Sorry Spielbergers. I’m not sure I’m the audience for this kind of stuff. I do admire the thoroughness of the VFX work and how wonderfully the different avatars are rendered, and the whole sequence inside The Shining was kind of mind-blowing in how accurately it was all reproduced. We’ve come so far technologically, and as long as we are careful not to overstep our boundaries, the possibilities will become limitless. But other than that? This was like an unholy cross between Willy Wonka, The Wizard of Oz and The Hunger Games without offering much in the way of substance. Simulations shouldn’t substitute reality? Okay, that’s a moral we’ve heard time and again. Corporations are only in it for themselves and don’t care about the public’s actual needs? Yup, heard that one. Being obsessed with any one thing isn’t the most desirable thing for your wellbeing? Again, yes, that’s been said before. You get the gist. It’s a repetition of the old bugaboos we know so well, packaged in a slick, CGI-heavy wrapping that is not as interesting as it wants to be.
Maybe it’s just me, but Spielberg’s recent YA output doesn’t hold a candle to his earlier endeavours. I prefer his grown-up output from this era a lot more, probably because he feels far more comfortable with it. I sensed some of his hesitancy about this. It does not feel as fluid and polished as films like Bridge of Spies or even The Post. It feels unwieldy and impersonal in a way that Spielberg films shouldn’t be. He is a director who always adds character to his work, and this one is missing it—to the point where you could fool someone into thinking it was helmed by another director entirely. Some of the blame should fall on the source material, which I don’t believe was worthy of someone of Spielberg’s calibre. I haven’t even read the book, and I can tell it wasn’t anything worth fussing about.
With a career as storied as Spielberg’s, he can’t always be asked to make masterpieces. Some work better than others. Ready Player One was too tall of an order and it didn’t end up working out. No matter. The next one is bound to be better.