The early films of Steven Spielberg often became a major part of many nostalgic yearnings for the childhood years of many directors influenced by his work. Films like Super 8 in particular pay homage to that period of Spielberg’s filmography and the original novel, Ready Player One, also included countless references to Spielberg’s work.
Spielberg’s latest film, hot on the heels of the Oscar nominated The Post, is jam packed with nods to the 80s (both before and after). Some are blink and you’ll miss it (an avatar is that of a famous character such as Freddie Kruger) and others are almost impossible to miss. It makes the film a lot of fun even if it is a little shallow and superficial.
The biggest problem is that some this shallowness could have been avoided if some areas had been developed more. The film starts off with really well with its world building, tongue in cheek introduction about broadband riots, but the real world gets neglected for the virtual one (somewhat ironic given the film’s message). Beyond the introduction, that highlights the importance of the Oasis, we know nothing new about why so many people want to escape the soul crushing experience that is reality.
Where the film also fails is in its characterization. Olivia Cooke is pretty whether or not she has that birthmark. This is a problem with Hollywood where it seems to think that sticking a mild blemish on someone suddenly makes them deeply unattractive (it doesn’t). Olivia Cooke will always be pretty and a small blemish isn’t going to change that. Another issue is that a major event befalls central character Wade Wilson (Tye Sheridan), but he is so quick to get over the event the audience to even forgets it happens. The acting itself isn’t even particularly good because they seem to struggle with the cheesiness of their lines
There are so many major issue with the film that its quite hard to work out why I really enjoyed it. I think it’s mostly because I just ‘got it’. Its celebration of movies and geek culture just made the film work as it became a lightening fast conveyor belt of pop culture references from the biggest movies, comic books, and video games of the decade. It seems to be a movie one just ‘gets’, allowing them to wave away the many issues the film has.