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.