For the numerous references the source had, it would be impossible to feature it all in (and get the rights to it), so it made with what it can - which meant steering a bit away from the book - but I thought it was an achievement. One of my favorite parts of the movie was clearly 'The Shining' bit; it adds to the thrill especially if you've seen and loved the film. This was a plot driven movie, and it really focused on the central plot. However, it lost a lot of substance as to what made the book appealing. It was more than the pop culture references that were thrown here and there. The movie lost a lot of characterization, and a major moving point of the source was that the reader (in this case, the viewer) has to be truly invested, to be sucked in the world in such a way that the viewer is forgetting that this is all happening digitally, and that no harm was coming in the way of the actual player. This was ultimately changed in the movie, where instead of the characters coming together in the end, they were written to meet midway instead, and had to fight the corporation on and off screen. The movie made the clear distinction between the two worlds, and I think that took out the feeling of being involved into the action. Granted, they had to actually show the actors, but being in and out of the digital world was taking a toll on the movie. To be able to fit a lot of details in order for the movie to make sense, there was a lot of info dump. It helped, but at the same time it didn't. There was information that was just there but didn't play any part in the movie.
As I've mentioned, the direction it took had a casualty in terms of characterization. The characters were people that the viewer was supposed to root for, individually. Instead, they were bunched into a rebellion group, and when the headquarters was attacked, only one person was captured alive. The whole rebellion group basically served as a plot device and wasn't referred to again in any way. For a leader of the group, Artemis seemed to care less about the whole group. Even the romance arc between Parzival and Ar3mis was unbelievable. Because there was a lack of characterization, there wasn't really anything there to explain the romantic attraction - except that he was impressed with her scores, and that's it. If there was any characterization at all, H had a solid one - fighter, tinkerer, actual friend. I would say that Lena Waithe would be the MVP of the movie.
Taken on face value, this was fun. It was adventurous and exciting, both in reality and in the game. It was visually pleasing; it looked like a game simulation. Did I expect too much from it? Probably. I wasn't impressed by it as a whole. There were certain parts I loved, and parts that I think were completely lacking. I think it's safe to say that this was an okay effort by Spielberg. A lot of people seemed to really enjoy it, thus putting me on the minority about this.