Ready Player One: Movie Review

Ready Player One became available for rent on iTunes this past week so I finally got to see whether or not my theory from this post that Ernest Cline’s novel would translate better onto the big screen proved true. As always, I’ll try my best to avoid spoilers but I’m not sure how successful I’ll be.

There were parts of the movie I ended up liking better than the book and parts of the book that I liked better but I think, overall, my theory was right. For those who missed the original post, my theory is primarily based on the fact that all of the exposition that bogs down the plot of the novel wouldn’t really be an issue in a visual medium like a movie. And it’s true, in the movie all of the 80’s pop culture references that Cline spent way too much time explaining in great detail in the book were used as cool little easter eggs scattered throughout the movie that didn’t stop the plot every time they came up they way they did in the book. They even added some more modern references–Halo characters, the Serenity from the tv show Firefly, a girl dressed like Harley Quinn from the Arkham video games, etc.–which I really appreciated. All of the other exposition from the book–the background on Halliday, IOI, and the egg hunt and the like–was either explained through brief narrator voice-overs, through dialogue or through visual means making the barrage of information easier to bear than the pages and pages of exposition found in the novel…still I’m not sure I’d say that the movie was 100% better than the book.

The only reason I hesitate to say that the movie was better than the book is that the movie was so different from the book. Yeah I know that they can’t fit everything from a 400 page novel into a two-hour movie (even if it seemed like two hundred of those pages were exposition) so obviously the movie is going to change some things. However, Ready Player One the movie was so different that it often seemed like the only things they kept from the book were the characters and the bare-bones plot–by which I mean the plot if it were boiled down into the bullet points:

  • Race to find three keys to get a hidden egg
  • Winner gets control over the OASIS
  • Evil corporation is after the egg

Some of the changes were good changes–I particularly enjoyed that the movie made Parzival, Aech, Art3mis, Daito, and Sho more like team members than rivals for the majority of the story where the book really makes Parzival act like it’s more important for him to win the egg on his own than to team up with the people he considers his friends to stop IOI until he literally has no other choice. Some changes were unfortunate but necessary–the whole plot detour in the novel where Parzival gets the magic quarter is one of my favorites from the novel but it was a long and convoluted one that definitely needed to be cut for time and I think the way he gets this seemingly random but extremely important object in the movie was a pretty good solution to the problem. Even changing it so that the three gates were just sort of checkpoints and not their own separate tests was understandable. Other changes, however, were just too drastic for me to get behind. I’m talking about the fact that the whole freaking quest is different.

I don’t know, maybe they didn’t think a life-or-death game of Joust against an evil wizard was very cinematic (never mind the whole first half of the test that involved navigating a tomb full of bad guys) but then they went ahead and made a game of Adventure on Atari the last quest anyway so I don’t think that was the problem. But changing it so that some random no-name gunter found the first test, which opened multiple portals to allow all of the OASIS to attempt it (not just those who also figured out the clue), and then having the first test be a literal race–albeit a seemingly impossible one with admittedly cool easter eggs thrown in–was jarring and it seemed irrelevant to me like it had nothing to do with Halliday at all except for the fact that it was a reference to a conversation Halliday had with Morrow…which they made up for the sake of the movie. It’d be like if in the movie adaptation of The Goblet of Fire, instead of facing a dragon to retrieve a golden egg, Harry had to, I don’t know, wrestle a bear for a fish or something…cinematically interesting I guess but it has literally nothing to do with Harry or magic or Hogwarts. The second quest in the movie was a bit better than the first one–involving a sort of re-enactment of The Shining mixed with a zombie game Halliday had worked on–but it still didn’t scream Halliday to me and changing it from the test in the book seems pointless as I’m not sure it actually saved any time. The final test was actually pretty much the same as the one in the book–finding an easter egg in the Atari game Adventure–a simplified version of it of course but, again, I get that they had to do that for time-saving purposes. Overall, I enjoyed the movie but I think I enjoyed it more as its own standalone thing and not as a movie adaptation of a book–the drastic changes are less frustrating that way.

