starring Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Mark Rylance
screenplay by Zak Penn and Ernest Cline, based on the novel by Cline
directed by Steven Spielberg
by Walter Chaw Ready Player One is the first Spielberg film I can remember that feels contemptuous. It is at its heart self-abnegation--an indictment of playing to fandom from a filmmaker who hasn't met a pander he couldn't indulge, whether it be giving Philip K. Dick a happy ending or over-explaining the horrors of war/slavery/the Holocaust in condescending monologues. Taken as an auteur piece, the picture is sort of stunning: Hollywood's Peter Pan savant pissing on Neverland and the Lost Boys. If it's a remake in intent of Mel Stuart's perverse Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (as its trailers suggest), it at least captures the rage and self-violence at the heart of that film. Adapted from Ernest Cline's terrible novel, Ready Player One dials down the book's self-satisfied checklisting but, disastrously, tacks on a "gather ye rosebuds" message about how reality--without all the intellectual property worship and dork one-upmanship--is ultimately preferable to virtual reality. It is literally the movie version of the William Shatner sketch on SNL from 1986 where he tells Star Trek conventioneers to "get a life" and, you know, maybe kiss a girl and, most viciously, how these idiots gathered before him have turned an "enjoyable little job I did as a lark for a few years into a colossal waste of time." Consider that the solutions to the "quests" in the movie are to go backwards, to ask someone to dance, to fuck around for a while instead of trying to hit a target. It's nostalgia defined traditionally rather than through the lens of action figures, cartoons, and videogames. It's almost Proustian.