Ready Player One is Reference the Movie. You probably knew that already. I assumed I did. I even read the book, with the slew of 80's cameos and plot points throughout. But somehow, it didn't prepare me for the film. It's one thing to read a bunch of names on a page, it's another to see, in a mainstream movie, Tracer from Overwatch on three separate occasions. It's another thing to see the Iron Giant, where the entire point of his character is that he is not a weapon to wage destruction, being used as a weapon to wage destruction.
There's some plot in there, I guess. Wade Wilson or whatever is a normal kid who figures out the big important thing in a game and then he and his online friends (who all happen to live in the same city) get to the final big game thing before the big evil corporation. The big evil corporation that views the entire gameworld as a money-making venture. Who uses knowledge of these properties towards the goal of profit, but has no real attachment to any of them. You know, like the big corporation that created this movie.
Is this what movies are now? I'm well aware that no idea is truly original, but could you put a little more goddamn effort in? Half the film is a cavalcade of images from things you've probably seen before, but devoid of context or meaning. They have the dance from Saturday Night Fever. Does any of that have to do with the themes from that movie? Of course not. If you include a reference to a previous work, you want it to have some connection to your creation, either similar themes or character arcs, or something. This just had them thrown in there, like a facebook post on being a 90's kid.
Even apart from the references, of which that leaves little, it wasn't super great. Early on it seems the point of the film is that running to a virtual reality to escape your problems is bad. But nope. Turns out that's just what was needed to get everything you ever wanted, and only then should you take off the VR goggles. For most of the movie I assumed the evil corporation was the government. They have a task force that runs around with guns and forcibly abducts people for their debt, so I figured they were the police. But at the end, it turns out police do exist when they arrest the bad guy! How were they not involved with any other part in the film where shit is blown up and people are shot?! It should not be a big twist in your movie that police exist!
The character designs they didn't take from other people who actually cared about what they created are all pretty lackluster. The female lead looks like a red Na'Vi, the male lead looks like Jack Frost, and that's really all you get. I just don't get this video game from a purely in-universe perspective. How can an entire game world run when everything is just taken from somewhere else? I don't play World of Warcraft expecting to make my character into Spider-Man, it's only good when it has an inner lore to follow.
It's not as patently offensive as, say, a Transformers movie, but if I ever so much as dipped my toe into investment in the plot, I was instantly taken out by seeing a Spawn, a Ninja Turtle, or a Batgirl placed haphazardly into a scene. They say you shouldn't remind viewers of a better film within your own, but obviously Spielberg had some high hopes for this one, because he did not shy away from that at all. They put entire scenes from another movie in this one and it didn't matter in the slightest. It could've been any movie they chose, they just wanted you to see one and say, "I remember that!"
That's the movie. A whole bunch of little moments endlessly repeating, hitting that Pavlov's Bell that makes you say, "I remember!" Anything original they may have created here is overshadowed by the far better works they paid no respect to. Instead of this movie, I'd much rather rewatch The Iron Giant, TMNT, Dune, The Shining, Child's Play, Back to the Future, Jurassic Park, King Kong, or Godzilla.