“Ready Player One” – Review

A review of Ready Player One and comparison to the book.

Imagine a world in 2045, when everyone has basically given up. Issues such as poverty and starvation are at all-time highs, and the majority of the world’s population has stopped dealing with these issues. Instead, they step into a virtual reality universe called the OASIS, where one can do just about anything – interact with people, play games, work a job, go to school. But one figure is the catalyst for all this: James Halliday. He is the one who created this universe, and now, after his death, he has sent almost all of the users on an 80s-filled hunt in which the winner will win complete control of it all and inherit his net worth of $500 billion. This is the premise of “Ready Player One”, a 2011 sci-fi novel by Ernest Cline, which ended up being a huge critical and financial success, spawning a 2018 film adaption which was directed by three-time Oscar winner Steven Spielberg. But did the adaption manage to make the rare feat of being better than its source material? Many have argued over this, and I give my thoughts on the topic, as well as general opinions of the movie.

The movie, which was released on March 29, despite many changes, tends to follow the same premise as the book. It follows Wade Watts (Parzival in the OASIS), played by Tye Sheridan, a teenager who finds himself at the center of the quest for three keys which lead to the egg that grants control of the OASIS. He has to go through many obstacles to try to gain the keys before IOI, an organization who intends to misuse the power and turn the OASIS into a totalitarian state, collects them all. Along the way, he meets new people and is hurled into a treasure hunt of mystery and fantasy, where nobody can be completely trusted. Personally, I really liked this movie, comparison to the book aside.

Some parts that I liked in the movie on its own are the visuals and the soundtrack. The visuals of the movie are breathtaking; every shot in the OASIS is visually appealing and well-crafted. From an all-out battle including the likes of The Iron Giant and Godzilla, to an intense labyrinth taking place in the Overlook Hotel from “The Shining”, the visuals never failed to amaze. Another area the visuals succeed at is the converting of a real-life OASIS user to their avatar; the use of motion-capture effects make the avatars seem consistently lifelike and perfectly synchronized with their real-life persona. Likewise, the soundtrack is exceptional. Composed by Alan Silvestri, who scored “Back to the Future”, the music is delightfully original and perfectly captures the 80s feel of the movie.

Another part of the movie that I liked, generally even more than the book, was the actual hunt for the keys. While I would’ve preferred that the movie kept more of the mysterious, puzzling tone of the hunt that the book had, I really liked how each key in the movie was related to a personal aspect of Halliday’s life and centered around mistakes he made during his lifetime. In the book, each key is merely based around playing an old video game, or reciting lines from an old movie that he enjoyed, and I much preferred the more personal aspects that the movie utilized for the quest.

The way the nostalgia and references were used in the movie was, to me, way better than the book. In the book, there are at least 8-10 game or movie references with in-depth explanations per page, and after several hundred pages it feels pretty excessive. Simply put, the book depends a lot on the references to keep the plot moving – if you removed a majority of them from the book, it would fall apart. On the contrary, the same thing cannot be said for the movie; rather, they are not the only things used to move the plot forward, and are not as redundantly employed as the book. I may be biased since I was not likely the intended audience, but I barely understood a majority the book’s references. In the movie, however, the references are ones that a wider audience can understand and appreciate, and aren’t as depended on for the plot.

Of course, no movie is without flaws, and this is definitely not an exception. The two largest issues I had with the movie were the pacing and the characters. In the book, the story takes place throughout a several month period and the timeline of events do not feel rushed or overly fast paced. In the movie, it only takes place over a week-long period, making the entire quest feel extremely rushed and harder to understand. The character work was also an issue. The movie wants you to feel invested in the characters, however it does not give enough knowledge about them to justify that. For example, the main character gives some basic exposition about himself and his life, but other than that, you know practically nothing about him to genuinely care about him. All the other characters are treated similarly, with them giving one or two lines of dialogue about themselves – that just doesn’t suffice. In addition, the romance subplot of the movie with the protagonists Parzival and Art3mis feels unnecessarily stuffed in and awkward; it is simply hard to believe that on their very first encounter in the real world and several days after they met in the OASIS, they are already in a deep relationship with each other.

Overall, “Ready Player One” definitely goes into the ‘the movie was better than the book’ category for me. It realized that the book had mistakes and it made lots of choices which I felt mostly worked out well, even if they did turn away from the source material. As a movie, it is fun, entertaining and visually significant, and while it does suffer from some poor decision-making in areas such as the character work, I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to have an enjoyable moviegoing experience, whether you’ve read the book or not.

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