Ready Player One

Ready Player One ★★★

52/100

YOU ARE IN A MAZE OF TWISTY LITTLE POP-CULTURE REFERENCES, ALL ALIKE.

Bizarre dichotomy here between seductive content and alienating form, at least for those of us who were teens in the '80s. I'm as susceptible to nostalgic flattery as anyone, so it's hard not to feel some degree of affection for a movie that e.g. pays extended homage to Adventure's invisible dot (for which I spent much of summer 1980* searching). But Ready Player One looks, as it should, like a contemporary video game, and that degree of plasticity and visual clutter quickly exhausts me. (I had the same problem, to a lesser degree, with The Lego Movie: so much to look at that there's effectively nothing to see.) Entering the Overlook was a tonic, not so much because it's familiar—everything is familiar—as because that location is spatially grounded and iconographically coherent. Spielberg orchestrates the bombardment with his usual dexterity, so the experience isn't as aggressively unpleasant as it might have been in less assured hands; there are also by-proxy dopamine rewards related to problem solving (though I wish the solutions weren't all rooted in autobiography, implying that one must obsessively study an artist's personal life in order to appreciate their work). But to the hefty extent that this film—sorry, movie—is intended as a wild ride, it mostly made me wish I were back moving sprites around on the 2600.

* Or possibly summer 1981. Sources conflict on when exactly Adventure was released, and it would likely have taken some time for word to reach my circle of friends. Point is I learned of the dot's existence, but only vaguely, and the fucking thing is nearly impossible to find without help (due to being located in a spot that's inaccessible without the bridge). Not sure whether I squandered more hours on that or on completing Dragon's Lair a few years later. Certainly a lot more money on the latter.