Ready Player One (RPO), as a movie, is a fun ride with crazy good CGI and action sequences—probably Spielberg’s best in years. Its average character developments and storyline can be ignored because it’s just that much fun.
As a book adaptation, it fell short, entirely missing the mark on what made the story special.
Whoever that was responsible for the movie’s direction obviously didn’t understand the joy of being a geek. (Let’s use ‘they’ and assume it’s the same Warner Bros. execs who killed the DCEU.)
Put it simply, they took what’s cool of the Geekdom and didn’t care to show what made the Geekdom special in the first place, which was the reason for the book’ success.
Ernest Cline, the author, is birthed in the Geekdom, and took every effort to pen all his passion and love for the Geekdom into RPO’s story. When you read the book, you grow to understand that being a geek is so much more than just ‘playing games and doing cool shit’, which is unfortunately what the movie only understood.
The most spoiler free comparison I can make is the title itself, Ready Player One. In the movie, it’s just that, a title. Why? Because it sounds cool I guess and they needed it for the rights as a ‘book adaptation’. Heh… BUT in the book, it’s explained that the creator of RPO’s Virtual Reality world, OASIS, loves 80’s pop culture and that all the games of that era begin with the phrase ‘Ready Player One’ before you play. He programmed the phrase into the OASIS so that it’ll remind him of the 80’s whenever he logs into his VR world. Where was this in the movie? There wasn’t even a ‘Ready Player One’ when Wade puts on his VR goggles…
When Spielberg took on the role as Director, he said that he wanted to highlight the negative effects VR can have on society etc. Sure, it was an interesting take on RPO, let’s see what he does… but when you watch the movie… WHERE IS IT??? Goodness, if anything, the movie glorifies the VR world. They actually changed a major story arc in the book that actually does a good job highlighting the importance of the real world (more in after ***SPOILERS*** below). Big sigh.
There’s so much the book did that the movie didn’t—the awkward thing of developing an online relationship, the leveling up of a game character and finally being able to compete in the high levels, the competitiveness of geek knowledge, the love so many have for the peculiar thing that is the Geekdom, the ‘evil’ that is corporations trying to make money out of games, the joy of simply geeking out, etc.
RPO the movie is a wasted opportunity. Yes, they’ll say it’s made for the masses. Thing is, the masses are now geekier than it has ever been. The advent of Marvel films has given rise to geek culture. What better time than now? It could’ve been the movie to share with the world a beloved culture. But no, the movie isn’t interested in showing why these Geeky things are cool, they’re just putting it there because they look cool and people will pay for it.
If you enjoyed the movie, read the book, you’ll enjoy it 10x more. If you’re a gamer or a geek of any sort, it’ll be your bible.
***SPOILERS & Rants***
The underdog character development of Wade/Parzival in the book is missing entirely. The movie starts off with him already being powered with cool ass equipment and skills. In the book, he had to work his socks off as a Level 1 and earn them through quests and other means. Everything that he achieves in the book feels earned, unlike the movie where it he just gets it his way. If you ever played a game in your life, you know that being a noob and clawing your way up the levels is one of the most satisfying accomplishments ever.
Artemis. It breaks my heart to watch Wade meet her in person halfway through the movie. In the book, their love story is the overarching arc that highlights why the real world is more important that the joyous escapism of OASIS. When he meets her at the end, after ups and downs, it shines the light that winning the ‘ultimate game challenge’ is worthless if not for real life human interaction.
Aech, his workshop, and geeking out with Wade. Again with making things cool. In the movie, Aech has a cool-ass workshop with a cool-ass Iron Giant. In the book, it’s just a geek filled basement. Only invited players go there to geek out and play old school arcade machines. And man… would it be that hard for the movie to spare 1-3 mins for Aech and Wade to geek out? It’s like the driving force of their relationship. In the movie, they’re just showing off who has the cooler shit, which is entirely different.
Daito and Shoto… and that Gundam. Sighs. In the book, they were the perfect side characters—just enough personality and role. They were hikikomori (people who shut themselves from the outside world) and met in an online support group. They provided the steel to Wade’s character, slowly building an ‘online trust’. One of them even dies in the book so that the other achieves something, adding weight to their characters. In the movie, they’re just there… to be the cool Asian guys with the Gundam…
That Gundam vs MechaGodzilla scene… cool as heck. BUT undeserved. Lazy writing. MacGuffin nonsense. In the book (Ultraman instead), the giants had to be earned after completing a crazy difficult quest. Using them was as grand thing, like summoning a god to aid you in battle. The build up to this scene in the final fight made the stakes high and outcome nail-biting. But in the movie, it was treated as if it was just another cool weapon to whip out.
The entire problem with the movie’s version of the OASIS. Just read the book and you’ll understand how lazy the movie’s version is. OASIS in the book is the epitome of world building. Rules that characters follow and reasons why things are as they are.
For those who says, ‘oh the movie doesn’t have enough time to fit the book’, I bring forth Alice’s husband—Why the flying horseshit was he given so many lines??? F’nale—Why is she in this movie? She doesn’t exist in the book. She doesn’t do anything to add to the movie’s story. She’s inadept at her job. Doesn’t get killed. Literally doesn’t do anything. Together, they easily wasted 15 mins of prescious screentime.
And finally, Halliday’s Easter Egg Hunt. Totally understand that the movie can’t follow the book here because it’ll be visually boring. Prob is, they forgot about the heart that was involved in the entire Hunt. In the book, the Hunt was more than a series of challenges to play and win. It was a journey of Halliday’s love for pop culture and the lessons these fantastical worlds and characters teach you—that these games are more than just a game to some—it’s a home, a friend, a teacher, a kind of unspoken love.
Read the book.