Warning: My post will spoil Ready Player One – both the 2011 book and the 2018 movie.
I should start this post by stating the fact that I read Ready Player One twice and I listened to the audiobook of it twice (Wil Wheaton’s narration was an absolute pleasure!), so it is fair to say that I feel a connection to the book.
If you’ve read any of my answers, you’ll see that I am someone who loves and respects everything nerdy, with an adoration for video games.
This is why I think that I left Steven Spielberg’s take on the book feeling I should have enjoyed it a lot more.
In Ernest Cline’s source novel we have someone that knew, understood, and loved all of the references he was making to. It served as a love-letter to everything nerdy, geeky, and retro.
It was poorly written in parts, with others bordering on the overly melodramatic, but you could see it came from someone who respected all the genres he was referring to.
I feel this was missing from Ready Player One (2018) – gone was the homages, to be replaced by what seemed like someone thinking that putting so many references on screen at the same time was the way to go about it. By the end, it was tough not to feel fatigued by everything you saw on the screen.
Alongside this is the fact that numerous aspects of the novel were changed or removed entirely.
In Ready Player One (2011) we have a quest that seems unbelievably complicated and it made sense that nobody had managed to find the first key.
With Spielberg’s movie, we’re told that thousands of people tried to find the key over the span of a few years. And yet we’re led to believe that nobody realised that they could just keep watching a recording for an extra ten seconds to get a vital clue!!
It does make sense, though. In reality, would a game of Joust and the text-based adventure, Zork, really be cinematic?
It also felt like it suffered from many of the same issues that James Cameron’s Avatar faced. In a mostly CGI movie, the least interesting aspects are always going to be what takes place in the real world.
It also “nerfed” a lot of the more tough parts of the source novel.
- The explosion in the “stacks”. I can’t remember exactly how many were killed, yet it feels more in the book. This felt like it had been reduced in scale, to make the act seem less bad than it was. Not to mention that it seemed to take Wade only a short while to get over his aunt’s death.
- The death of other major characters. In the source novel, Daito was murdered by the Sixers. Yet, in the movie, he is there alive and well.
- The meeting with Artemis lost a lot of its poignancy. In the movie, Wade meets Artemis early on, shortly after the explosion at the stacks. In Cline’s novel, this doesn’t happen until the end. This made it feel like so much of the poignancy was missing.
- Artemis’ birthmark. In the book, we’re led to believe that Artemis’ birthmark covers a large part of her face. Yet in the movie, it is barely noticeable.
Don’t get me wrong – a lot of my post has discussed the various issues I had with the movie. Yet it was thoroughly enjoyable to watch throughout.
The Oasis, especially the introduction to it, was a visually spectacular spectacle. It was a joy to watch, with some incredible CGI throughout. The Shining section, especially, was a thoroughly enjoyable romp, with a tonne of well placed moments played for humour – the introduction of the twins, the elevator section.
And there was a particular joy in seeing so many characters I had recognised from my childhood and also from recent times – the Iron Giant, the DeLorean, the MasterChief(s), and many more. Though it was disappointing that Spielberg decided to use the 2014 Jonathan Liebesman/Michael Bay version of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and not a different version.
So, yes, it was flawed. Yes, it removed many of the best aspects of the book. But it was still a thoroughly enjoyable romp in the skilled hands of Steven Spielberg.
Had it been done by anybody else, then it could have become the next Pixels.
And, as I was leaving the cinema, I saw many kids that had enjoyed the movie thoroughly. And really, isn’t that what matters?