Thoughts on Ready Player One

The first time I read Ernest Cline's Ready Player One, I didn't read it. I was planning a twelve-hour car trip when I stumbled upon the audible version narrated by Wil Wheaton. The book concluded just as I returned home to my garage.  I remember sitting there in my car an extra three minutes just to hear the conclusion. I liked it so much that I went and read the Kindle version.

RPO really connected with me. I'm the right age, growing up in the 80s, and loved all the geeky stuff which it loved. I played Zork on my Commodore 64,  reveled in computer and video games, played with all the same toys, and cherished all the same tv shows and movies.

When I saw the announcement for the movie version directed by Steven Spielberg, I was excited, and a bit nervous. Would Hollywood squash everything that was great about RPO?

Yesterday I watched the movie version, and I was disappointed.

I knew the key challenges were changed, and this didn't bother me. The originals - playing through a Dungeons and Dragons module to beat a lich at a game of Joust, replicating the dialogue of War Games- were perhaps a bit too geeky for mainstream movie-goers. So, swapping these out with car races and the Shining were understandable.

Like so many movies the past decade, the art direction, visuals, and CGI are fantastic, but the writing at times was fodder for CinemaSins. Which is surprising, because Ernest Cline has a screenwriting credit for the movie.

I know, I'm a cliche with "the book was so much better." But, it's not that the book has more, it's that the movie was a rewrite, with non-sensical plot elements.  

For example, in the movie (SPOILER ALERT):

  • Everyone seems to live in Columbus, Ohio, within a few blocks of each other.
  • Artemis and Nolan deduce Wade's identity and real-life location nearly down-to-the-second. Literally, seconds after Nolan blows up the stack, Artemis has a goon waiting to kidnap Wade.
  • When IOI attacks Artemis's secret location, Artemis shoos Wade into an escape hatch which leads to an alley. Even though it's been seconds since IOI crashed through the window, Aech, Daito and Shoto are waiting for him in a mail truck. I feel like there was some scene cut where Artemis contacts everyone in-game and says "Come here, I've got Wade" and IOI intercepts the message to find out where 'here' is. It's the only way this makes any sense.
  • Artemis lets herself get captured immediately by IOI to set up an unnecessary damsel-in-distress rescue 
  • Nolan writes his password on a post-it note, and points out the chair with the post-it note to Wade, so Wade can later hack his account and set up the "we're still in the holodeck" trick.
  • The ending battle with Wade in the truck swaying and affecting his OASIS motion was right out of Inception.

Yes, I know, rants, but I drives me crazy when characters just materialize for no reason to pick up the protagonist, repeatedly. 

A few things I liked:

  • In the book, it always bothered me that Wade was somewhat indifferent to Nolan's threat to blow up the stack, and to some extent almost dared him to do it (because he thought he was bluffing). The movie did a better job of having him try to save his aunt, as well as making the aunt and boyfriend unlikable.
  • The Shining scene and Aech's reactions to it.  It seems unlikely Aech would not have seen the Shining, but still, it was fun.
  • Artemis has more character development. 

A few big themes which got lost in translation:

  • In the book, the characters meet in person for the first time at Og's, where the climatic online battle occurs.  The reveals - Aech's gender, Artemis's appearance, and even Wade's appearance (he's overweight and bald) - are a theme of the OASIS's "be anything" approach.  The movie has these, but they're nearly incidental.  In the movie, Aech just blurts out it's her in the ally a second before Wade jumps into the mail truck.
  • The global effort of the egg hunt.  All of the main characters are from different places, not neighbors in Columbus, Ohio.
  • Poverty and classism. Touched upon in the beginning, slightly, but the book was permeated in the fact that Wade was poor, went to the Oasis public school, couldn't afford most of the things in the Oasis, and was generally at a large disadvantage in the egg hunt.  It was contrasted nicely with IOI, which had nearly infinite resources.  It was a great set up for the little guy winning with a shoestring budget.

Well, that's my rant. Curious what others thought of the movie.