Ready Player One ★★★

Proves beyond any shred of doubt that Spielberg is still capable of grinding out the sort of purely populist pictures that have defined much of his oeuvre; Ready Player One is a breezy, exuberantly charming pop actioner so visually delightful and assured that it almost liberates itself from the pitfalls of CGI overuse. Certainly, its delectable appearance is mired by a script cobbled together from cliches so pathetically generic even The Hunger Games mostly avoided them, and it’s unfortunate that Spielberg makes little to no effort to tug the film’s head out of the filthy, throbbing asshole of gamer bro pop culture where it’s so firmly lodged one might assume the two are conjoined, but there’s an undeniable jubilance to his filmmaking that hasn’t been felt in a long, long while. 
The wonders he’s able to wring from predominantly CGI filmmaking are astounding, his frames as perfectly crafted as anything he’s ever put to celluloid, and dazzling in a new way only such a magnanimously talented filmmaker could conjure from such a singular premise. It’s worth mentioning that as exhaustingly cluttered as some of the movie’s action sequences can be, they feel so perfectly translated from the visual language of video games — and with such verve, too — that in all the right moments it’s easy to forget this is a movie, at all. The action beats, as ridiculous as they are, also aren’t as weightless as I feared they’d be, underscored by a well and concisely established sense of tangible stakes and punctuated by frequent enough juxtapositions of game against reality that it’s easy, even refreshing, to accept them as an alternative to the life-and-death stakes similar films so often fall back on. 
Spielberg frequently gets lost down the rabbit hole of visual splendor — perhaps now he understands the pitfalls his old pal suffered with The Phantom Menace — yielding no shortage of bloated action sequences, and there are far too many moments that straddle the frustrating line between clever in-joke and hollow fan-service moment — even ones that hop from side to side with nauseating frequency — but the whole ordeal is too overwhelmingly buoyant for that to matter. This is a fun flick in an era where such things are uncommon. And I call it that, a flick, because this is no film, nor even a movie; it’s a shameless, goofy popcorn flick, but the rare one that entertains and dazzles without feeling vacuous. Make no mistake, this isn’t Spielberg back at the top of his game, blockbuster-wise, but it’s a resounding battle cry that after a long hiatus, he’s begun the trek back up that mountain. One can only hope he’ll slaughter Marvel and DC on the way up.

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