It feels silly to act surprised when a Steven Spielberg movie somehow manages to be good, but in the case of Ready Player One, there’s been some reason to be concerned. The legendary filmmaker hasn’t had one of his vintage, cross-generational, crowd-pleasing, imagination-capturing event films in a while. The man known for “inventing” the summer blockbuster with Jaws, and then giving us instant classics like Close Encounters of The Third Kind, Raiders of The Lost Ark, E.T.: the Extra-Terrestrial, and Jurassic Park hasn’t had one of those movies since 2005’s War of The Worlds.
That’s not to say his cinematic output hasn’t remained stellar. Not at all. In the years since WoTW he’s given us Lincoln, Bridge of Spies, and The Post– which was just up for Best Picture at the Academy Awards!
But the point is that some have openly wondered if he’s lost his ability to capture pop culture’s collective imagination. His films have become increasingly more niche, and the last time he swung for the big fantastical fences of yesteryear with 2016’s The BFG, it landed with a bit of a thud.
That’s why all eyes are now on Ready Player One. With box office prognosticators predicting a very middling opening weekend haul of around $35 Million, it’s going to take some really positive buzz to cut through the apparent apathy mainstream audiences are feeling towards Spielberg’s latest.
Thankfully for him (and Warner Bros.), the buzz after its premiere last night at SXSW is decidedly good!!
#ReadyPlayerOne is classic Spielberg fun! What a blast, can’t wait to see it again. Rewards repeat viewings. Tons of great references, visuals and heart. So kick ass it blew the speakers!
— Robert Rodriguez (@Rodriguez) March 12, 2018
I don’t know if I have ever seen a #SXSW crowd cheer on a movie the way they just cheered on #ReadyPlayerOne. We haven’t seen this Spielberg in a long time – it’s just pure entertainment and it’s hard not to watch it without a dorky smile on your face the whole time
— ErikDavis (@ErikDavis) March 12, 2018
Went into READY PLAYER ONE skeptical as hell. Came out largely as a joyous convert. I have a handful of issues with the structure and characters, but it improves on the book in important ways, the action is riveting, and I really bought the humor. #readyplayerone
— Tasha Robinson (@TashaRobinson) March 12, 2018
As someone who made a passionate plea for Ready Player One to be good- and for people to support it if it is- on last Friday’s El Fanboy Podcast, I am beyond thrilled to hear that the film is a winner.
ALSO CHECK OUT: “EL FANBOY: “The State of DC’s Slate, A Wrinkle At The Box Office, And Disconnecting From The Oasis”
Whether or not the positive buzz and strong reviews help Ready Player One become a winner at the box office remains to be seen. It could very well end up being this year’s War For The Planet of The Apes– as in a well-liked, effects-heavy movie that ends up only being a moderate hit at the box office. What works in its favor is that it has potential family appeal, and if the marketing can position it as a film that children of the 80s who grew up on Classic Spielberg can bring their kids to for an awesome time…that could hit that sweet spot.
I can’t quite put my finger on why the film is struggling to garner interest, since Ernest Cline’s original book has a big following, it’s directed by a legend, and it features two things that mainstream audiences tend to eat up: Easter Eggs and Nostalgia For Classic Geek Properties.
I plan on attending a press screening for the film here in New York soon, and I’ll handle the RTF Review for it myself. So I’ll give you my two cents on Ready Player One as soon as I’m able to.
For now, folks pulling for the film can be excited about the great response at SXSW and can continue to look forward to its arrival in theaters on March 29.