Never underestimate Spielberg. I should make this my new mantra after having my low expectations about his latest piece, Ready Player One, completely shattered. Why in the world did I dare question his ability to get two instant classics -this one and “The Post”- out in the same year? Just — why?
Indeed, his adaptation of Ernest Cline’s world famous novel is a wholehearted, witty and fun cinematic experience whose name I have already written down as one of this year’s musts. The story is a dystopian set in 2044, when a virtual reality video game has trespassed the frontiers of mere entertainment to become a central piece of everybody’s life. People ask for loans in the real word to make progress in the fictional OASIS, leaving their traditional obligations behind. In essence, people can build and choose their own avatar and fight for the conquest of OASIS – a struggle with far-reaching consequences.
At age 71, Spielberg retains a love for the medium so evident in every frame and piece of selected special effects, that one wonders when exactly Hollywood’s new generation of moviemakers lost this same passion and affectionate connection with audiences worldwide. Why else do we keep recurring to him for an infusion of adrenaline and proper storytelling? A sheer joy which only he seems to channel in a way that results in commercially successful and qualitatively satisfying movies – one after the other, year after year. He delivers, each and every time. He sets the way and we choose to follow.
While he offered “The Post” as a tribute to freedom of the press, “Ready Player One” is Spielberg’s own homage to the best of pop culture — including a triumphant reference to The Shining which had me, literally, cracking up (and this added to the fact that I saw the movie at a 4DX theater -more on that in the future- made me concerned for my physical integrity more than once). The smooth transitions here are a whole different story: the way the film manages to go from high to low, from deep to mundane, from inner thought to fooling around, is both remarkable and unnoticeable. Is this partly thanks to a few smart song choices, which include “You Make My Dreams”, “Maniac”, “Jump” or “Take On Me”? Sure, sure. They had me dancing all along. But it must be something deeper, much more indecipherable, that makes my connection to this movie so personal and intimate — despite the subject matter not exposing great unknown truths about the human experience (cheers to that). The attention to detail, as showcased by the unmatched display of creativity and technological refinement, threatens to overwhelm but ends up adding to the joyous messiness so present all around.
I have come to the conclusion that I must have responded in some especially visceral way to the perfectly calculated and timely warning Ready Player One puts out into the world: This is the direction we are walking towards. This could be us. A society emptied of any trace of human connection is bound to pay a price.