Ready Player One ★★★½

Better able to separate this film from its source book on a second viewing, I find Spielberg’s relentless camera motion a half-hearted plunge into the new studio style that’s driven entirely by computer-generated VFX, with the “camera” freed from any X/Y/Z axis. Rectilinear filmmaking (the dolly shot especially) has given way to parabolic arcs. (Working the Z axis in the opening shot feels positively old-fashioned, given what comes after, despite its actual rarity.) The spiraling swirl, closing in on the character has replaced the zoom. Fine. Moviemaking changes. Spielberg is changing with it.

I still find the film’s breaks from the book to be mixed. Artemis is given loads of ignorant woman lines, undermining one of the book’s strengths, without any criticism of the book’s nerd girl horniness. Having us cheer at the Iron Giant fighting and destroying the bad guys still feels weirdly underthought.

The film’s non-Oasis moments are nearly as grungy as in Minority Report, and Spielberg continues to explore the visual contrast between technology/power and poverty/survival. He’s become one of our greatest mainstream explorers of wealth and privilege, all within the trappings of his classic hero’s-arc plotting.