Ready Player One

(Spielberg, 2018)

This review contains spoilers for Ready Player One

Steven Spielberg is one of the greatest directors of all time, but his recent outings have signaled to many that he may have peaked decades ago. Unfortunately, Ready Player One is further evidence of this point.

Ready Player One is the story of Wade Watts, an orphaned teen living in 2045 Ohio. Wade spends most of his days in a virtual reality super-world called the OASIS. In the OASIS, you can be whoever you want to be (which usually means either an edgy elf or a jacked-up warlock). But, when the creator of the OASIS dies, he reveals to the world that there is a hidden Easter egg within the OASIS. The winner of the egg hunt will receive ownership and control of the entire virtual world. It sounds at least mildly interesting, but it fails in its execution. The plot is muddled, the message is heavy-handed, and there are no interesting, three-dimensional characters to keep you invested in the story. I could go on and on about the flaws of this film (script, characters, acting, lack of nuance), but I’d rather talk about its one saving grace: the visual effects.

The effects in this movie really are magnificent. Certain scenes stick out in my mind as being particularly amazing, like the race through Manhattan, the anti-gravity night club, the Shining re-creation, or the Planet Doom battle. Despite the excessive use of CGI and pop culture references, the world of the OASIS is vivid and mesmerizing. The fights and battles are so adeptly choreographed that, despite not caring at all about the story at all, I found myself glued to the seat for all of the action. Unfortunately, this also means that any scene that takes place in the real world falls short. But if nothing else, at least half of this movie is simply a marvel to look at.

Spielberg’s latest is both incredible and terrible. That’s the best way I can think to describe it. The action and visual effects are bordering on perfect, proving that, when it comes to staging blockbuster action, Spielberg is still way ahead of the curve. However, the script and performances are where this film really falters. Spielberg sacrifices all possible nuance in favor of clichéd characters, a trite love story and forced punchlines that all exist to serve the spectacle. When the disparate elements of the film come together, you are left with something rather unremarkable, a spectacle with little substance, and a movie almost too average to recommend. ★★★

David Merkle