Ready Player One Movie Review Roundup: Another Spielberg Classic?

by David Jagneaux • March 13th, 2018

Steven Spielberg’s epic VR-focused blockbuster film Ready Player One, which is based on Ernest Cline’s novel by the same name, is just about two and a half weeks away from its full, worldwide release in theaters on March 29, 2018. This past weekend at SXSW attendees got the chance to see an advanced screening of the film, which means early reviews are already starting to pour in. And so far I’ve got to say they seem surprisingly positive.

Ever since the book’s original 2011 release critics have been quick to point out a multitude of issues with the quality of writing, issues with representation, and a generally poor narrative pieced together by undeveloped and gratuitous nostalgia bait. While the film doesn’t appear to magically fix all of the story’s issues, it does seem like it’s able to succeed in some surprisingly great ways instead.

With a bunch of reviews hitting the internet over the last couple of days, we’ve rounded up a few to give you a general consensus on what people are thinking so far:

IGN, Alanah Pearce (7.5/10)

“Everything in Ready Player One ties together into an action-packed, upbeat, hero’s journey that keeps the film moving along at a thrilling pace. While it’s not particularly emotional and I was disappointed by how many questions are left open by its shallow visits to the real world, it’s still a lot of fun. Countless cameos and funny moments make it easy to plug into and enjoy. Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of the beloved sci-fi novel Ready Player One is far more than just a reference-fest.”

Variety, Owen Gleiberman –

“Yet all this adds up on paper without ever seeming like more, in the movie, than a frame on which Spielberg can hang his eruptive visual imagination. “Ready Player One” is set in a dilapidated future where fantasy rules because reality looks hellish by comparison. Yet the movie puts you in a different mindset. By the end, you’re more than ready to escape from all the escapism. Steven Spielberg has turned Ernest Cline’s novel into a virtual-reality fanboy geek-out that’s entrancing when it’s virtual, less so when it’s real.”

IndieWire, Eric Kohn (B+)

‘”Ready Player One” is one of the more clever excuses to run wild with special effects. Of course, that outcome makes sense from a filmmaker whose entire legacy has been steeped in showmanship. As it cycles through dozens of references to past achievements, “Ready Player One” amounts to a frenetic attempt at remaking the past 30-odd years of popular culture by one of its greatest architects. Without seeing the movie, it’s hard to imagine anyone could turn it into a satisfying product; by the end, it’s clear that only Steven Spielberg can.”

The Verge, Tasha Robinson

“And while the film’s real world gets left behind in the rush, the attention to detail during the OASIS scenes is absolutely astounding — not just the details Cline salivated over on the page, like that Knight Rider scanner in the grill of Wade’s car, but the subtle nuances, like the way Wade’s avatar constantly seems to be standing in a flattering breeze that ruffles his hair in the most winsome way possible, or the way Art3mis’ too-big anime eyes catch the light. The uncanny-valley effect is strong in these game avatars, but Spielberg uses it to his advantage, reminding his audience at every moment that what they’re seeing is mostly a fantasy, created by people who see image as almost everything…All those feelings of love and obsession came through clearly on the page. But on the screen, they’re bigger and better, because they’re so much more intense, and so much closer to the memorable images that turned Cline into an obsessive in the first place.”

Dread Central, Jonathan Barkan

“It’s obvious that Spielberg was trying to recreate the charm and wonder of his films from the 80’s and early 90’s. However, there is a soullessness and emptiness pervading throughout Ready Player One that makes it a forgettable and dull experience. An overabundance of pop culture references can’t save Ready Player One from its own mediocrity. It may be pretty but there is nothing of substance to make anyone press ‘Continue’.”

Hollywood Reporter, John DeFore

“A rollicking adventure through worlds both bleak and fantastic, Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One makes big changes to the specifics and structure of Ernest Cline’s best-selling novel but keeps the spirit and level-up thrills intact. With Cline as a screenwriter alongside Zak Penn, it’s not surprising that while some of the book’s dorkier elements are excised — sorry, Rush fans! — their replacements display similar pop-culture obsessiveness while lending themselves more to the cinematic gifts of the man Cline surely dreamed would adapt the book. Gamers are far from the only ones who will respond to this virtual-world-set picture, which strikes an ideal balance between live action and CGI.”

io9 Gizmodo, Evan Narcisse

“Like a rude orgy participant, Ready Player One insistently rubs itself on you in ways that it thinks will turn you on, whispering “talk nerdy to me” into your ear constantly, and with increasing insistence. Depending on your kink, the frottage will work at times, but the movie drags when the nostalgia stops for one of its obligatory refractory periods. And, just like a real orgy, Ready Player One is inevitably going send someone home unsatisfied and depressed.”

Vanity Fair, Joanna Robinson

“But because Spielberg seems as eager as Wade to get back to the digital fantasy world he’s created, a lot of the human element is elided or glossed over. Despite the movie’s thesis statement—that the real world matters as much (if not more) than the OASIS—actual human tragedy, like the death of one of our hero’s closest relatives and caretaker, has no real impact on the story. And for all that Spielberg claims he wanted to avoid references to his own movies in Ready Player One, this is in every way a spiritual ode to the boy’s adventure genre he made so popular in the 80s. There is a heart beating at the center of The Goonies,E.T.,Raiders of the Lost Ark,and more—but in Ready Player One, audiences will instead find a gleaming, digital, golden Easter egg. If the thunderous applause drawn by the premiere is any indication, for many, that will be enough.”

For more on Ready Player One, read about the HTC Vive VR experiences that debuted at SXSW focused on the film, our thoughts on the Sansar RPO experience from CES, and read our breakdown of all the Easter Eggs we saw in the film’s debut trailer.

Do you plan on seeing RPO opening weekend? If so, let us know down in the comments below!

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