Josh Needle’s review published on Letterboxd:
Steven Spielberg is my favorite filmmaker of all-time, and has probably had a bigger influence on me than anybody else, so to say I was excited to see his return to the big budget sci-fi/blockbuster world would be in understatement. What makes it all the better is that the film, Ready Player One, is his best work in years (which says a lot considering that, outside of Crystal Skull, he's made nothing but good/great/brilliant movies over the last 20+ years), and watching it was the most fun I have had in a theater in I don't even know how long!
I've never read the book, but I kind of want to now (I'm not a huge reader outside of Star Wars canon), because the world and story that Spielberg presents here is thrilling, exciting, and loaded with surprises one after the other! I was absolutely enthralled from start to finish by the story and never wanted it to end. It's such a thoroughly enjoyable adventure that had me smiling for the entire thing!
I was even more enamored by the world of the Oasis. It's loaded with pop culture references I can never get enough of, but more than that, it's just so filled with imaginative potential and joy, not to mention everything in it is pretty visually stunning. I don't know if a sequel could/will happen, but I hope it does just so we can get more fun adventures in that world alone.
But spectacle is only a spectacle if its characters don't grab you, however, Ready Player One isn't that kind of blockbuster, because thin and weightless isn't in Spielberg's wheelhouse, which is something I'm shocked that the films skeptics haven't learned by now. The characters in this film are, simply put, wonderful. I absolutely adored this group of young characters, each of whom is compelling and charming in their own way, and who together have such a fun dynamic between each other. The cast is terrific, especially Tye Sheridan and Olivia Cooke, and I had a blast watching them bring these fun characters to life. There's so much heart in the film, and without question, it comes directly from them.
The action scenes are as top notch as one could expect from a Spielberg blockbuster, with gripping and brilliantly shot chase sequences throughout, and one of the geekiest and most entertaining final battles I have EVER seen! I also loved the score by Alan Silvestri, who creates his best music since The Avengers (Even using a few motifs from it! And obviously Back to the Future as well).
And then of course there's the geekgasmic amount of pop culture, film, TV, and video game references littered throughout the Oasis, and also utilized in much of the story. As someone who's not on board the "down with nostalgia" train, and frankly never will be, this stuff had me in absolute heaven! It's weaved organically into the film, works well and effectively, and among the many moments that had me excited, there was one specific scene that made me completely lose my mind! I won't spoil it, but it involves the characters going inside a certain movie, which happens to be one of my top 5 favorite movies ever made, and I was honestly on the verge of tears throughout the majority of the scene!
One other thing I really enjoyed was the message. For all the internet talk about how much this is just "Nostalgia: The Movie" (which is bs), the film does a great job at conveying the importance of the real world and real people. Spielberg lets the audience have their fun, but he also doesn't let them forget that there is more to life than what's behind our screens and inside our fantasies, and I felt it added a lot to the heart of the film.
As for flaws? Honestly, it's all stuff I consider pretty minor. The first act is definitely too exposition heavy, and there are a few plot contrivances that made even me do a bit of a double take. Other than that though, Ready Player One is everything I was hoping for and more! This is my favorite film of 2018 so far, and I’m not sure it’s going to be topped anytime soon. I thought it was outstanding, and CANNOT recommend seeing it highly enough!
Oh…and one other thing, because there’s no chance in hell I’m going to not be an obnoxious gloater about this and let it all slide…
To all of you who’ve been shitting on this movie for months,
and have been saying there’s no way it will end up being anything other than terrible,
and have mocked it every chance you’ve gotten,
and, most importantly, doubted the most legendary filmmaker of all-time…