Let me start by saying that Ready Player One, The Book, is my all-time favorite book. I have read it twice in print and I think I’ve listened to the unabridged audiobook 8-10 times. Yes, that many. I’m not sure exactly why. Maybe because I connect with the era and nearly all of the hundreds of 80’s references it includes. Maybe it’s just the way Wil Wheaton reads it to me. Maybe a combination of all of this. I don’t know. All I know is that I’ve just thrown it on in the car driving to and from work many times–just for a quick fix–and whenever I do that, I get caught up in it and end up listening to it from start to finish again. I always realize new things that I didn’t catch before, new connections between one part and another, one character becomes more clear in my mind, etc. Simply put, I love the book a lot.
Today was opening day for the movie Ready Player One, so Kevin, Matt and I went to see it. Shockingly, the theater was nearly empty. I guess it hasn’t “caught on” yet. I went in knowing that things would be different in the movie. The screenplay was written by Ernest Cline though, the author of the book, so I figured he’d keep it as much like the book as he could. Nope! Not a chance. The movie is completely different than the book. So much so, that I think it should be viewed as a completely separate work. It’s not the Ready Player One I knew. I don’t really see how it could have the exact same name as the book, it’s that different. The statements they’ve been using–“Based on the novel by Ernest Cline” is just not true, and using the movie’s logo and screenshot for the audiobook, which Audible changed right before the movie came out, is just plain wrong in my opinion. They are two entirely different stories.
Don’t get me wrong, it was a good movie. I liked it. But I think a lot of the biggest fans of the book, especially those who grew up in the 80’s like I did and enjoyed the hell out of all of the deep references and atmosphere of that time, are going to be very disappointed. For one thing, the movie doesn’t stick to the 80’s anywhere near as closely as the book did. But it was very amusing and fun to see all the “new” references–like seeing Chucky, the psycho doll from a few of my favorite campy horror movies, fighting right alongside Iron Giant, King Kong, and hundreds of others. But that’s only a part of what was different. The biggest difference was the puzzles required to obtain each of the three keys needed to reach the final Easter egg. Almost nothing was from the book with these, and I thought they were pretty key to the story. I understand that the need to cut a 12-hour story down to 2.5 hours requires a lot of changes and cutting of content, but the story was completely changed to the point where only small elements and “pieces” of the book remained in the story. Even the Wade’s totally insane plan–which I thought was brilliant, and worked out for him in the end, in the book, was totally cut from the movie, and instead, Art3mis ends up being the one to sneak into “IOI” (Innovative Online Industries) and save the day. Like I said, the vague elements were there, but blended up to make something totally different than the book.
Even one of the most important elements–the reason for the title “Ready Player One” itself, was nowhere in the movie at all–not even so much as an explanation. The three words, “Ready Player One” are the very last thing every player sees when they put on their VR gear, leave the real world, and enter the world of the Oasis. The movie should have been named “OASIS”, or “Anorak’s Game” or something like that, but not “Ready Player One”. They could have even added the tagline “Based loosely on the novel, Ready Player One”, and that would have made much more sense to me, and probably many others.
In conclusion, if you haven’t read the book, go ahead and see the movie. I recommend it. It’s a fun, crazy, non-stop effects-fest you’ll probably enjoy. It’ll definitely make you want to try out a little VR tech, if you haven’t already. That technology certainly seems to be evolving quickly and we could end up with an “Oasis” of our own, for real! But the movie also barely touched on the most important message in that regard: The Oasis becomes so addictive that everyone started neglecting the real world in favor of the virtual one, so all of society was falling apart. And if you HAVE read the book, just know that the movie, though it has the exact same name, is totally different. The book had slow parts, explained all of the details and workings of everything, and took it’s sweet little time. It was an awesome roller-coaster ride for me. The movie was non-stop, hardly ever pausing for more than a moment so you can catch your breath, all the way to the end. To me, this made the excitement and satisfaction of acquiring each of the three keys seem like much less of an accomplishment. The book really put a fine point on these elements, and even gave you a frequent update on the scoreboard. It even explained why Parzival, Art3mis, Aech, Daito, and Shoto were referred to as “The High Five”–the movie didn’t even mention it. It only showed the scoreboard–very briefly–and I guess the viewer was supposed to make that connection automatically. I’m not sure I would have…at least not the FIRST time I watched the move, had I not read the book.
Maybe reading and listening to the book so many times jaded me too much, and I ignored other, much better, stories in favor or experiencing The Oasis myself again and again… I don’t know. I have heard some reviewers even complain about how horrible the writing is in the book, but I certainly didn’t get any sense of that at all. Of course, I was so thrilled with all of the references to tons of things I grew up with myself, I was reveling in so much nostalgia, I might not have even realized it was actually crappy writing. I guess I’ll just have to re-read it one more time… Perhaps after I see the movie once or twice more, just to catch everything I missed in it the first time. Yeah, that sounds like a plan.