After years of Hollywood reboots and the popularity of Stranger Things, the prospect of adapting Ernest Cline’s futuristic tribute to 1980’s pop culture felt more dubious than slam-dunk for audiences who may be suffering from nostalgia fatigue. However, if there was one man for the job – it was Steven Spielberg. The book, after all, plays very much like a classic Spielberg movie and his filmography is littered throughout the text. The film itself is quite liberal with its adaptation, smoothing out some of the story’s rougher edges and streamlining much of the plot, all of which adds up to one of the director’s most entertaining works in nearly two decades.
Based around a global quest for the keys to the future of the Oasis – a virtual reality playground humans have escaped to in a dystopian future – Spielberg delivers an action-packed thrill ride that easily ranks as the most visually spectacular film of his long and illustrious career. The Oasis is gorgeously realized, the characters perfectly integrated, and one sequence in particular – based around Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining – is one of the best things Spielberg has ever done. The film is packed full of countless pop culture references that add to the fun rather than feeling gratuitous or distracting. Folks looking for something that digs deeper into the settings, characters, or themes may come away disappointed as it’s a fairly light-hearted affair and the stakes don’t always feel sky-high. The goal here clearly was to deliver a fun adventure film for the gamers and geeks of today and it is an absolute blast from start to finish. Grade: A-.