If Ready Player One wonky plot about a world obsessed with a video game that promises world domination to the player who can complete it sounds like an excuse for Steven Spielberg to revisit his greatest creative decade (the 80’s), you would be half right. There are a lot of 80’s film references flying virtually around, but almost no Spielbergian salutes: no E.T. winks, no Indiana Jones parodies, no Close Encounters of the Third Kind (or fourth or fifth or even the sixth). Maybe he was afraid all that self homaging would interfere with his cinematic muscle memory?
Ready Player One is a return to the fun Spielberg. If it isn’t a childhood vision, it’s at least a nerdy movie teen’s expression of joy. It’s Spielberg’s cinematic oasis.
It may be minor Spielberg, but it’s spectacularly minor. No director working today could have pulled this movie off with such expressed confidence, wit and visual imagination.
In the middle of it is a Stanley Kubrick Shining tribute that would go down as one of the finest homages from one great filmmaker to another.
Ready Player One may not be Spielberg’s love letter to the movies he adores but it’s a generous mash note to all 1980’s b-movie fans— and that is more than enough.