Ready Player One, is a movie based on a book of the same name, by Ernest Cline. The story takes place in 2045 where everyone spends most of their time in the virtual reality world known as the Oasis. 5 years ago, the creator of the Oasis died and inside his virtual reality he hid an Easter egg.; and whoever found that egg would win the rights to the Oasis and the sizeable fortune that he left behind. The movie focuses on Wade Watts and his search for the egg against large odds.
I was cautiously optimistic that this movie would be able to follow in the book’s footsteps (I very much enjoyed the book). With Spielberg getting back to his roots of directing fun popcorn flicks and reading about all the IP that they had gotten the rights to, I thought that it was very much a possibility. My expectations were far from exceeded.
I understood going in that it was completely impossible for them to capture the same story as the book in all its detail; but I was disappointed with where they cut elements from. The movie rushed the relationships of many of the main characters. We briefly saw an empathetic side to both Wade and Art3mis, but their backgrounds were fairly sparse; as was the basis for the relationship they began to form. Aech, one of the best characters from the book, didn’t have any depth, which sucked a lot of the excitement out of her big reveal in person. Dato and Shoto had no background at all, and yet we were still supposed to root for them and their plight. Unfortunately for the story, most of these main characters were very undeveloped and their relationships felt rushed and shallow; which made caring about them and the events a lot more difficult.
Furthermore, the movie takes a lot away from the hunt for the egg. In the movie, the challenges aren’t terribly difficult and it doesn’t seem very realistic that no progress had been made in the hunt in over 5 years, with puzzles that were so easy to solve. In contrast, the book spends a ton of time in this part of the story and shows the immense difficulty of the hunt; even for people as experienced and as well-studied as Parzival. The hunt in the movie seemed more elementary and really lowered the stakes in the eyes of the audience.
Where I think this movie succeeds is in its ability to be a movie accessible to many. Where the book was very niche and for a very specific kind of geek (me in a lot of ways) the movie does a good job of making it more mainstream. The references are toned down and the plot doesn’t rely on having knowledge of these pop culture references as much as the book does.
All in all, I think that my default response to people who have seen this movie would be “read the book”. If you liked the movie, then you would love the book; and if you didn’t like the movie (especially if that was because you felt it was thin in some parts) then there is a very good chance you would like the book as well. The exposition and world-building are necessary for a movie like this, but in the end it took time away from some of the best elements of the story.