When the biggest attractions in a Steven Spielberg movie end up being a T-Rex and Chucky of Child's Play, it may be time to reassess such an auteur. The man behind Duel, Jaws, Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park and Always knows his way around an editing suite. Yet Ready Player One revels in the fast cut mentality Spielberg has largely avoided. Like Rob Cohen who made The Fast and the Furious, he has deceived himself into thinking speed is hip. As such, he has skipped over the recycling stage and made a dumpster of choices. If The Iron Giant never rears his metallic cranium again it'll be too soon.
Thus, a basic virtual reality premise, adapted from Ernest Cline's bestseller, comes across as cluttered. As the hero who must earn the viewer's trust, Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) seems ill-equipped. Essentially, his character exists in a make believe society where blank expressiveness dominates every decision.
Just as Spielberg looks set to change gears, we view another round of game and film references. For those that don't relish such shorthand, fair warning is given. Truly, he's felt nostalgic before. Remember the toy shark in E.T. or the famous shark theme used briefly in Close Encounters of the Third Kind? Those were matchstick boxes in a bigger venue. Despite ample gadgetry, Ready Player One underwhelms on the front which matters most: emotional involvement.
About the only token worth taking away has to be composer Alan Silvestri. He delivers a score which eclipses those mountainous visual effects. Crucially, nods to earlier scores including Back to the Future and Godzilla are smartly integrated.
Ultimately, Ready Player One resembles a discarded sweet bag. Where's my popcorn?
A poem to close:
Frankly, I prefer 1941
Over "Ready Player One."
Pop icons were max
Though the concept was lax.
Even Ben Mendelsohn was outdone
At the expense of having fun.
A culture obsessed with the fix
Should look elsewhere for kicks.
(Released by Warner Bros. and rated "PG-13" for sequences of sci-fi action violence, bloody images, some suggestive material, partial nudity and language.)