I was a big fan of the book, which makes sense, as it was a science fiction book chock full of 80s pop culture references, so it was pretty much tailor made for me. And that’s exactly the kind of adaptation that might end up going very wrong. If you love an original, seeing someone else do something to that original is a risk. They might have gotten something else out of it, and so you could end up hating their adaptation.
That said, if anyone could do a Ready Player One adaptation, it would be Steven Spielberg. The man’s responsible for a ton of 80s nostalgia, after all. Why not return to his roots?
So how was it? Mixed. There were parts of the movie that I loved. There were other parts that just didn’t work for me.
Even basic things like the nostalgia bits were hit and miss. On the one hand, it was a blast to see all the references peppered throughout the movie. My favorite sequence was the recreation of The Shining, which isn’t in the novel but made total sense for the movie. (For me, at least. I could see some people really disliking how much they changed the novel.) But at the same time, when a lot of the interest of the movie is driven by referring to other movies you loved, there are times when you start wishing you were watching those other movies, instead. In some ways, it started to feel kind of like those musicals where they’ve pieced together all the greatest hits of an artist or band. The connections between the songs begin to be a stretch.
The pop culture references seemed just too much at times. In the book, a great deal is made out of how niche a lot of this stuff is. How only some people really understood all the references. But in the movie, it came across as much more mainstream. As if all the people in 2046 know all about the 1980s. But think for a second. That’s like me knowing all about the pop culture of the 1950s right now. I know general things, but the ins and outs? Forget it.
Plus, you’ve got the issue of VR in the movie. Everyone’s supposedly using it, and that’s easy enough to handle in a book. You just describe it. But for the film, Spielberg made it a sort of fusion between AR and VR, with people having full on battles in VR on real life city streets. And that makes . . . not a whole lot of sense. I kept trying to figure out how it would all function, and it never became clear. That’s a problem.
But when the movie was working well, it was working really well. The action scenes were a lot of fun. The concept itself (a worldwide treasure hunt for an insanely valuable fortune) is one that can hold up any number of plots. The acting was fine. The effects were great. The music was a series of references, as you’d expect.
In the end, I had a good time. It’s a film I would recommend seeing in theaters, on a big screen. But will I remember it years from now? Probably not. I’ll remember the movies it referred to, but this amalgamation will just blend together, mainly because it didn’t actually do that much with it all. It’s a generic plot wrapped up in pop culture, with a sci-fi finish that doesn’t really make sense when you try to think about it more than a little.
And that’s not a recipe for a smashing success.
I gave it a 6.5/10. What did you think?
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