SDCC: A Geeky Family Tradition

It’s my favorite time of year again, that magical holiday of fandom and geekiness, of cosplay and panels and running into celebrities on the street…of buying too many toys and pieces of art you don’t need (and comics and books you do), of late nights and early mornings, of aching backs and aching feet, of braving the dreaded Hall H line just to say you were there when Loki demanded you kneel before him or when Misha Collins bought pizza and coffee for the line. It’s the holiday they call San Diego Comic Con. Unfortunately, for the first time in twelve years, I found myself unable to make the trek down to San Diego…mostly because the trek is over 1,500 miles longer now that I don’t live in California.

Comic Con has been a family tradition since my parents took me for the first time when I was twelve. To be honest, I don’t remember much about my first Con. I remember seeing the exhibit hall for the first time and having my little head explode from the sheer enormity of the place, from far too many things to see and do in the single day our badges allowed. But beyond that, the specifics of that day all get blurred together with the first few years I went to the convention, I couldn’t begin to tell you what I saw one year or the next. I do remember the first year I tried to go to a panel–a Psych panel because of course it was–and learned that one does not simply walk into Ballroom 20 twenty minutes before the panel begins. The year after that I learned you don’t do it an hour before either. I remember the year we finally did make it into Ballroom 20–getting up at the crack of dawn to get in the already absurdly long line for panels that wouldn’t even start for six or so hours (later I’d learn that six hours in line is in fact nothing)–and camping out there all day seeing panel after panel after panel with my parents. It was glorious. And exhausting.

A ton of amazing memories have been made at Comic Con over the years—especially once we started going for multiple days and got to enjoy more parts of the Con outside of the exhibit hall. There was the year Mom and I went to the Psych the Musical premier, standing in line for hours, getting free Psych themed swag, watching the cast pull up in the Weiner Mobile and walk the line to greet fans, and getting to see the two-hour long musical episode in the theater a full six months before it aired on TV. Or the year I ran into Misha Collins outside my hotel. For those who don’t know, Misha Collins plays my all-time favorite character Castiel on Supernatural and is generally my favorite celebrity. I somehow managed to hold it together long enough to get a picture with him but the second he was gone my friend Michelle practically had to carry me away from there as my legs were basically noodles at that point. That was also the year I tried cosplaying for the first time and went as Scarlet Witch from Avengers: Age of Ultron for a day. Another great year was the year I went to a Supernatural fan party and made two new Supernatural-loving friends and—later in the weekend—ended up spending the night in the Hall H line with them for the Supernatural panel—a major rite of passage for Comic Con attendees I hadn’t actually done before. So many great memories, and I’m sad that I didn’t get to make even more this year but although it might be a while before I make it back, I’m confident that last year was not my last year attending San Diego Comic Con.

Kelly Amber Reads: Ready Player One

I finally finished Ready Player One by Ernest Cline the other day. Dad has been begging me to read Ready Player One for forever and well, sometimes people telling me to read something makes me less willing to read it—especially now that I don’t go through books as fast as I used to (I know, I know, that’s on me but TV is just so much easier) and I want to save the time I do spend reading on books that I’ve chosen. But with Ready Player One making its way to the big screen this year I finally caved.

For those who are unfamiliar with this title, Ready Player One is set in a dystopian future where the global economy and environment have completely collapsed due to severe overpopulation. The only escape people have from this horrible reality is the OASIS—a vast virtual reality online game with literal universes full of things to do. When James Halliday—the creator of the OASIS—dies he leaves behind a video will stating that his vast wealth as well as complete control over the OASIS are to be given to the first person to complete a massive virtual scavenger hunt by following the clues Halliday left scattered throughout the OASIS. Eighteen-year-old Wade Watts, known in the OASIS as Parzival, is the first person to solve the first clue and successfully claim the copper key in the five years since Halliday’s death. Now, it’s a race to finish the quest and in the midst of it all Wade finds himself targeted by an evil multi-billion dollar corporation bent on winning the quest and destroying everything that makes the OASIS the last safe haven in a dying world.

