Ready Player One, based on the Ernest Cline novel of the same name, had its premiere this weekend at music and culture festival SXSW with reviews published the morning after. While the initial impressions on Twitter seemed largely positive, the mood surrounding the film is decidedly mixed.
When the first trailer for Ready, Player One hit the internet last summer at San Diego Comic-Con, it was met with a fierce backlash from social media. Users posted whole passages from the novel to underscore how large portions of the book's opening segments dedicated to slathering as many pop-cultural references in a single paragraph. The reactions were strong enough to make readers rethink early, glowing reviews of the novel.
However, the Ready Player One film—directed by Steven Spielberg—premiered this weekend amid the same social media-driven skepticism of the source material. And the reception has been good, with critics saying that Spielberg has done it again, or that he's improved the source material. Here's a sample of social media impressions from the critics at SXSW that were positive.
#ReadyPlayerOne is classic Steven Spielberg. It’s got the references, the ferocious effects and the great ‘80s soundtrack, sure, but also the charm, the heart, the humor and a fantastic Alan Silvestri score. I loved it & so did this #SXSW crowd. Be excited for it! pic.twitter.com/xwPOGwXDxd— ErikDavis (@ErikDavis) March 12, 2018
I didn’t think I would like #ReadyPlayerOne, but I liked it a WHOLE LOT. I think people cheered and laughed every 2 mins and dang this film was entertaining. So many references, I can’t wait for everyone to see it so we can all talk about it! #sxsw— Beatrice Verhoeven (@bverhoev) March 12, 2018
Ready Player One is a whole lot of fun. Those who are stuck in pre-release hate mode better prepare to be disappointed. #sxsw— Scott Weinberg (@scottEweinberg) March 12, 2018
Many of the praise is given to Spielberg's direction, but many of the positive comments also reflect how much people just love seeing the pop-culture plethora of Cline's original novel. Much like the novel, the film's use of pop-culture references through the lens of Steven Spielberg proved to be an unstoppable hit, rather than the head-scratching overkill the critics of Ready Player One thought it would be.
READY PLAYER ONE feels like Spielberg watched a ton of Luc Besson movies and decided to outdo them. In terms of pure spectacle, it’s the most astonishing thing he’s done. Never underestimate Steve. #SXSW— erickohn (@erickohn) March 12, 2018
Yet the critiques against the film still largely mirror the critiques against the book in a way that suggests if you didn't like reading Ready Player One, the film might not be for you either.
...the bad narration (a narrative crutch) in intro doesn’t work. Might’ve been in better hands with an indie director who focused on human story & class disparity which is better explored in the book. But there are a ton of references. Overall feels dated. 2/2 #ReadyPlayerOne— Chris Gore @ SXSW (@ThatChrisGore) March 12, 2018
Genuinely still shifting through my #ReadyPlayerOne feelings but it’s telling that some fanboys have already yelled at me for not coming out of the gate singing its praises. That’s exactly the culture way RP1 attempts to grapple with.— Joanna Robinson (@jowrotethis) March 12, 2018
#ReadyPlayerOne posits a corporate big wig who exploits fan culture for profit as its villain. The irony of that is giving me a headache. This is no love letter to pop culture. It’s a crass play to nostalgia; it offers nothing new or exciting.— Kristy Puchko SXSW (@KristyPuchko) March 12, 2018
Ready Player One is like futuristic Forrest Gump for gatekeeping fanboys. i really did not enjoy this movie. http://go.redirectingat.com?id=87431X1573192&xs=1&url=https%3A%2F%2Ft.co%2Fnbd9CL2AbY— Britt Hayes (@MissBrittHayes) March 12, 2018
The negative reviews of the film touch on all the same problems that Cline's original novel also suffered from. Namely that this is a film that wants its audience to feel special for understanding geeky references across pop-culture. One io9 review negatively called the film an "orgy of nostalgia."
Ready Player One is an orgy of nostalgia in all the wrong ways http://go.redirectingat.com?id=87431X1573192&xs=1&url=https%3A%2F%2Ft.co%2FnfgaEvPLWw pic.twitter.com/7CJrF8fbQT— io9 (@io9) March 12, 2018
So it seems that ultimately, Ready Player One is exactly what people thought it would be based on the novel, the only difference is whether or not you'll be taken in by Spielberg's scope and vision when it came to translating the source material, or if you'll be bogged down by its pop-culture excess.