philip lelyveld The world of entertainment technology


Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One improves immensely on the book

29ed3d416cd513893ea80d1e6c9a560eFans who want the full nostalgia trip, who want to wring every Easter egg out of the experience, will eventually be able to pause the movie and frame-by-frame through it, looking for the flux capacitor on the dashboard, checking the plates, and scanning for extra bonus material. But in the middle of the action, even to people who’ve never seen the Back to the Future movies and aren’t vibing on the connection, the car doesn’t need explaining. It’s just a sleek piece of visual energy, one breathless element among dozens of others. It’s not a citation or a list. It’s an effortless, integrated piece of the action.

That dynamic stretches throughout Ready Player One, scripted by Cline and X-Men: The Last Stand writer Zak Penn, and directed by Spielberg as a whiplash-fast tear through a world-spanning, all-encompassing video game.

But the film improves significantly on the book by prioritizing the story over the signifiers. The hardcore pop-culture crowd that is this movie’s ultimate intended audience will have plenty to pore over and pick apart in this film. But the story moves briskly enough, and with enough giant-sized, screen-friendly excitement that it doesn’t feel like it’s aimed solely and specifically at them.

Cline’s book assumes everyone will know a DeLorean is cool; Spielberg’s film assumes the same thing about a teenage protagonist who loves playing video games.

He’s more a customized audience avatar than a real character, ...

Spielberg’s signature sentiment is operating in full force, as he builds up one highly symbolic confrontation solely for the feelings of triumph and justice it creates, and then has it come to exactly nothing.

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.

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