Ready Player One ★★


Insurmountably cringe-worthy script lacing together a rather sardonic take on “gamer/nerd culture” and a sloppy form of self-derived dystopian helplessness : the portrayal of these stereotypes is, to put it lightly, laughable at its best, and downright offensive at its worst. As if the core romance between two avatars -- viz. mere projections of ideas of “people” that have never met -- wasn’t flimsy enough, the hammering home of The Creator’s shuttered autism/Asperger’s syndrome misinterpreted as someone that The World Just Doesn’t Understand is wretched, not only re: the awful performance but the tactless finger-pointing and probing. Thought for a second the Avatar Romance would lead to something truly thorny, like falling in love with an idealized “someone” then realizing they’re nothing like what you expected, and seeing how the physical and the metaphysical abruptly abut… but nope. The movie cops out and the avatar’s human counterpoint is exactly as we’d expect, and in an almost embarrassing fashion, a barely-noticeable birthmark is used to represent the source of deflated self-worth and a lifelong trajectory of inferiority. Please. Even given the film’s insistence of writhing one-liners and tacky social dynamics, Spielberg still directs the shit out of… well, shit. And while many of the computer-generated action sequences play out like a game of Sonic the Hedgehog on cocaine, they remain surprisingly cogent and sensibly manageable, if not a bit overcrowded. Not a fan of films so heavily integrated with pop-culture references, either, and although The Shining sequence is both nostalgic and refreshing, it highlights READY PLAYER ONE’s constant overloading and nonstop bombardment -- when the best scene in your film is modeled entirely after scenes from some other film, that’s probably not a good thing. Awful pacing, too, the passage of time seems to have been an afterthought, making everything that’s happening feel crammed into such a tiny quadrant of spacetime that actual “development” is nowhere to be found. Five years, no key found, suddenly -- within what would seem to be… days? If that? -- one kid taps into the innermost psyche of the artist, uncovering several deeply personal secrets that droves of algorithms and scientists remained stumped by for half a decade, falls in love with someone he barely knows, mounts an uprising against the current world’s largest, corrupt conglomerate, etc… Just, whew. A total head rush, and not a particularly good one.

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