Steven Spielberg is a master of filmmaking, there’s no doubt about it… still, he’s a director that almost never convince me with his offerings. Only a few of his titles are among my favorite films list (“The Color Purple” is the only one that is pretty solid in my top 40 faves of all time, with “Jaws”, “Duel”, “Lincoln” and “Close encounters of the Third Kind” being the other ones that I love, no questions asked).
But wait a minute, does it mean I hate “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, “E.T.”, “Schindler’s List”, “The Post”, “Minority Report”, “A.I.” or “Bridge of Spies”? At all, Spielberg is a master of filmmaking and my problems with those films are more conceptual, thematically or screenwritting wise, with abuse of some tropes or blandness / cheesiness galore… There are only a few films by Spielberg, that I consider directly BAD… well, only one, “Hook”. I haven’t seen “The BFG” or “The Terminal”, for the matter (only some scenes of the later, caught on TV and that did not attract me enough to see the full feature). My biggest problem with Spielberg, is political. He’s a director for the elites.
Not only he’s speciallized on blockbuster entertainment, but his work, his Amblin brand is the direct sucessor of Disney’s design to promote rightwing thinking and capitalism. There’s no better example of this, than “Ready Player One”.
“Ready Player One”, while visually fascinating and baroque, plays more like a videogame in which the audience is encouraged to rewatch the film again and again to find all easter eggs, rather than a serious approach to its interesting sociopolitical premise (a distopy that seduce the masses into escapism to the extreme) desguised as a Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory reimagination (which basically, is this story, not only at core, but also at basic structure). Spielberg and his writting team avoid any kind of critique to that society with its only moral being “you spend too much time out of reality”, while mantaining unquestionable the whole structure of the distopy depicted in the film.
It’s nothing new on his filmography, to manipulate the audience into right wing politics. In “Amistad”, Spielberg simplified the whole issue of slavery, blaming it on Spain (which wasn’t even the bigger slave trader). In “Saving Private Ryan” demonizes and dehumanizes germans, conveniently erasing the reality that most of the german soldiers were not nazis and as much scared as the allies of the horrors of war (there are a couple of extremely good analysis in youtube about that, and how Spielberg uses some tricks, to achieve that manipulation… not only that, but it even manipulates the events to trick the audience to think that D-Day was US troops merit only). In “Hook” blandness goes galore to put family first and front (a traditional right wing message). In “Lincoln” he deliverately skips portraying all events that have induced historians to think Lincoln was bisexual or homosexual, plus does not go into core of the real motivation of the civil war, which was economy, not racial justice. In the Indiana Jones series, he creates a series of events that not only are not historically accurate, but sometimes directly create a new history (Nazi troops in the greek islands and in Egypt, BEFORE the war started! And people complain about aliens and nuking the fridge in “Crystal Skull”… or the inherent racism in “Temple of Doom” or the geography in “Last Crusade”). I could go on and on, but basically Spielberg films are better and more enjoyable when earlier in his career and with less pretentions. I’d take “1941” and its sillyiness any day over “Ready Player One”… both are dumb, over the top, but “1941” has a bigger heart and sincerity… “RPO” has Simon Pegg and that’s it.
Predictable to the extreme in its plot, the only interest throughout the film is basically how the situation is going to be resolved, and where the next easter egg is. The screenplay’s few strenghts are coming so obviously from the novel itself, but so are some of the film’s biggest failures, which I wonder how were not corrected when adapting the source material, unless I realized the biggest worry of the team was to introduce as many references as possible, to justify rewatchability. A huge disappointment and one of Spielberg’s worst films, which of course it’s not saying it’s bad. Just mediocre and good for a bored afternoon.
C / ***