So, READY PLAYER ONE has got everything that ticks all my boxes: a teen hero and his rag-tag bunch of friends; a shadowy evil corporate cabal; dystopian real world; even giant robots!
And there ARE some flashes of brilliance that I really liked: the idea of The Stacks (trailers on top of one another), for instance, is inspired. Wade himself is appealing – he is not your ‘typical’ white saviour hero, the others in his team COULD save the day too (and the only reason they don’t, is down to blind luck, rather than his superiority to them). This is really refreshing, as is his love for Art3mis and the fact she rejects HIM in favour of the contest and her ideals.
Yet there were other elements that really impaired my enjoyment of this book. The constant geeky references are massively overdone, plus there just aren’t enough visuals for me, in what should be an awesomely visual piece! Instead, we have characters playing video games … inside a video game. Seriously? If they’re going to BE the characters, why are they putting quarters on top of arcade machines rather than kicking Pac Man’s ass FOR REAL! Also, all the quoting of movies and repetition – ‘get the hell out of Dodge’ being just one – did my swede in … and I LOVE movies!
There were also many random set ups and pay offs that felt too contrived. The aforementioned game of Pac-Man being just one; another being that Ogden Morrow was watching them all along and just appears at the end to help them out. These were NOT Deus Ex Machinas, but they were too ‘easy’ plot-wise.
Lastly, the Japanese characters could have been awesome, but instead are stereotypes, talking about ‘honour’ and adding ‘-san’ to everything every 5 seconds.
So I both liked AND disliked this book in equal measure, a first for me. But I felt if anyone could ‘fix’ these things that impaired my enjoyment, blockbuster maestro Steven Spielberg could!
So, first off – as I suspected, the visuals of the movie were literally two million times better than the book. The first challenge was not a video game challenge with a demon, but a Fast And Furious-type race that involved massive pile-ups, a T-Rex and even King Kong. That’s MUCH more like it! The Stacks were also brilliantly brought to life, plus The Oasis looked fabulous from the offset.
There’s a variety of omissions and changes that speed things up. Ludus is there (blink and you’ll miss it, though!), plus Parzival does not appear to be stranded there. That said, at two hours twenty the movie is still FAR too long and around the second act, I did start to get a little bored. I think overall the plot could have been more cohesive and generally tighter, especially regarding Halliday’s 80s obsession which was not adequately explained in my opinion.
But there were other smaller changes that really worked. I-Rok, a throwaway character in the book, becomes one of the main antagonists in the film and I liked this change. Also in the book, Wade thinks Sorrento is bluffing and hears the Stacks blow up from afar. In the movie, he runs towards to The Stacks, trying to call his aunt on the phone. This is much more dramatic and heart-breaking as he witnesses his home go up in flames.
I also enjoyed the pop culture references a lot more in the movie. The T Rex is clearly the one from JURASSIC PARK, which made me laugh out loud. Chucky turns up, so does the Xenomorph, Batman, The Iron Giant and there’s even a TERMINATOR 2 reference in there as well. In addition, there are lots of recognisable gamer references as well that even non-gamers like me got: I spotted the HALO guys, as well one of the characters from Mortal Kombat.
There are also some massive changes to the key clues and the movie they fall into, in this case The Shining. These bits were actually very scary and my six year old was frightened. Personally I think 12A is too young a certificate for this part of the movie, or there should have been some extra info about this. That said, I loved this part of the film, especially the zombie dance.
The best part for me was the changes to the High 5. In the book, Wade doesn’t meet them all until nearly the end (and meets Art3mis on the very last page). Aech is revealed as female much sooner and though they don’t say explicitly she is gay, it is hinted when she decides to kiss the lady in room 237 in The Overlook hotel. Daito and Sho are MUCH better in the movie, especially Sho who turns out to be an eleven year old child. There are still some stereotypical elements – like Daito bowing or meditating before taking up his part in the end battle – but Sho’s wise-cracking provides some relief from this.
In the movie, Art3mis has Wade kidnapped in the real world and taken to her hideout. She’s a much more rounded character in the movie and for me, the ‘real’ protagonist. There’s even an extended chunk when she goes off by herself inside The Oasis to help bring IOI down from the ‘inside’. This borrows from the book (Wade essentially does this) but brings forth a much more interesting plot element, as Wade and the others help her via remote comms. It also adds a cool ticking clock element as Sorrento realises she’s inside the war room and starts unmasking Sixers to try and find her.
Lastly, the ‘easy’ bits I found most annoying about the book are set up MUCH better. There is a curator inside The Oasis who is – you guessed it – Ogden Morrow. What’s more, he gives the Pac Mac quarter that is Parzival’s extra life to him, which works much better.
This is an easy one for me. The movie of READY PLAYER ONE is the winner, hands down. It’s more visual, has better female characters and much more relevant pop culture references while still staying relatively true to the book. Game over!!
I, too, was concerend about The Shining being recreated in a 12A family film. But I have a long-standing ingrained problem with the 12A, which this didn’t help : )
Worth mentioning, I feel, that Ernest Cline did a lot of the adaptation work himself – I think it’s great that he took advice from hardened professionals about how to improve his story – and took the chance to do so!
Also – I don’t think you want to start a rumour that there’s a three hour, twenty minute print out there! Or do you? : D
I like 12As cuz kids can handle bad language, grossness, peril etc – but THE SHINING is far too scary and a step too far imho, esp as it was not played solely for laughs (ie. Scary bathwoman breaking out into a musical number or similar). And yes, good catch – autocorrect is a bitch!
I get that the movie is aimed at a more family audience but I felt that the stakes in the real world weren’t all that high. The bad guys were really watered down in the film. In the book I believe one of the Japanese characters is murdered by Sorrento. I guess I just didn’t get the sense of real peril. Was hoping for something akin to minority report but we ended up with something closer to Hook.