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What is wrong with Spielberg?

I remember a time when he made good movies; memorable and iconic movies that have been embedded in our pop culture psyche.

Of course that was 25 years ago.

Ready Player One is Steven Spielberg’s latest blockbuster offering that hit the theaters about a month ago. It is a tale about virtual reality and is based on the book by the same name. I saw the thing last week and honestly, I barely remembered that I did.

I had reasonable hopes for this. I have heard that the story is right down my alley; a creative tale about a dystopian world where people escape to a virtual world called the ‘Oasis’. And in this ‘Oasis’ there is a contest (‘game within a game’ thing) laden with 80’s pop culture references, where if you conquer these three challenges, you win….the Oasis, ala Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

I am not sure why people say this is right down my alley, but whatever.

Anyway, this all sounds well and good. But the end result was sophomoric and derivative. I mean every little part of the plot was predictable and right on time. The characters were as 2-dimensional as Pong, and there were no big ideas that were explored; just a mindless jaunt through the Oasis with some kid and his friends.

There is a weird dichotomy to this movie; chock full of 70’s and 80’s references for a movie where the tone paralleled a target audience for preteens. What preteen knows the game Adventure for Atari?

But all of the criticisms fall moot to one big damning issue; the movie was forgettable. Nothing worth repeating, nothing worth thinking about, and nothing worth commenting on expect the absolute bland nature Spielberg directs all of his films.

To say his is formulaic does not give his dull brand of film-making proper due. It is fair to say that Pixar is very formulaic, the Marvel films have a similarity to them (especially the origin films), and it is even fair to say even good adventure movies has a level of ‘been there done that’ before. But Spielberg has taken vanilla storytelling to another level. What once was a groundbreaking director known for transforming, even creating, the world of blockbuster movies has now devolved into a shell of himself; he is like a cover band of his own original rock group.

So go see it, don’t go see it, it really doesn’t matter. You won’t remember if you ever did anyway.