James’s review published on Letterboxd:
Ready Player One seems tailor made to be adapted on the big screen by Steven Spielberg, the man who single-handedly invented the summer blockbuster with Jaws, which in turn paved the way for the explosion of big budget entertainment in the seventies and eighties, creating a wave of pop culture phenomena that has amassed millions of fans over the years.
In this sense Ready Player One is a bit of retrospective, a bombastic journey through innumerable pop culture references of the very same decades that shaped his career, mining the rampant nostalgia that currently exists for stuff that our parents probably loved. I was concerned this would be an overstuffed barrage of intellectual property and to a large degree it is, remove all these fanboy references and what you're left with is a rather generic plot, a bland cliche of a teen romance and a very poorly developed message about spending more time in the real world, which is barely even hinted at until the very end when it is quickly glossed over. It comes across like the director, who has made his name in entertaining audiences and giving them what they want is refusing to fully commit to the deeper themes of the source material.
Make no mistake though, the special effects laden visuals and balls to the wall pacing alone are enough to make this an enjoyable way to spend a retina straining few hours and Spielberg's direction gets everything right, the expertly helmed high speed races are a real treat and the world building set design is often astonishing. Considering the runtime this really flew by, so I'd be lying if I said I wasn't thrilled by the never-ending and seamlessly linked set pieces, or if seeing a perfectly reconstructed Overlook Hotel from The Shining wasn't impressive. There was just a nagging feeling all the time that nothing was purposeful, shoehorned in merely to appease the nostalgia culture that plagues the modern entertainment industry today, many aspects of the plot and characters are contrived and a little cringe-worthy for someone without a vested interest in reliving the past.