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REVIEW: The 80s Return in Ready Player One!



Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Produced by: Warner Bros Pictures and Amblin Entertainment
Written By: Zak Penn and Ernest Cline
Starring: Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke
MTRCB Rating: PG
Genre: , ,
6/ 10

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Blockbuster king Steven Spielberg is back with a fun sci-fi adventure through 80s nostalgia .


There's nothing more to the movie outside of eye candy and nostalgic references.

Since ’80s nostalgia is still in full swing, it was only a matter of time before something like Ready Player One – a movie literally built on ’80s references – became a reality. And if crudely photoshopping the cast on iconic movie posters from the Reaganomics era wasn’t enough, Ready Player One even scored the most ’80s director possible […]

Posted March 28, 2018 by


Since ’80s nostalgia is still in full swing, it was only a matter of time before something like Ready Player One - a movie literally built on ’80s references – became a reality. And if crudely photoshopping the cast on iconic movie posters from the Reaganomics era wasn’t enough, Ready Player One even scored the most ’80s director possible to helm it: the father of modern day blockbusters, Steven goddamned Spielberg himself.

In the year 2045, the virtual reality world of the OASIS is the place to be. After its creator dies, a contest for control of the OASIS begins, with every player imaginable taking part. Parzival (Tye Sheridan) and his friends race to the finish line, while finding themselves entangled in a battle against the IOI corporation for control of the OASIS.


With the combination of a meta sci-fi book and Spielberg, one would expect a modern masterpiece. Instead, Spielberg delivers a movie unlike what he’s known for: one that’s neither good or bad, but sits in the middle of the road.


To be clear, Ready Player One is not horrible, even if it felt like Spielberg half-assed things. But given that this is Steven goddamned Spielberg, you could bet your life that even his B-Game yields amazing results – as proven by his adaptation of Ernest Cline’s book.

The OASIS is a visual, CGI eyefest, with digital realms overloading with the kinds of scenes you’d only think were possible in your imagination. Want to see Batman, Jason Voorhees, the Sanrio gang, and Tracer fight for OASIS neutrality while Art3mis (Olivia Cooke) guns down fools with the Aliens M14 pulse rifle to the tune of Bee Gees music? Ready Player One’s got you covered. When referencing pre-existing media, nothing feels forced and it leaves audiences wanting more. One sequence in particular – the second challenge – is perfect as both homage and spectacle that it could be one of this year’s best cinematic second acts. Leave it to Spielberg to turn the annoying trend of romanticizing the politically chaotic ’80s and watching self-indulgent creators indulge to their childhood memories into an awesome action scene.


As big-budgeted blockbusters go, Ready Player One is a perfect crowd-pleaser. It has a breakneck pace, doesn’t faff about too much and gives audiences exactly what they wanted. But those looking for more than just the novelty of spotting their favorite characters in massive crowds and a way to kill two hours will be disappointed in the way that passable but forgettable 80’s movies do: merely existing.


At its core, Ready Player One is a safe, by-the-numbers young adult tale of self-realization and saving the world that just so happens to have the rights to the Iron Giant and Halo’s Spartans. There’s very little that can be done to improve the story without rewriting the novel, but thanks to Spielberg being Spielberg, this bland material was elevated into true yet basic popcorn entertainment.

If not for the more modern references, one may think that Ready Player One is a misplaced adventure movie from the ’80s. The movie incorporates all of the corny if not outdated tropes you could think of, including: narrated exposition, stereotypes in place of characters, a hollow romantic subplot (complete with whimsical music), an evil CEO and his evil business, and a hackneyed moral lesson dropped near the end. Every time the movie leaves the OASIS, it loses immersion due to how predictable it becomes – where the OASIS bleeds creativity, its real-world counterpart reeks of laziness. Just like how it is in the world of 2045, life outside of the OASIS sucks balls.

Coupling this unironic use of 80’s mainstays with glimpses of satire only worsens Ready Player One’s state. The movie has brief moments of creative self-awareness, acknowledging the pitfalls of nostalgia while mocking intrusive corporation’s’ transparent attempts to pander to the youth – all the while putting ’80s tropes on a pedestal.  Rather than be a defense or attack of the old-school, Ready Player One is neither, losing the chance to mean something.


The worst thing about Ready Player One is that it doesn’t take advantage of what it has. Any aspiring filmmaker would kill to have a Gundam or a time-traveling DeLorean as a plot device for their movie in true Kevin Smith fashion. But instead of doing something with an endless sandbox of characters and potential, Spielberg just name-drops references. Ironically, this movie needed more ’80s in it, since its presence is never fully justified or maximized.


Ready Player One is a lesser version of Deadpool, The Lego Movie and Wreck-it-Ralph. Where these satirical masterpieces used licensed properties to question the meaning (or lack thereof) of their genres or the characters themselves, Ready Player One plays an expensive trivia game. The only time that the references had purpose was the aforementioned second challenge – if the whole of Ready Player One was this insanely creative and self-aware, it could have been an equally nostalgic generation’s rallying cry instead of being a glorified Easter Egg hunt.

Short on purpose and personality yet overflowing with energy, Ready Player One is childishly innocent escapist fun. It’s as enjoyable as making up a story where the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ride a Warhammer walker to fight a fleet of Imperial AT-ATs, and then bringing it to life with your toys. But when the plastic dust settles, it’s time to move on and search for meaning elsewhere.


Angelo Delos Trinos

Part-time artist and writer, full-time critic/overthinker. He believes that Samuel L.Jackson is the greatest actor on earth and he misses video stores.


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