I haven’t seen the movie yet so I’m not sure how well it turned out, but my main thought about this book is that it would make a better movie than it does a book. Of course, there’s the fact that today’s special effects should make all of Cline’s amazing world-building in regards to the OASIS really come to life on the big screen, but the main reason I think it would make a better movie than book is that the book is so exposition heavy. Yes, most of the exposition is necessary stuff like world-building, background on Halliday, etc. but there’s just so much of it—the first six chapters especially were a pain and a half to get through—that it bogs down the plot and it sometimes felt like Cline sacrificed the action in favor of explaining every single little 80’s reference in great detail. Movies don’t really have this problem. With movies, any necessary exposition has to happen through dialogue or events happening in the background of a scene or through cinematography so it’s a lot harder to get bogged down by all the details. Plus, the overwhelming plethora of 80’s references that fill the novel would all just be fun Easter eggs throughout the movie rather than things that stop the plot every time they appear so that the author/narrator can make sure the audience understands just how cool something is. Don’t get me wrong; Ready Player One was overall an enjoyable read I just think that its fun action-filled plot would benefit from a medium that allows that action-filled plot to shine instead of burying it under all of the other details that the novel seemed to get distracted by. But I guess I’ll just have to wait till the movie comes out on iTunes to see if I’m right.

Pokémon TCG: A Test of Resilience

Last week, my friend Jake taught me how to play the Pokémon Trading Card Game. I know, I know, how can a self-proclaimed obsessed fan of Pokémon not know how to play the TCG? Don’t get me wrong, I do have a decent collection of Pokémon cards in a binder on my bookshelf at home but it’s exactly that, a collection–meant to look at and feel nostalgic not meant for playing purposes. Fun fact about me, never get me started on collecting anything, I will lose all impulse control and it will be a problem. Case in point, my collection of more than 100 Funko Pop figures currently packed away in a box somewhere because there simply isn’t space for all of them in my room right now. Anyway, the point is that no, I’ve never played the actual trading card game–although my friend Vicki and I used to make up our own rules for the game in elementary school because we thought the real way was too complicated…but I guess that probably doesn’t count.

Turns out the real game wasn’t nearly as complicated as I remember but then again I’m not ten anymore either. That’s not to say the game went well, however. I lost. Badly. We played three or four games and I couldn’t even come sort of close to beating Jake in any of them. He obliterated me. It was embarrassing. Now, I don’t consider myself a competitive person because while I always try my best to win, losing almost never bothers me. But this? this irked me. Maybe it’s because I see myself as something of a Pokémon expert and losing so badly felt a little like being exposed as an imposter. But it’s not like I’m all that competitive in Pokémon either, I enjoy the games for the collecting aspect and for the story I don’t take part in the online competitive battles so while I consider myself an expert I have no illusions of being–as Ash Ketchum would call it–a Pokémon Master as far as battling or strategy go. Still, losing to Jake bothered me. So I went home and downloaded the TCG app onto my iPad in order to hone my skills and prepare myself for a rematch I refused to lose. I’m proud to say that my training–combined with an entirely different deck–paid off big time. I won each of the three rematch games. As silly as it sounds, it was a win I really needed. It felt good to be reminded that sometimes you just need to get up when you fall and make sure you come back stronger than you were.

