Is Spielberg back? Was he ever gone? Yes and No. It's too early to tell with Ready Player One. The visuals are great, but only time will tell if it has the same staying power as Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, or even E.T. My favorite aspect of this movie was how well it captured the world of gaming. Specifically video games. I could relate to all the characters because I'd been in their shoes, just to a much lesser extent. It's also why I feel the movie grinds to a halt whenever we visit the "real world". In games your avatar is basically an extension of you, your personal aesthetic went into choosing their hair, clothes, and combat style. Parzival and Wade, Artemis and Sam, or Aech and H, they're all one person. Yet they feel like entirely different characters because when they're in the Oasis they're more confident in their abilities. This is best shown via Artemis/Sam because as Artemis Olivia Cooke exudes charisma and self-confidence. As Sam she's a little more reserved and self-conscious. Yet both characters are the same person. everyone has something where they feel the most comfortable. For the main characters they're the most themselves when they're in the Oasis. Though as an aside, I found it funny that they built up the fact that Sam might not be as attractive as Artemis, when Olivia Cooke is fairly beautiful in her own right. She's not the sultry femme-fatale of Artemis, but she's not the wicked witch of the west either. I digress, because again, that's an area she feels less confident in that her avatar can overcome. I loved the visual touch at the end where Artemis gets the same birthmark as Sam, signaling her willingness to accept her strengths and fears into who she is. As for Wade, I preferred Parzival. Wade simply doesn't do anything of consequence outside the Oasis. The other characters all have their own heroic moments in the real world, but Wade doesn't. While he doesn't even has as much depth as his female co-star. In the beginning he's a kid that just wants to get out of the life he's trapped in, and by the end, well, he succeeds in doing that. He does rise up to rally the Oasis against IOI, and learn there's more to the world outside the Oasis. Yet, they show that by having him and Sam kissing on a couch in his new apartment. I feel like they could have done any other activity to convey the message of "real life is the only thing that truly matters", that would have resonated more.
I thought Mark Rylance was great as Halliday. There was so much heart, mystery, and regret in the character that it was easy to empathize with him. Ben Mendelson pretty much played Krennic again, and did a great job of still giving him a personality. He felt like a real villain, motivated by a desire to exploit the Oasis for profit. He's pretty much how a lot of gamers view publishers and their use of microtransactions to nickel and dime their worlds. The Oasis itself is awesome. The action sequences had me on the edge of my seat, I found myself holding my breath while viewing the climactic final battle. Two of the coolest moments come with the blending of the real and digital worlds. My favorite one was when the characters venture into The Shining. It was really cool to see them standing inside the infamous hotel and seeing the iconic shots while still in their avatars. Ready Player One is a great action spectacle that could just barely sneak into my Top 10 Spielberg films list, but we're talking 9 or 10 here the guy's made a ton of great movies.