Ready Player One ★★★★½

Not only have I not read Ready Player One yet, but I really don't watch a lot of CGI-heavy big-budget blockbuster fare these days (in case my bio and lowly Box Office Mojo All Time 100 score didn't make it clear). I guess that means that the times I do decide to jump on this particular type of what some might call an amusement park-like ride, I'm perhaps more prone to still feeling something resembling a sense of wonder about it all than those who are by now absolutely oversaturated with these type of viewing experiences. I could go off on a tangent here about the peeps who seem to feel a compulsive need to sacrifice time, money, and attention in order to hate-watch every new CGI-fest that comes out (which only encourages the beast) but eh, I'll spare us both.

So despite this being a big-budget Steven Spielberg film I managed to jump into Ready Player One with few expectations and pretty open to whatever it might throw my way…and what can I say? The director not only delivered up the sci-fi blockbuster spectacle I knew he was capable of, but used a movie that is essentially an epic pop culture crossover to critique pop culture, and show the dangers of becoming trapped within an excessive nostalgia that comes at the cost of personal development in other important areas of your life. It's a film about maturity taking precedence over fandom…not exactly common (or popular) subject material for these mass-marketed movies, no? It's the type of moral message that in lesser hands could've felt too much "having your cake and eating it too", but it's Spielberg so he manages to make it appropriately poignant. 

But it wasn't just the spectacle and the message I found myself enjoying. I like how surprising and heartwarming the friendship between the characters turned out to be. I liked seeing Olivia Cooke (Bates Motel) getting another chance to shine with her substantial role. And I liked how this hodgepodge universe works on a conceptual level differently for each audience member like a Rorschach test, with older and younger viewers essentially noticing completely different Easter eggs when they look up at the screen. Honestly I feel like I got a lot more from Ready Player One than I have from the other recent efforts to cash in on franchise nostalgia of every sort, and perhaps that's because a now-mature Steven Spielberg understands the impulse (and the perils of it) better than most.

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