Very pleasantly surprised. It’s the best way for me to describe how I felt after seeing Ready Player One in the theater. I was worried about this one. The first trailer left me feeling at odds about how the movie would turn out. It is of course, all about the pop culture overload, but the need to stay grounded in something of substance was an itch that refused to be scratched until I saw the movie myself. I want to reiterate like I did in a previous article- Ready Player One is my favorite book, hands down. It understands my geekiness and I am in love with both the concepts of video game easter eggs and nonsensically obscure references. Mix in the allure of the 80s and pure nostalgia, and you are right up my alley. I needed this movie to be good, because the book was almost everything I wanted. I was not disappointed.
Ready Player One follows the story of your above average geek, Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), on his journey to find the easter egg hidden by James Halliday (Mark Rylance) inside of the Oasis. The Oasis is a virtual world created by the genius video game creator worth a half trillion dollars. The person who finds the egg is given the entire future and control of the Oasis, and the clues lie in the knowledge of all things that Halliday loves, which is essentially the geekiest of the geek and classic 80’s pop culture. Of course, the mega-corporation known as IOI makes it their goal to gain control and change the way Oasis is run, with money as their primary mission operandi. Wade, known in the Oasis as Parzival, is the first to find one of the keys that lead to the prize. Working with his best friend Aech (Lena Waithe), and a girl he comes to love named Art3mis (Olivia Cooke) they embark on a journey that they quickly find has real world consequences.
While the basics of the plot is there, the movie is certainly different from the book. But the changes made were smart, and innovative. While the book held some of the more obscure references that I really enjoy, after seeing what was done with the film, I understand why they made the changes they did. First of all, visually, Spielberg knew what needed to be done on screen and what wouldn’t work. In the book, Parzival plays Joust, acts through the entirety of the 80s movie War Games, and finds himself running through a 3-D version of the text based adventure game, Zork. In the movies things change, for example he finds himself in an insane race that is seemingly impossible to win. It makes for explosively satisfying visuals.
The movie didn’t linger too long on the things that it didn’t have the time to and it hit heavy on the points that it was supposed to, like say for example, the dangers of compromising your internet anonymity. Still, a lot of great references from pop culture were still there, if only done a little differently. As far as things go from transfer from book to movie, I feel that they did an excellent job. Plus there were several nods to the book such as the Rush 2112 poster we see on Halliday’s wall, which is a reference to one of the challenges. While things were different, the heart of it all was still there.
The addition of F’Nale Zandor (Hannah John-Kamen) was an unexpected delight, as well as the extra “real world” action scenes. Nolan Sorrento (ben Mendelsohn) also proved to be a layered villain that I can respect. However, I do wish that more would have been done with I-R0k (TJ Miller). Despite the changes from the character in the book being for the better, I feel that there could have been a more satisfying “final boss” bout with him. In any case, the final challenge itself was just as satisfying as it spoke to the central theme of the story.
Overall, I found myself really enjoying something that I held to high standard due to my love for the book. The diverse cast, while expected, was also something that warmed my spirit to see on screen. The story itself was easy enough to follow and while there was a little less on the hardcore nerdom, there was still more than enough for me to be happy about. I would certainly recommend going to see this movie, whether you read the book or not. It’s worth it.