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I have been waiting a long time for this film. No, I have not read the book. I'm talking about the first Steven Spielberg film with a blockbuster sensibility for several years.
Lately, he seems to be concentrating more on serious biopic dramas. One exception being The BFG, which to date is the only Spielberg that I did not like.
I have had my suspicion that maybe Spielberg is losing his high-quality touch. While a lot of his recent films are really good, none have ever had the same magic that most of his films had from the mid-70s to the early 2000s.
As for the book, I've never read it. But I had an idea on what to expect as it contains a lot of pop cultural references. Nostalgia particularly from the 80s is a huge thing right now in many popular films and shows. So the timing of this film release could not have been better.
My dad really enjoyed the book, and so all of this excitement had got me labelling this film as my most anticipated for 2018. So I think you can tell that from my perspective, a lot was riding on this. That is if it's great, then we're onto a winner with it being a Spielberg film.
Firstly, I adore the ideas within this story. It's like a mix of Avatar and The Matrix with the concept of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It's a film and video game that nerds dream of.
The visuals are so striking and I was in awe every time we get transported into this virtual world. As you get to understand the world we have been transported to, I loved how integral pop culture is to making the story move along.
It took a while for me to get invested with the characters. There was a particular high point that had me at my peak investment with the story and characters combined.
Sadly, it never went past that when going into second half. However, there was still plenty of rich visual content that kept me entertained right through to the very end.
The performances were pretty good on the whole. But the lack of depth in their backstory and development prevented this from being an all-out classic that can compete with Spielberg's best work. Films like Jaws, E.T. or Jurassic Park were never about the monsters or creatures. It was about the characters.
None of them were bad. It's just when I think back to this film, I think about the visual spectacle first, and then maybe the characters after that.
Tye Sheridan was a solid lead and the carried the film well. His chemistry with Olivia Cooke's character was strong and very believable. I have been a big fan of Cooke after seeing her in films like Me And Earl And The Dying Girl, as well as The Limehouse Golem. She is an amazing talent, and this is just another kick-start into opening many more doors.
I thought Ben Mendehlson really embraced his role as the main villain and had enough threat to be creditable in the main story. I really liked him in Rogue One, and I can see him doing similar roles like in these two films.
To be honest, there were not many other exceptional performances. But thankfully, none of them were bad whatsoever. However, it was great seeing Mark Rylance and Simon Pegg feature to give them some star power.
I could tell that there was a lot in this story to cram into this film from its source material. But from what I could see, it seemed to work for the most part. There was one segment however just before the final act that seemed to just leap forward and explain a lot of development really quickly so we can get back on track.
The third act is noticeably bloated. Some people will feel that it drags. However, whilst I could tell it was dragging, I was still gripped and intrigued by what was happening on screen.
The technical side is really on point and is masterfully made. I can certainly see this being in contention for many of the major technical awards next year. There are so many amazing action sequences filled with dazzling visuals.
Also, it goes without saying that this will be an incredible game of "spot the cultural reference." There seemed to be an unlimited amount of references to keep your eyes out for. I saw more than plenty to keep me smiling. But I am sure there were many small ones that you can find on multiple viewings.
I think I can safely say that my high expectations were met. I had a blast watching this, I was never bored and it was just great watching a Spielberg film that made me see the magical side of him that people associate him with the most. This is probably his most enjoyable blockbuster film since probably War of the Worlds or Minority Report.
It is a wonderful crowd-pleasing experience that is certainly worth paying good money for to see on the big screen. I would not quite rank it amongst Spielberg's very best due my problems with the lack of character development. But it's pretty damn close.
I was concerned about this story being over-blown with pop culture references. But I felt almost all of the ones mentioned felt integral to the development of the story, and thankfully the 80s-inspired soundtrack was never over-used.
I do fear a lot of people won't get certain references, and that will just lose their investment in the story. But I guess if you remove that, then you're kind of losing the source material. So this could be seen as a niche movie, or certainly one of the nerdiest. However, with a lot of the most popular shows revolving around nostalgia, this could very well be a financial success worldwide.
I was somewhat disappointed however with the lack of a post credits scene, as a film that contains Easter eggs, you would naturally expect one.