from other movies. If Ready Player One was an actual game, I can't imagine playing something so utterly boring and ugly for longer than 10 minutes.