Zoo Day

(Photo credit to my dad @kenhammond on Instagram)

 

It probably comes as no shock to you at this point that I am a major animal lover. Fuzzy, feathered, or scaly it doesn’t matter, I adore them all–to the point where for most of my childhood I wanted to be a vet or a dolphin trainer or a zookeeper–so the Nashville Zoo is something I’ve been wanting to do since we moved here in July but I haven’t had the chance until now. The past couple weeks my grandparents have been visiting from California which means we’ve been taking them on the usual Nashville tourist haunts: Civil War sites, Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the Parthenon and, my favorite, the Nashville Zoo. Of course, being from SoCal, I’ve grown up with some pretty amazing zoos such as the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Wild Animal Park, and LA Zoo, and while the Nashville Zoo was nowhere near as big as those and didn’t have nearly as many different animals–big cats are my favorites so I was a little disappointed that all the Nashville Zoo had were clouded leopards that I didn’t get to see because they weren’t out when I was there, and a couple cougars–it was still a really neat little zoo. My favorite animal that they had there (that I actually got to see anyway) were the red pandas. They were so fluffy and adorable and I’ve never wanted to sneak into an exhibit and steal an animal (or at least play with them till security dragged me away kicking and screaming) more in my life…I resisted the urge, obviously, pretty sure you’d have seen me on the news if I hadn’t. Still, they were beyond cute. My favorite experience, however, was definitely the kangaroo exhibit. Any exhibit where I get to touch a fuzzy animal is going to be an instant favorite for me so the kangaroo exhibit at the Nashville Zoo where you’re allowed to touch the roo’s (so long as they’re within reach of the path you have to stay on) won me over pretty quick. I mean I can now say I’ve pet a kangaroo–which was so much softer than I expected btw–how cool is that! Now if I can just find a zoo that’ll let me pet a red panda…

Reptiles, Coatis, and Hedgehogs Oh My!

So last weekend my parents and I went to the Nashville Exotic Pet Expo because we wanted to look at hedgehogs. I’ve been to Pet Expos back when we lived in California but I’d never been to an exotic pet show before and it was so cool! There were so many different and amazing animals,  some of them I got to touch and others I just got to look at, some were for sale and others were just being shown off by their proud pet parents. I tried to take a lot of pictures but I couldn’t get pictures of everything. There were a bunch of snakes and a ton of lizards including iguanas and chameleons and some amphibians like frogs and axolotls. On the more fuzzy and cuddly side of things there were the expected animals like bunnies and hedgehogs and sugar gliders but also some crazy things like a baby fennec fox, monkeys, baby ring-tailed lemurs, and cutest of all a baby coatimundi–a South American cousin of the raccoon that I’m glad wasn’t for sale because I’m pretty sure all three of us would’ve had a really hard time not buying it. We went in search of hedgehogs because I’ve wanted one for a while now–and I even got to hold a baby hedgehog it was so tiny and shy!–but as an animal lover the entire show was just a really cool experience and I wanted to take home pretty much every animal I saw. Although I went in thinking I wanted a hedgehog, my favorite animals at the show–other than the coati–actually ended up being the sugar gliders. They were so cute and soft and the ones at this one booth just wanted to climb all over their people and sleep in their shirts and pockets and while I definitely need to do some serious research first, the people at the booth made them seem like great, loving pets. I wonder what the cats would think.

Musical Shenanigans

Hey guys, instead of a Town Line Tuesday this week I wanted to finally post something I’ve been struggling to finish for a while now about one of my all time favorite TV tropes—the musical episode (What’s not to love about watching your favorite characters spontaneously burst into song for seemingly no reason at all?)—I also want to try to post some flash fiction later this week and we’ll get back to our regularly scheduled Town Line Tuesday next week. Anyway, a few weeks ago one of my current TV show obsessions—SyFy’s The Magicians—came out with its version of the musical episode and it got me thinking about all of my favorite musical TV shenanigans. I thought about watching them all over again to see how The Magicians stacked up against them but including Magicians that’s seven hours I simply don’t have. Still, if I were to rate them from good to best, I think it would look something like this. (A/N: These are all the musical episodes I have seen—or at least all the ones I remember. Also, most of these are over a year old but since The Magicians is on this list I should warn you that this is in no way spoiler free so if you want to avoid spoilers stop reading now.)

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